1 December, 2021

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Cleaning-Up Christian Corruption: Breaking The Nexus Between Church, LEADS & The Police

By Krishanthi Sivapakiam

I am a Christian and believe the church has much to offer the world. If the world is to accept the Good News we preach, it is important that our lives reflect the goodness inherent to what we preach.

Most Christian ministers are good, but a few are a scourge. As we are encouraged to tithe 10% and that money flows in from Christians in the West, some Pastors misuse that money. With that money comes power over women. I will focus on a few whose work through Christian organizations undermines the Good News. Money and women are central to the downfall of good Christian Ministers whose training in communication equips them well to climb in organizations, attract women and con people. The Sri Lankan police, widely known for corruption, keep them free of prosecution.

To be clear, there are good pastors who follow St. Paul’s model of being responsible for their own upkeep. He made tents for a living. Likewise, we have pastors like Michael of Thiriyai He was formerly in the LTTE, is reformed and runs his own shop selling electronics and SMS cards, and engages in agriculture even as he is an AoG Pastor. Many good pastors I know sell fish for a living. Those I write about are leeches living off donor funds.

I will focus on two persons, the Selvaraj brothers, Jeyakanth and Jeyaraj. From a humble family in Batticaloa, financially and socially, they moved to Trinco eking out a living as fishermen.

Jeyakanth joined LEADS, a Christian charity. He did good work, building houses for LEADS and distributing them in Thelungu Nagar in Thambalakamam to very impoverished Telugu and Tamil speaking gypsies. He also did Christian work and he was recommended to Pastor Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Church in London to read for a Theology Diploma at his Metropolitan Tabernacle College. The purpose was to empower him in his evangelistic work. He was also introduced to Dr. Stuart Olcott with extensive church connections in the UK and Switzerland. With the help of these two worthies, Jeyakanth went to the UK where he established a network of churches for Tamils and built an empire. He became emblematic of his British funders’ work.

Jeyakanth, Jeyaraj and Peter Masters

His Sri Lankan work received a huge boost with the Tsunami. While he was married to his wife Vanee, a nurse some 7 years older from Hospital Christian Fellowship with whom he had begun living and married when parishioners objected, he began an affair with Vijaya the wife of another who was attracted to him after the Tsunami and her husband filed for divorce in court. The land Registry’s Croyden office shows he had acquired the property at 121 Grove Road, Mitcham, Surrey CR4 1AE on 10 Dec. 2010 declaring a price of £150,000 as having been paid (TITLE NUMBER: SY249170). Documents show that his organization owns a Mahendra Jeep, a Crew Cap, 2 buses, three tractors and nine 3-wheelers. As his net worth rose and people questioned it and his family life, his backers defended him because that would undermine the work they were boasting of. Poster boys cannot be dethroned. But in time Jeyakanth was forced to return to Sri Lanka where he began some 40-45 parishes. He was effectively a Bishop in his Lanka Evangelical Fellowship Church. His external funding that he channeled to Pastors ensured a free hand to continue his scandalous behaviour.

Besides funding, instilling fear is another means of control. I have heard one Pastor telling a detractor “You do not know what will happen to you if I start praying against you.” A “Bishop” from a rival faction threatened, “I would be sad see all my churches praying against you.” It works because by coincidence heart attacks, death, near-death road accidents and madness, and firing by the Board have overtaken all principals and a person coming to Baldaeus College to see if he could fit in as Principal!

Jeyakanth’s lifestyle continues despite his role as effective Bishop. In the house behind his home in Trinco was living a widow with a less-able daughter of 16 or so. His two assistants George and Mariyadas were each given 10 years RI for sexual abuse of a minor by High Court Judge Elancheliyan who, say witnesses present in court, queried how many wives Jeyakanth had, and which of his three women he was living with. George died in prison. Mariyadas has to finish some 8 years of his 10 years.

Jeyakanth had a rant in his newsletter against the much-respected judge:

It appears the judge has been taken in by the falsehoods. I firmly believe they are innocent. The accusations were made long after the supposed rape by highly impressionable mentally unstable girls. … At court the judge spoke about how the Christians at 6 Mile Post are trying to force Hindu children to convert and he was generally very antagonistic to the work. … The judge said the man overall in charge of 6 Mile Post, i.e. myself, is culpable as well. The implications of this are unclear.

Jeyakanth went into a partnership with Saradha Madam (as she is called in Trinco), a niece of Chandrika Bandaranaike’s and in-law of General Sarath Fonseka’s who had raised funds for her Sunshine Charity with about 35 children. She, say Pastors Ganesh and Jeyanathan, wrote a strong letter to Peter Masters detailing what is going on. While that is so, the Army came and got all keys from Jeyakanth and gave them to Saradha Madam. Peter Masters had no choice but to ask Jeyakanth to give Saradha Madam the deeds. But he has started another home with about 15 children across Saradha Madam’s.However, 13 pastors of the 60 in Jeyakanth’ organizations, say Ganesh and Jeyanathan, including themselves, have left and have joined the rivalling 23-church empire built up by Pastor Dr. K. Muraleetharan, a person with rare secular degrees. They have taken with them 120 members out of the 180, the remaining sixty still being faithful to Jeyakanth are now ministered to by the brother (now Pastor) Jeyaraj. This desertion of Jeyakanth began with Jeyalalitha, a woman deserted by her husband and aged about 29 whom Jeyakanth had appointed as the Warden of one of his homes for boys. In time, she says, improper advances were made to her. Every time it happened, she would tell Pastor Jeyanathan, and these were reported to Peter Masters by Ganesh and Jeyanathan. Jeyakanth reported it to the Trinco Police claiming his work was being destroyed and funding halted by Muraleetharan. Muraleetharan claims he had only translated the two Pastors’ letter into English, and he was not a complainant. In the meantime, Jeyakanth had taken over Jeyalalitha’s phone where his amorous advances were recorded (allege the two pastors) and Jeyalalitha had switched sides. Then the then OIC for Trinco (now at Kuchaveli), Lalith Kumara, issued a letter saying he had investigated and found the allegations untrue. He had not even listened to the recordings with Pastor Jeyanathan. On Jeyakanth’s complaint, the Police in Valaichenai have filed a case against Jeyanathan for ruining Jeyalalitha’s reputation. Jeyanathan says the police are being used to harass him and he is confident because of the telephone recordings he has. A garbled warning issued to Muraleetharan by the OIC is seen here. Muraleetharan is threatening to go to the Human Rights Commission.

Rather isolated, Jayakanth has taken to hanging out with SLPP politicians. That is enough for most people to not complain.

Jeyaraj’s gang of 4: Himself and Rev. Thileepan, Rev. Ramesh, & Rev. Jeyaseelan. Right Rev. Sabesan

LEADS

Jeyaraj the younger brother, was given a job at LEADS when Jeyakanth left for the UK. He is presently Trinco Coordinator for LEADS and was honored recently for 25 years’ service.

LEADS is a Christian organization supposedly doing charitable work. It received a “boost” after the tsunami. Massive funds flowed in. Tamils like Rajan Rajasingham and Godfrey Yogarajah left. The board soon became all-Sinhalese, fishing in troubled Tamil waters (the war, the tsunami and the hill country) to get funds. The Tamil areas including the hill country gave the raison d’être for funds because the main work was there although Hambantota was added as an excuse to make the absence of Tamils less glaring. At that time in Jaffna the Coordinator had to pedal long distances on work. Soon cars came in and the Directors looked after themselves well. Say the family of the late Gunaratnam, Jaffna Coordinator, he was neglected but Directors had a high life. In 2007 the Jaffna Coordinator was paid a mere Rs. 7000 a month. Many in LEADS made good money and LEADS was plagued by officials being removed for misappropriation. Jeyaraj with that kind of paltry salary recently bought himself a house for Rs. 14.5 million. He is supervising construction of a huge multistorey block in Trinco. It is all Jeyakanth’s wealth say people in Trinco adding that many of his relatives have properties using money that comes for churches which are not registered. The Police have not acted on complaints.

Pastor Jeyaraj is Bursar at Baldaeus Theological College whose President is the well-known leader Dr. Sam Thevabalasingham and Ratnajeevan Hoole the Vice President. Four persons, Pastor Jeyaraj, Pastor Reginald Thileepan, Dutch Reformed Church’s Rev. J. Jeyaseelan and Pastor Tharmalingam Ramesh run meetings on their own against Dr. Sam’s orders not to hold meetings without an Agenda, Minutes or Accounts. They exploit the fact that the quorum is only 4. They refuse to distribute Minutes except to those who attend their meetings without the President’s authorization and will not release minutes later. Jeyaraj writes cheques as he likes. Secretary Ramesh brings in accounts for expenditures without receipts. For a lunch for 8 Board members, he claimed a purchase of 4 kg of Anchor milk power, 10 kg of rice and yet another 3 kg of expensive keeri samba rice and 3 kg of sugar. When authorization was refused, Jeyaraj quietly and untruthfully told the administrator to pay saying the Board had authorized it. Bursar Jeyaraj tells the Labour Commission one thing about when unpaid salaries were paid and then tells the Board another thing. He claimed he had paid the Asian Theological Association’s accreditation fees ($350 per year for two years) but now says nothing when the accreditors denied it. A Rs. 400,000 income was used as Petty cash by Secretary Ramesh when the Petty cash limit was Rs. 30,000 and the expense account lacked receipts. Jeyaraj then made up another account not corresponding to Secretary Ramesh’s account and got the 4 Board members who conduct meetings to sign it blindly. No one noticed that even the additions were wrong and that a Rs. 80,000 salary not claimed in Secretary Ramesh’s own account was now claimed in Jeyaraj’s account on his behalf. Rev. Jeyaseelan spends as he wants and his idea of receipts for example is to tear off a piece of paper and say “Telephone Rs. 1000” without even a signature. A student and her husband accuse him of forcing a kiss on the wife.

In a bad Board, members are there to give the leader the chance to make his decisions look as if everyone reviewed them and approve. Here Board members blindly sign Jeyaraj’s and Ramesh’s crooked accounts. A supposed payment of Rs. 501,000 for beds was made as a cash cheque with no invoice. The cheque was encashed by Jeyaraj and his assistant. LEADS has been informed but they choose to retain him, because he is their Poster Boy.

With that kind of absence of receipts, audit for 2019 became a problem. The classrooms and office are locked up despite two stay orders making the audit impossible. Donors have stopped funding. Students suffer as studies are disrupted. The problem is that the local police want orders from Colombo courts served, and the Fiscal in Colombo wants a car and hotel to come to Trinco. That is not possible when donors have stopped funds and Jeyaraj will not sign cheques to hurt his access to funds.

In the meantime, the 4 persons who take Board decisions under Reginald Thileepan are spending the money and even renting rooms in Colombo only for themselves while denying it to others attending meetings. Thileepan and Ramesh refuse minutes to Board Members despite requests and President Sam’s directives. Secretary Ramesh refuses to call a Board meeting when instructed by President Dr. Sam because they will lose the board elections last held in Dec. 2018. A fired employee, Nathaniel Sabesan brought in by Pastor Thileepan, failed his NDT course and calls himself an Engineer, a Reverend and the son of a judge when his father was a Proctor Selvarajah who chased off Sabesan from home for a bad marriage. The gang of 4 is paying him Rs. 45,000 a month ignoring 3 employees who are teaching and when the college has no work for Sabesan. Such is the Christian witness.

To prevent an audit the 4 self-appointed directors who under Thileepan’s leadership hold meetings without telling the venue to those not likely to side with them, have sealed the office and moved all financial documents to a private venue. The LEADS office in Trincomalee is used to keep these documents under Jeyaraj’s supervision. Cheques are written and photocopies taken from LEADS. Sabesan goes to Trinco LEADS for meetings with Jeyaraj. The LEADS head office has been informed but they stand by Jeyaraj after boasting of his 25 years’ service.

Control in Religion

Religious loyalties are funny (as in peculiar). The BBC in an hour-long documentary has proved how Sai Baba massaged the sexual organs of young boys with oil and asked for oral sex (a blow job said a BBC witness). Four boys were also murdered in his ashram. The faithful are undeterred and argue that Sai Baba was into legitimate Lingam worship. These problems are simplistically put on lack of hierarchy in Hinduism and free churches where no one disciplines leaders.

However, even in mainstream Christianity the faithful stand by priests with charisma. The errant priests argue that once Christian, their sins are not reckoned against them. The Bishops hold that once ordained they are “indelibly marked as Christ’s own forever.” So, the errant are quietly transferred to new unsuspecting parishes where they can wreak the same havoc. A priest-principal mysteriously retired after an inquiry (into accusations he abused a male teacher and children) was forced on the Anglican Bishop Dhilo Canagasabey. He is now working with boy scouts (the refuge of paedophiles) in Mullaitivu, and is still a clergyman.

John Isaiah is an Anglican priest who goes from Parish to Parish, where he cannot keep his hands off women. Now the Braynards claim their ancestral land has been taken over by him using a forged deed. They complained to Bishop Dhilo Canagasabey who has taken no apparent action. In another instance when members of the Church of Ceylon Standing Committee (the highest executive body they say) raised concerns that Bishop Dushantha Rodrigo is about to restore a priest found guilty of all kinds of activities, the Bishop ruled that the discipline of priests is his responsibility and the matter cannot be discussed.

Even though the courts are very slow and ineffective, in time Articles 119, 126 and 512 of the Companies Act will ultimately be enforced – requiring all Baldaeus College documents to be kept in the office, all Minutes and financial documents to be retained for 10 years for the inspection of all Board Members without fabrication – on pain of heavy fines (personal and corporate) and jail sentences. Perhaps this is why Secretary Ramesh is now seen at meetings of Kapil the SLPP MP.

Christian Churches and organisations must cleanup and be rid of charlatans if the Good News is to be heard.

(A range of people from Jaffna, Trincomalee and Colombo were interviewed and documents including court papers inspected by this writer, authenticating this story).

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