Sujeevan’s Story in a Capsule
This is the sad story of Andrew Sujeevan whom I met first on 6 Feb. 2023. He is from St. John’s my alma mater, pretending to be 200 years old, as the Bishop of Colombo, Dushantha Rodrigo, despite CMS records saying the school was founded in 1851, knowingly opening a memorial building on 13.03.2023 thanking God untruthfully for the 200-year heritage. God is no fool and knows the real age of St. John’s.
Sujeevan’s story is about untruthful clergy of protestant churches building careers by copying exams, playing favorite with seminarians who are selectively let off from being charged, and a total lack of the professed faith as the mother Church, in the words of The Guardian, chooses the mores of the world on homosexuality in exchange for the biblical teaching that marriage is about permanent union between one man and one woman – not polygamy, not homosexuality.
Talking to God
Sujeevan, now 33 years of age, completing his A. Levels in 2008 (B-2C result), immediately joined the church as a lay-worker. He had joined the Theological College of Lanka in Pilimatalawa in 2010. That year between February and March, the initial training was at the Cathedral Institute on Cathedral Precincts on Bauddhaloka Mw on Anglicanism since Pilimatalawa was multi-denominational. Being filled with enthusiasm for God, Sujeevan used to go at night to a secluded area on the BMICH side of the Cathedral. This involved passing the Bishop’s Palace. Noticing Sujeevan’s movement from his Palace, the then Bishop Duleep de Chickera wished to investigate why he was spending so much time there at night. When asked by Father Chrishantha Mendis (Archdeacon Colombo then) to look into it, Sujeevan had told him he went to pray and talk to God. As Sujeevan related, Fr. Mendis told him, we Anglicans do not talk to God and if you want to do that you must go to the jungles or some Ashram.
Indeed, it was God who spoke to Moses and gave us the Ten Commandments. My grandfather, the Rev. Canon Samuel Sangarapillai Somasundaram, was heir to the right to hoist the flag at the Maviddapuram Temple Festival with the title Kodi-mara-Sangarar (Flag-pole Changarar). God spoke to him and he became a Canon and an icon of the Church. He was our alarm clock at home, going every morning at 4.30 deep into our St. James’ vicarage back garden to sing loud praises and talk to God.
Today, the church would declare them both mad I suppose and that is why some of the Ten Commandments have been left of out of the Anglican liturgy as the ravings of Moses the Madman who talked to God. Sujeevan was taken without fore-warning by Rev. Joshua Ratnam (Chairing the Ministerial Advisory Committee) to a psychiatrist who stuck all kinds of probes on Sujeevan, questioned him and declared him quite sane and normal. (A pity that Rev. Joshua Ratnam who cut out some of the 10 Commandments from our Liturgy was not around to take Moses to a psychiatrist for talking to God). So Sujeevan was allowed to proceed to Pilimatalawa. But this would come up later against him when Bishop Rodrigo wanted to be rid of him.
At that point Bishop Duleep de Chickera told Sujeevan he was very young and needed worldly experience. So in the same year Sujeevan joined HNB Bank as an officer and earned quick promotions to Executive by 2013. The desire to serve God overpowered him, and in the year 2008 in the interim he joined the Anglican Church again as a lay worker.
Circling Wagons to Suppress Scandal
Back in the 1990s I had heard of the men at Pilimatalawa making sexual advances on the newly permitted female students. I asked Bishop Kenneth Fernando at the Diocesan Council if it was true. He replied he had never heard of it and asked the archdeacons to his left and right on the podium if they had heard of it. Most nodded no.
I had been elected that year to the Standing Committee where one N. Bharathy claimed I had insulted the church and should be excommunicated. Bishop Fernando asked me to withdraw my statement (although mine was a question) or face censure. I asked for time to prove my claim. This went on for a few more months, meeting after meeting, and the Secretary Thanja Peiris dutifully recorded these warnings. I asked many without success for evidence of what I had heard but everyone who told me now dissembled ignorance saying they had only heard. Finally, I turned to The Rev. Duleep Fernando, the then Head of the Methodist Church whose outlook as an engineer was different. He had invited me to speak to the Methodist priests at a conference. Telling me that he, Rev. Fernando, was not aware of the incidents, during dinner he pointed to a table of clergymen who he said had been at Pilimatalawa at the time and if it was true, they would be the ones to know. Talking to them, I got all the names – the names of the sexually harassed women who had left Pilimatalawa and of the students who had been sacked, none other than by Bishop Kenneth Fernando who denied the whole thing and threatened me with excommunication. Secretary Peiris again dutifully did not record my naming names. Peiris married outside the faith which ironically is what requires excommunication but has risen rapidly in the Church with only a Proctor’s credentials and no degree to CMS Chair, serving the Eucharist at the Cathedral. Supporting the Bishop when he is wrong is the way to climb up in the Church without qualifications. Such is the Church. If you have no qualifications, the Church sees you as qualified and amenable to serve all the Church’s illegal ventures.
Archdeacon of Colombo, Godwin Weerasooriya, came quietly to me after the Standing Committee meeting and profusely apologized to me saying the Pilimatalawa scandals were well-known but he could not speak up in the Bishop’s presence when the Bishop was denying it all. Everyone except the few like Duleep Fernando, lies to cover up to save the good name of the church and really worsens the church’s sullied reputation by hiding the corruption. We love the Church. So our dilemma is this. If we expose, it blackens the Church’s name. If we are quiet, it helps continue the corruption with no cleansing – as with St. John’s below.
Seminary Training in Exam Cheating
In 2015-2018 Sujeevan was a lay worker supervised by priests. In 2018 he went for seminary training for the BTh Serampore degree from TCL (Theological College of Lanka, Pilimatalawa).
Pilimatalawa was naturally in a bad state when Sujeevan entered in the wake of scandals. There were only two full-time teachers – the Dean Fr. Stephen Arulampalam and the Principal The Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris. The remaining teachers were visiting lecturers. So it fell on Fr. Stephen to look after extra-curricular stuff. He was nearly blind and had three persons assigned to help him. These were his wife (a graduate), a priest from Ampitiya Catholic Seminary and an office staff member from Pilimatalawa itself. The relationship between the two full-timers was bad. On occasion Fr. Stephen would blast the Principal over a disagreement without realizing on account of his blindness that there were subordinate staff and students within earshot. It was an awkward atmosphere for Sujeevan.
Fr. Stephen’s strength was that he knew a lot by heart – passages from the Bible and prayerbooks – but like many disabled persons did not like to depend on others. So without using the three assigned to help him, he asked Sujeevan to set exams although Sujeevan would himself be a candidate, and subsequently asked student Kandasamy Arulan (a Methodist) who set the paper when Sujeevan evaded setting the paper as commanded because he sensed it was wrong. So Stephen came back to Sujeevan and forced him to grade the exams. Stephen distributed the questions to his favourite students who happily took them. Sujeevan says this was the situation for the 5 years he was at Pilimatalawa (2018-22) and is sure that the same prevailed the previous 5 years too. Sujeevan therefore says that unfortunately they were the ones who were caught and some 65% of the students who graduated from Pilimatalawa in the last 10 years sat and passed exams whose questions they were privy to. Accordingly, most new Protestant priests are exam cheats.
Given that Fr. Stephen was blind, TCL and Church authorities must have out of curiosity wondered how he was doing all this. They did not want to know and were in collusion.
The quality of clergy candidates now is so poor (with most being married and unable to cope with studies and families) that even with leaked exams, some scored as low as 25% and 35%. Stephen instructed his helpers to record these marks as above the pass-mark of 50% says Sujeevan. To juice it up, he asked his two helpers to increase their marks even though they scored high knowing the questions and had graded their own scripts.
Scandal Breaks Out but Harshness Reserved from Sujeevan
About two years ago, the details of Fr. Stephen’s activities came out. Stephen, having got wind, instructed Sujeevan and Arulan to deny any wrong-doing which they faithfully did. But then Stephen himself confessed. The cover-up was impossible as the records including marked answer-scripts were in Sujeevan’s handwriting, and Arulan’s on the question papers that went for typing – not in Fr. Stephen’s. In the end, all confessed.
It was now established that nearly all those who passed out of Pilimatalawa with their BTh degrees in recent years were cheats. Pilimatalawa being multi-denominational, priests from there in the last 10 years, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians et al., nearly well over 65% (Sujeevan’s figure) are cheats helped by Fr. Stephen. These cheats are now in charge of parishes, teaching children and pronouncing absolution of sins.
The Methodists were very forgiving. Kanthasamy Arulan was ordained and serves as a minister. Fr. Stephen was suspended in March 2022 and on 1 Jan. 2023 restored and posted as Assistant Priest at St. James’ Nallur.
Sujeevan however has been left swingling in the wind for two years with no income from the church. His unforgiven sin is telling everyone in line with his hero Cardinal Robert Sarah, hoping for understanding. He sustains himself with Rs. 15,000 earned as an office assistant and Rs. 20,000 from translating work. This gives him no time to work on his thesis, the last remaining obstacle to his degree.
Sujeevan says Archdeacon SDP Selvan, now a part-time lecturer at Pilimatalwa, reflecting the church’s academic fraud culture, has told him to write something and give him, and he would ensure it is approved. So cheating is endemic. Nothing has changed at TCL. When Bishop Rodrigo forgives and restores those who cheated, I say that he has no objections to academic fraud.
The new Bishop of Kurunagala, Nishantha Fernando, is also a TCL visiting lecturer. How much of the cheating does he know about? Could he not have seen?
If Sujeevan had stayed on at the bank, he would be making Rs. 85,000 but he cannot go back there as the age limit for recruitment is 32 which he is past. His marriage also is awkward to negotiate because it is known that he went to be a priest and is not yet a priest.
Cry for Justice: The three W’s
Andrew Sujeevan wants justice. He asked that his story be told and that he does not care to be subservient to this wicked Church anymore. Why is Fr. Stephen restored in less than a year while he languishes for 2 years? He has asked Bishop Rodrigo for appointments through Ven. SDP. Selvan, the Archdeacon for Jaffna who passed on Sujeevan’s telephone number to the Bishop telling Sujeevan to expect a call but the Bishop has not called him. He asked me to not send this article out till the St. John’s 200th birthday fraud for which the Bishop was expected in Jaffna. But the Bishop came to Jaffna and went. He asked Sujeevan to look for another job. Sujeevan ok-ed my sending this to the press.
Says Sujeevan, the 3 W-s are the unforgivable sins of indulgence regarding women, wine and wealth. He had done nothing in these areas. He reminds those who care to listen that many priests caught in child sexual abuse, and homosexual or adulterous affairs have been kept in service as Anglican priests, to become high ecclesiastics. Sujeevan recalls several priests with big offences including exam cheating and smuggling liquor into Pilimatalawa whose punishments were minimal. I am aware that the 4 archdeacons and 2 retired bishops (Kenneth Fernando and Duleep de Chickera) used endowment funds without the constitutionally required diocesan council confirmation, effectively to steal millions but are in good standing.
Sujeevan pointedly asks why his punishment is far more severe than that meted out to Fr. Stephen who was the mastermind of the cheating to pass out unqualified priests? What of the Bishops and Archdeacons who misused endowment funds for luxury vehicles? In response, Bishop Rodrigo has told Sujeevan through Archdeacon Selvan that he was given two chances and he has messed up. Sujeevan is puzzled. He thinks Rodrigo may be counting the initial psychiatric evaluation where he was completely cleared. He cannot even imagine what the second is. He wonders if perhaps the Bishop like many priests who felt the call of the Holy Spirit to be priests after failing at school is bad in his arithmetic and cannot count.
Like the Bishop, many with the cheat TCL degrees which are not recognized by the UGC, have got into graduate programs at national universities against the rules of those universities. The UGC excuse is that the universities are independent and they cannot interfere. As a result, I hear in sermons a lot of factual nonsense from those in PhD programs based on admission using a TCL degree.
As the church ignores offences against the faith, Methodist Priest Gnanaruban of St. Peter’s Church Jaffna explained in a sermon that Jesus said that of love, faith and hope, the greatest is love. That is, offences against the faith can be ignored on grounds of love!
No indeed! Love and Justice are different sides of the same coin. Justice must be exercised in love, but not ignored giving an open invitation to all the offences that are so common in the church. Minimally, the punishment to Sujeevan must bear some proportion to that to Fr. Stephen and the clergymen with uncontrolled libidos, and even bishops and archdeacons who used church funds running into rupees 5 to 11 million in unauthorized use of endowment funds to buy themselves luxury cars.
A senior dormant clergyman who has at long last raised his voice for Sujeevan, asked me to back off on the cars since it happened over 2 years ago. If I did, would it not encourage more stealing from the endowment funds? If the purchase of the cars is unauthorized, should they not be returned or sold and the loss from the embezzlement recouped?
Bishop Rodrigo (as related to Sujeevan through Archdeacon Selvan) adds that the process for punishing ordained persons is more involved and difficult. Wow! If you are an ordinary Sujeevan you are wrung and put out to dry, but if you are a priest or Bishop you cannot be punished as badly! That indeed is not Christianity! But it seems very Anglican.
Poor Sujeevan. After these iniquities, and being told to find another career, he snapped and wrote threatening Bishop Rodrigo. Chicken or egg first? I think the Church pressured God-fearing Sujeevan who sought to serve God, to snap. Surely, there is love for him, at least enough to restore him. He is a solid example of Jesus’ other saying reflected by Cardinal Sarah: I am the truth.
Serampore, to safeguard its good name, must de-accredit Theological College of Lanka.
St. John’s College – Corruption Begets Corruption
In the Church there is a standing Committee that is elected and ignored while a secretive group takes key decisions in Colombo like illegally buying cars for high-ups and writing human rights press-statements.
Likewise, St. John’s College has an elected OBA ExCo that is kept in the dark while a Committee with the Principal (who is not on the ExCo but a mere Vice Patron) decides for the OBA. At St. John’s which prides itself on punctuality, the Vice Patron comes late keeping all of us waiting, and when he comes the President and many others stand up for him like schoolboys.
I asked for a Committee to study the role of a patron who really has no executive powers. After a month they reported back that there is no need to study it. Having given in, the 200-year fraud birthday by the OBA was taken over by the Principal.
When the Principal is questioned, he acts against the OBA using the teachers who depend on him. Previous finance controls have been dispensed with for over a year as the Principal takes decisions on his own and the absentee Manger has handed over second signature on cheques to a staff member under the Principal.
The spreading corruption is seen further in the recent celebratory OBA dinner. The ExCo decision to sell tickets at the gate at a higher price has not been implemented. The Principal asked for donations from old boys for the OBA and bought tickets with the funds with no OBA participation which he distributed to his friends and family. Those who helped distribute the Principal’s tickets also got free tickets with no ExCo input. Most of us on ExCo (except a few like Mr. Nandakumar) had to buy our own tickets.
To see the absurdity, imagine the Patron, the Bishop, raising money for the OBA and spending it as he likes!
Who runs the food stalls was also secretive with no bidding. So Dr. Gobyshankar the President of the OBA, a wealthy orthopedic surgeon with his own restaurant, got to have his own stall where rotting cuttle fish was served according to complainants. He seems not to have heard of conflict of interest.
I also saw people returning boiled manioc saying it was cooked in the morning and was hard like a log. One-thousand plates were ordered and were insufficient. No one knows how many plates were served or how the people like the President were paid for their stalls. Many with complimentary ticket recipients (e.g., Bishop and Mrs. Jebanesan) did not show up but since no records were kept, they ate at every stall and all stall owners need to be paid. As tickets did not have a tear-off part for the stalls, there was nothing to prove how many guests were served by a stall. Old boys foolishly raised funds for complimentary tickets and the OBA has been ripped off.
As there is no record of the number of servings at a stall, whatever number of servings the stall owners declare needs to be paid to them. Because the queues were so badly congested, I had to skip many items although on paper I ate from every stall. I had no plans to wait 30 minutes for 5 string-hoppers. The approved plan was to charge higher (I recall Rs. 10,000) at the gate but friends with guests seem to have been waved in at early-bird prices. After paying exorbitant prices, guests grumbled that what they ate would not have cost even Rs. 1,500 at a good Jaffna restaurant. The problem is arbitrary decision-making by a few.
The stalls were too close to each other, and we did not know where the queues began or ended. I saw Mr. S. Sivathasan, a former OBA President, taking food from the side for himself and wife. When a person complained, the server said they were there only to serve, and crowd control was not their job. After standing in line, I found I had started in the middle of a queue that ran with another queue, but having waited, I was not ready to go to the back. The cause was a tiny group and the Principal undemocratically taking over the OBA’s role as the organizer, violating even decisions taken in ExCo. The OBA was really left out.
Dr. Gobyshankar takes decisions and puts all decisions on his so-called Committee. Secretary of the OBA, Mr. Hajeeban, however, complained that he was on the Committee and knew little. I am Vice President and was rendered clueless because the last Exco Meeting where arrangements were to be reviewed was never convened because the President calls meetings sometimes with only 2-3 days’ notice and cancels when he cannot make it even though there are three Vice Presidents to chair in his absence. The Secretary says he is not given dates because the President is busy with his surgery.
St. John’s must teach its students the norms for running meetings democratically and the importance of timely minutes and notices with agenda.
As a result of my questioning the age of the school, some drunken old boys in red and largely black sarong (like Mussolini’s goons called Black Shirts), had plotted to draw me into an argument and assault me at the dinner. Old-boy Hudson Solomon from Canada got wind of it and called my brother-in-law of huge stature with the nick-name Gulliver from school. The two stood guard by me and my wife, and the Black Shirts slunk away.
St. John’s must also teach fraternal equality and to argue substance rather than using ad hominem name calling and violence to win debates. Parents do not pay huge donations for admission, even as the Principal gets his government salary and an allowance of nearly 4 lakhs a month from the CMS even as he cheats on his leave-sheet to the ministry (where the internal time machine shows 80 days’ leave per year but he declares 7-12 days for 2020 and 2021 and the ministry returned it since it was self-certified). As many Christian students do not apply to St. John’s because of the huge admission fee, old boys recall how when a widow hocked her jewels to pay the admission fee, Principal C.E. Anandarajan on hearing of it, took her to the lender in his own car where he got her to return the money and retrieve her jewels, and offered free admission.
What is the CMS doing?
A corrupt and lying Church has begotten a corrupt and lying school. Jaffna’s foremost newspapers like Uthayan sensed the lies about age and did not cover the event. That is not the Christian Witness for which St. John’s remained private. These beginnings of corruption are visibly spreading by following the Church’s form of democracy and justice.
Ratnajeevan Hoole is a descendant of The Rev. Elijah Hoole who was, according to CMS Archives, recruited by St. John’s’ founding Principal, The Rev. Robert Pargiter, as one of the first teachers at St. John’s as Tamil Pandit at the school’s founding in 1851, moving from the Wesleyan Mission on Jaffna Central College’s founder Peter Percival’s recommendation when Percival left Ceylon. Elijah Hoole was ordained priest on Pargiter’s recommendation in 1866 at St. James’ Nallur and posted as Native Pastor at The Church of St. John the Baptist.