30 October, 2020

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“I Am Called A ‘Controversial’ Bishop Because There Are ‘Controversial’ Issues Taking Place” – Dr Rayappu Joseph

By Colombo Telegraph

Bishop Dr Rayappu Joseph

“I am called a controversial Bishop because there are ‘controversial’ issues taking place and when I speak on those issues I turned to be ‘controversial’. If I speak out, I am an ‘outspoken Bishop’. If I care for the poor and fight for justice, I am an anti Sri Lankan, a LTTE or a separatist. So, what am I to do? I care less about these names, but I will keep voicing against injustice and fight against human rights violations.” says, Mannar Bishop Dr Rayappu Joseph in an interview with Sulochana Ramiah Mohan of Lakbimanews.

We below reproduce the interview in full;

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan –

You have been called the ‘Controversial Bishop’ and recently Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen claimed that you were the ‘cause’ for the clash in Mannar where Muslims attacked the magistrate and the Tamil fishermen in Uppukkulam? What is your explanation?

Sulochana Ramiah Mohan

I am called a controversial Bishop because there are ‘controversial’ issues taking place and when I speak on those issues I turned to be ‘controversial’. If I speak out, I am an ‘outspoken Bishop’. If I care for the poor and fight for justice, I am an anti Sri Lankan, a LTTE or a separatist. So, what am I to do? I care less about these names, but I will keep voicing against injustice and fight against human rights violations.

In Uppukkulam, Tamil fisher folk paid a rent to the Muslims to put up vaadiayas and fish in their area for a couple of years. In 2006, they went to the Fisheries Harbour Corporation and asked permission to fish in their area. It’s just a 200 meter stretch on the beach and the additional director fisheries, and the GA issued a recommendation letter in 2006 giving permission to fish in the requested 200m beach front sea. The beach belongs to the state. Anyone can ask permission and fish but the Uppukulam Muslims did not want them to fish there. They ‘claimed’ it’s their land.

The Muslims complained to Minister Bathiudeen and he went to the district divisional secretary and the GA to tell the Tamil fishermen not to fish there. After a complaint to the police, they were given another place to fish. There too the Muslims of that area chased them. Tamils said they will wait till an area is given for fishing but nothing happened. After staying for some days, unable to starve they went fishing when the clash took place. What the judge said was to give 3 weeks and he will settle them. He was fair in his judgment. You cannot chase people off all of a sudden. And the beach stretch is owned by the state. Why cannot they let them fish there?

The Muslims say their livelihood is ‘threatened’ and less fish because all are fishing in their areas?

Muslims of that area are not fishermen. Most of them are businessmen. They don’t fish in big numbers. They have about six boats, I guess. They are seasonal fishermen looking for sea cucumber. You don’t find sea cucumber throughout the year. Only 200 meter stretch of the beach was used for fishing by the Tamils. Do you mean all the fish in the sea is in that 200 meter stretch? Why can’t they fish just outside the 200m sea area? The sea belongs to all and fish is everywhere.

What did the Fisheries Harbour Corporation do?

What can they do? It’s not ours or their problem. If the Muslims want to fight they should challenge the Fisheries Harbour Corporation. We are not the complainants. It’s the Muslims.

The Tamil fishermen have their own village about 10km away. Why cannot they return to their place?

Most of the 300 displaced families have settled here, living for the last 11 years. They have their own houses and land. How can they return?

But Amuthan, a Sea Tiger of LTTE issued an agreement letter to the Muslims that these Tamil fishermen will leave Uppukulam as soon as peace prevails. Shouldn’t they go?

Who is Amuthan? A government official ? His agreement letter carries no weight or has no power to change anything. It’s silly to talk about him now.

So you think it was a fair judgment given by Judge A Judeson?

Yes, he asked the GA and the GS how long it will take to settle the fisher folks and they replied they need about three weeks and his judgment was based on that.

But the protestors reacted in an inhuman way. They had a placard tied on a street dog’s neck which slandered the judge. The Minister is the one who told the judge to change the judgment. Who is he to change the verdict? He also went to the Judiciary Service Commission and gave a letter requesting to transfer the judge. It’s a contempt of court. They should have submitted an appeal.

The Minister claims he was not involved and takes no responsibility for his supporters’ actions. Should he?

Well, without a backing of a minister such protests and riots cannot take place. It’s upon his order they get the ‘strength’ to commit such offences. When you know you are ‘safe’ you can do anything and that ‘safety’ only can be provided by a powerful minister like Rishad.

Many say you are a close friend of the Judge. So can that be the reason why the Muslims think they are sidelined and you and the judge are ‘biased’ being Tamils?

He is one of those people who I know well. I know the brigadiers, senior military personnel etc. I don’t talk on judiciary matters with the judge. I have no right to talk about what he does and what he should do. That’s disrespect for me and him as well.

So why do you think Minister Bathiudeen is getting involved in such a ‘manner’?

All because of the forthcoming elections and to bag votes. It’s not Tamil clashing with Muslims but ‘winning votes’.

To win votes, out of the 650 government job approvals he gave only 19 jobs for the Tamils and two for Sinhalese. The rest is all for his ‘ardent supporters’.

Then the Indian government handed over 165 engine boats each worth Rs 4 lakhs to the ministry of fisheries. The ministry had a list of names of those who deserve the boats but Minister Bathiudeen rejected the list and gave ‘his list’.  He wanted 150 boats to be given to his supporters and the rest to others. I wrote to the fisheries ministry copying it to the Indian High Commission. Finally the IHC took back the boats. I don’t want such injustice. Either distribute the boats to all communities equally or nothing at all. Even land is not equally distributed. Minister Bathiudeen takes the advantage of collecting money and buying it for his people. When it comes to land, the minister gets involved and when I speak he once said I am like the Dambulla Monk who protested against the Mosque being there. Why should I keep quiet? I am a citizen of this country. He also goes about saying I am ‘in charge’ of all the land in Mannar. I am not asking for land. I want the officials to regularize and follow the procedures. Be fair in every action. It’s the Tamils who were worse affected.

Have you helped the Muslims?

Of course, there are several families who come to me. I have donated money for medical treatment too.

What do you think of the LLRC report?

I will not want people to die in vain. I have details about the deaths and the missing persons based on the government statistics. I doubt the total population in the census. I pointed out the total persons missing to UNCHR and according to my calculation based on the government statistics its 146, 679 people missing.

So you have been quite a rebel and controversial figure in Mannar?

I am only standing for the truth and justice. We are talking about human lives and there is no ‘adjustments’ in human lives.

Are you a LTTE or an ardent supporter of their movement?

I don’t know why I am called so. It’s their weakness to call me so. I never accepted their killings and atrocities. I have condemned their killing and received death threats. I never wanted a separate country. Not even in my dreams. As a priest and follower of Jesus Christ who was a victim of violence yet manifested the Truth, the Life and the Way, I am doing my duties.

You were earlier criticized for taking part in ‘Mahaveer’ celebration during LTTE times? Do you think it was right to be there?

I went to listen to the speeches they made. I also should be aware of their next move and be informed as to what is going on there. I never participated.

So do you see a mess in the system?

There is no room for truth. No justice upheld. Everywhere holes and pits in governance. If I ask government officials about land being cleared in the forest all of a sudden, he is unaware. So such systems are dangerous. People do not know what the officials are doing and officials do not know what the people are doing.

Did you invite Minister Bathiudeen for ‘talks’?

I have always told him that he is like my son and told him to stand by the truth.  I don’t condemn the sinner but the sin. He is dividing the community. He bribes people to support him and offers fishing nets and boats. He has done that in a place called Arippu. These are misleading tactics. The poor and the needy will definitely fall to such ‘preys’.

Do you think if you are not there, people of Mannar will suffer?

Well, I am the Bishop and they trust me because there is no policy and cheating is everywhere. I have even told people not to bring ‘evil money’ as offerings to the church. I will not permit that.

Did you receive death threats?

I don’t keep a record of that. In that case even Jesus Christ would have taken steps to live more than 100 years. I care less about death threats. I am alive because I am the Bishop. If not, I would have been part of Sri Lankan history. What I do is not to create disharmony but to helpSri Lanka. I am not anti but to point out the mistakes and rectify them.

But many faults are found in your approaches?

That is why I am telling, point it out to me. I am ready to face them.

How can in your view, reconciliation process should take place?

Show accountability of the deaths during the war. Speak the truth and also implement the LLRC. That is the only way forward. Settle the old issues. If you don’t clarify them how can you start afresh?

So you say this is a failed nation?

They have failed in their basic understanding. First of all there is oneSri Lanka. But there is no one people. I am not a Sinhalese and a Sinhalese will not say he is a Tamil at any point of his life. In that context, it is one country many nations, nation referring to the people of different communities having their own language, script, traditions and culture. The right to self determination in one country is also important. These should be recognized.

So isn’t that accepted by all Sri Lankans?

It must be meaningful when you say self determination, practically applied. Not just saying ‘it’s out there and all are entitled for it’.

I get numerous letters in Sinhala. Who will read it? It would take one month for me to read it. It makes no sense to me.

Do you think the National Anthem should be sung in Tamil too?

I don’t mind signing in any language. What matters is that does it carry any meaning to a Tamil who sings it? If you want, you can translate to any other languages too, right? A national anthem must be sung with feelings. If that purpose is lost, everything is lost. We are ready to sing it in any language you want but the purpose is lost. It’s aimless. As a citizen of this country should we sing aimlessly, not knowing what we are singing? The fundamental principle is we are people and we are self determining people in one country under one rule. We jointly should develop the nation. We have political aspirations in one country. The reality is, we belong to different communities.

So what is your final say here?

It is one country many nations (nations: people). It’s similar toIndiawhich has many nations in one country.

So you advocate that?

I don’t advocate, I am pointing out the reality. Let’s help each other. I serve all communities. If there is injustice to any I can speak for them. I don’t hold it for Tamils only.

Former US Ambassador Patricia Butenis met you before she left the shores? Any major issues discussed?

She has come forward to help me in many ways. We did have some political issues discussed. Through her, the Sewalanka Foundation came to look into the Mullikulam matter.

What is happening in Mullikulam?

Mullikulam has been occupied by the Navy and the people are living in the jungles where elephants walk about. Sewalanka is negotiating to find a place to settle the people living in the jungle.

What is your dream?

To see a true statesmen who would rise above party politics, who will work for the welfare of the people irrespective of who they are, who would risk life to serve people, and who would stand by the people. Till then this country will be in darkness.

What do you want the government to work on immediately?

The forthcoming election should be free and fair. Give room for all parties to participate equally in its campaign and remove enmity.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa met you recently. Did he help you with some of your requests?

He came to Mannar on July 21. I told about the presence of Navy in Mullikulam and the people are living under hardship in the forest without shelter, food and job. People of Mullikulam were compelled to reside in the middle of a jungle at Malankadu, without even basic facilities.  He asked the officials what’s going on and they explained. The officials suggested they will cultivate the land and make these villagers work in the field. I don’t think that is a reasonable solution. Why should the Navy cultivate the villagers’ land? I am waiting for a favourable reply for Mullikulam villagers and settle them according to their will and nothing ‘forced’ on them.

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Latest comments

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    Had this Bishop been a Sinhalese and has been voicing his concerns for a Sinhalese minority in Mannar against the Muslims, how would have the Sinhalese reacted? He would have been hailed as the Greatest ‘PATRIOT’? Unfortunately he is raising the issues for a minority who are also citizens of this country and the chauvinists brand him as a Traitor. I believe the State should come down heavily on this state of apartheid and treat all citizens alike. We are the first to condemn, if it happened to a minority or the blacks outside anywhere, but sad to say we are blind and dumb, when descrimination is committed right under our very own noses. Such Great Theravadha Buddhists we are?

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      The inspiration for land grabbing comes from the top! The Rajapakse family, particularly Basil and Gota the white van goon, and their sons and business cronies. Land grabbing is going on not just in Mannar but all along the Eastern coast where huge acres long military camps have taken over old villages and people have been displaced.
      Army, Navy and air force camps occupy acres of prime coastal land, while Basil’s cronies are building massive hotels on what remains of the prime coastal land. Passikudha is a good example. The biggest Hotel at Passikudha is known locally as Basil’s! a massive structure coming up on the best spot on the bay – wanna guess where Mr. 10 percent got his money from to build fancy hotels?
      For post-war reconciliation and JUSTICE there needs to be LAND REPARATION and an independent land commission to ensure that the people who own the land and lived off it along the coast get their lands back. Massive acres of prime land have been grabbed in the name of “security”! There is no need for the coastline to be one massive military camp since there is no security threat. Indeed Rajapassa family and cronies are the biggest security threat to the people of the coast including coastal Veddha communities. These prime lands will eventually be sold off at a good profit to the ruling family.
      Just drive along the eastern coast from Panama Pattu on the Yala border, where a Buddhist monk stole the Ganesh statue from the Hindu kovil with help from the military, to Batticaloa to Trincomalee and you will see that there are very few people living in the coastal areas between Trinco and Batti anymore – they have all been evicted and now the entire east coastal stretch (formally LTTE controlled) is now controlled by the Rajapakse family and by the military which is almost the the same thing give that Gota the white van goon has his figures in the the military pie.
      There needs to be a study and investigation of what’s going on re. land grabbing by military and rajapassa tourism fronts and eviction of people by the navy also in Panamapattu and in formally LTTE held areas and what has become of the people who lived there?
      In Colombo 7 too land and houses are being appropriated by the Rajapassa family intent on transferring public wealth into their hands. Recently a cop at the Cinnamon Garden’s police station warned a friend about Mr. Subi’s house on Alexander Road (near the looted National Meuseum) in virtually high security zone crawling with military until recently, being taken over and deed changed by a Mervyn Silva gang, while Subi. an old man, was on a short trip overseas. The Rajapakses have staked out and noted very vacant plot of Land in Colombo 7 and and are also preparing to appropriate Houses like the Bank of Ceylon General Manager’s official residence a beautiful colonial bungalow on Green Path which has been kept empty for years… Rajapassa family want desperately to belong in and be accepted in Colombo 7 society – they can dream on!
      Lanka needs an independent Land commission to investigate the theft of land by Rajapassa Bros Inc.

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      Long live Bishop Joseph who is willing to speak truth to power and is a true man of God!

    • 0
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      What does this Bishop Talk ?

      In 2006, Mannar was LTTE area. Did LTTE allow muslims in there at that time ?

      This bishop disprove what Brian Senevirathne from Austrlia had written to this very websit in which he said Rayappu was helping the people of other religions living in the area. This article does not support anything like that.

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    Unemployment or difficulties in performing a livelihood is a human problem,but appears to have been politicised by the minister to win votes at elections.This has led to the present situation.The judge has been reasonable to ask the people to wait for a mere three weeks but the minister has been in a hurry to show his ‘clout’.
    Judiciary are not infallible, but a judgement should have been respected.

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    This Rayappu should have been called in by his Master a longtime ago and condemned to hell.

    This is the scum bag who abducted the Statue of the Mother of GOD FROM THE Madhu Shrine took it into the area of the Sun Goat and behaved as he were the protector of the Mother of God and made GOD to look INCAPABLE.

    Rayappu is not a missionary but a Mercenary for the Holy Roman Empire revival together that ex Vicar of Jaffna Seminar, S.J.Emmanuel.

    They together are in league attempting to upstage Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church with a new religion with SUN GOAT at the alter with S.J.Emmanuel as head of the Sun Goat Order.

    Go… worshipp the Rayappus. What did he do to alleviate hardships of his so called people when his GOD the Sun Goat was ruling the Wanni with his Saint Paramu Selvam ??

    Sulochana Ramaiah Mohan, Rayappu is a disgrace to his Master Jesus Christ and to the Catholic Church & The Catholics of Sri Lanka.
    His stripes are covered by his Cassoack. A disgrace to Catholics and cunning and a deciteful FOX..

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      dicky Bird;

      how is dick ey,

      go and fly a kite,

      can you fly kits.

      you paid killers

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    SIR PONNAMBALAM RAMANATHAN IS THE ONLY CELONESE TAMIL WHO GAVE A SPEECH DURING QUEEN VICTORIA’S JUBILEE CELEBRATION IN UK, AND WHO LATER TOOK A SIGNED DOCUMENT IN HIS SHOES, FROM THE LEADING CEYLONESE PEOPLE TO THE ATTENTION OF THE BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, DISCLOSING THE ATTROCITIES COMMITED BY THE COLONIAL RULERS WHO WERE IN CHARGE OF CEYLON. HE WON THE FREEDOM OF ALL THE SINHALESE LEADERS FROM THE KANDYAN KINGDOM, WHO WERE IMPRISONED IN CEYLON, BY THE COLONIAL RULERS. ON HIS RETURN TO CEYLON, FROM UK, HE WAS HAILED A HERO AND HIS HORSE CART WAS PULLED BY THE RELEASED KANDYAN LEADERS, INSTEAD OF THE HORSE, FROM THE SHIP IN THE COLOMBO HARBOUR TO HIS HOME IN WARD PLACE. HE ALWAYS STATED, THAT, ALL SINHALESE ARE OUR FAMILY AND WE ARE ALL CEYLONESE. WHATEVER HAPPENS TO THE SINHALESE, IT HAPPENS TO THE TAMILS AND OTHER CEYLONESE CITIZENS.
    HE WAS THE GREATEST CEYLONESE WE HAVE EVER HAD IN CEYLON(SRI LANKA).
    YOU MAY CHANGE THE NAME OF THE COUNTRY BUT YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE NAME OF THE REAL HERO.
    LONG LIVE SIR PONNAMBALAM RAMANATHAN, IN THE MEMORIES OF EVERY CEYLONESE, WHEREVER THEY MAY LIVE IN THIS WORLD.

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    I am happy that Bishop Rayappu is now a controversial figure. In fact, Jesus himself was a controversial person. The priests in the Temple of his time preferred to serve the ‘mammon’, power and wealth. Unlike them he decided to serve not the powers’ of this world but his Father. Thus he was called a ‘drunkard’, ‘blasphemer’, ‘rabble-rouser’ etc.
    We admire Bishop Rayappu as a leader because he does not waver before the truth. His fidelity to his vocation was such that even branding him as a ‘Tiger’ could not detract him from doing the correct thing. So often we come across other leaders who fall on their knees before the mammon. Such people can betray the ‘Truth’ without any problem to their conscience. Being a good shepherd, Bishop Rayappu always stood for his people’s rights and will continues to work to alleviate their suffering. Whatever the people of darkness call him on earth, in heaven he will be called great. We wish more and more bishops emulate Bishop Rayappu.

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      Why Jesus was baptised by some one else ?

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    Everybody knows that Rayppu does not have a history in Sri Lanka as he was born in South India. Because of that who wants to believe that he has feelings about Sinhale.

    He is a tribalist, a terrorist and more. He had proved those things clearly. He never wrote defending his hiding of Bank loots by LTTE in his churches, He never explained why called LTTE as Jesus’s angels and,

    He did not explain here why he wrote to the SL president against muslim settling back in Mannar once the LTTE was wiped out.

  • 0
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    All UPFA politicians do what Rishard Badiudenn is doing, nothing new, even the UNP did during their era, what we need is change the system, demand justice for all.

    Fr Rayyapu is trying to save & speak only for one community, stand up for all issues.

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    Dear bishop you are great, please do not give up what you are doing. We know how much you and the church helped us and our hope is you and the church will come out tell the truth of what happened to those 146,000.
    Sir we salutes you and your like a light of hope in the end of a tunnel. There is no words of prise can tell you how much we appereciate the noble work that you continue to do and please keep doing that job, no fear but only answerable to god that you believe.
    we will one day find resolution to those question that we face at that time I hope i will be there among others to thank you all those who commit to do things under difficult circumstances.

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