22 September, 2018

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When Can We Celebrate Freedom Day In Sri Lanka?

By Rev. S.J. Emmanuel

Rev. S.J. Emmanuel

Rev. S.J. Emmanuel

What are we celebrating on the 4th Feb – Independence, Inter-dependence or Freedom?

Recently when I made an Independence Day appeal to all the religious leaders of the country to come to the fore and help the present Government to achieve peace and reconciliation on the basis of truth, justice accountability, a good friend of mine alerted me to the absence of the theme freedom in my appeal. In the context of our Independence Day Celebrations today and of the way in which we celebrate, there are many questions overlooked largely by our population and our leaders.

From Colonialism to Independence

On the afternoon of the 4th of Feb. 1948 I stood as a 14years old student of St.Patrick’s College, Jaffna, on the Jaffna Esplanade (presently Durayappah’s Stadium) celebrating the Independence of Ceylon from the British colonial master. Mr. Hudson the then Government Agent in Jaffna, representing the British Government lowered the British union Jack. We all were told that we have become independent from foreigners’ rule. Though we didn’t understand the meaning of it, we enjoyed the little packet of Vadai and Pattis each one of us received and the music and dance on the platform. At college of course we had great European oblate missionaries like Frs. Charles Mathews, Timothy Long, Chovan and my classmates included some Sinhalese too from the deep south. On the pillars of the college were written words “Speak English Only” and when we were caught speaking in Tamil, a fine of 5 0r 10 cents was imposed! We grew up studying all subjects in English, with only one hour of Tamil.

The British colonials not only built good roads and railways but also left us a good system of education. We are today fortunate that that the then colonial language English has become the world language today. Never did we dream that the British blunder of handing over all the power into the hands of a majoritarian democracy will lead to many decades of conflict and war on this island.
Celebration of the new Powers that be

True we became independent of a colonial rule from the Portuguese, Dutch and the British that lasted nearly 500 years. And the way we commemorate it by an exhibition of the ruling authorities, who are sons and daughters of our own soil, as well as our air, land and sea forces displaying their capabilities, show that we rule ourselves with our own powers and not by foreigners or their forces. We also proudly sing our national anthem and raise our national flag. We have done this so long, almost for 69 years and I still ask the question – to what extent are we an independent people or a nation?

Independence does not pre-empt Inter-dependence

In so far we are all humans on this earth or on this island; we can be truly independent, even as individuals, only to a certain extent, whereby “your independence ends where my nose begins”. No man is an island is a popular saying. Both as individuals and as communities, a country or as a people, we are all inter-dependent. Denying our interdependence on one another is suicidal.

Ceylon, as an independent sovereign country, joined the United Nations as a member and committed itself to mutual rights and obligations, especially to Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed on the 10th of Dec. 1948. When we are in need, natural or man-made, we have received aid in various forms from other countries, including even weapons to combat rebels. With gratitude we accept all forms of aid on the understanding that we use them for the good of all our people. But after receiving the aid, we cannot shun away from the responsibility of rendering an account on the good use of the aid to the donors.

President Rajapaksa who loudly acclaimed the help of 20 countries in combatting the LTTE, even today in his message speaks only of “foreign intervention” forgetting the aid he received from foreign powers. When the donors asked questions about the right use of those weapons, he turned away from accountability! What a shame!

Hence inter-dependence is an existential component of our lives and accountability is the underside of that reality. Accountability is demanded, not just by the victims of crimes committed with the granted-weapons, but also demanded in view of the future and well-being even of those who celebrate victories!

Hence Inter-dependence has to be gratefully accepted, responsibly lived and consolidated for future generations.

When can we celebrate Freedom Day in Sri Lanka?

On the background of the above convictions regarding Independence and Interdependence, I raise the important question – are we all free or do we all enjoy freedom in Sri Lanka?

To a certain extent we have many freedoms – and many of us are thankfully enjoying those freedoms. But unfortunately even after many decades of independence from foreign rule, after many decades of enjoying membership and aid from the international community, there is unfortunately and unashamedly a sizable population in this island who are not yet free. They have suffered and struggled for decades for their freedom to be what they are, to enjoy what they are made to be. But the powers that be do not allow them to be free to decide their way of life. The cries of the victims of oppression, injustice have become louder. Even while commemorating Independence Day, and in the company of international representatives, and while many hundreds of Sinhalese are freed from their jails, the Tamil prisoners unjustly suffering for decades are still crying.

Hence while we commemorate Feb4th as gaining back our independence from the colonial masters, let us gratefully and responsibly acknowledge the rights and duties of our inter-independence and move on hopefully and courageously towards the Day of Freedom for all in Sri Lanka. Those of us who commemorate Independence and enjoy Interdependence in the community of nations have a sacred obligation to struggle with those still crying for freedom. May that Day of Freedom for all in Sri Lanka dawn sooner than later!

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    Well said Rev.Father and with such scholarship. Bensen

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    “Our Father who art in Heaven,
    Hallowed be thy name -Prabakaran ‘like Jesus Christ’;
    Thy kingdom come, there will be hell on earth and no freedom day
    Thy has been done
    On earth as it is in heaven.
    Did not give us this day our daily bread;
    And we do not forgive you your trespasses
    As we forgive those who trespass against us;
    And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil / Eelam.”
    Lords prayer for Sri Lanka on your “freedom day” -not so reverent Father Emmanuel from a Buddhist you love so much!

  • 4
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    Father

    Thanks for your words of wisdom. Let it stall there.

    You are now 82 years old and must try and achieve something before the heavenly call.

    Almost three quarters of your life have been wasted without achieving anything. Is it possible for you to take a small task and accomplish it to enjoy the satisfaction that you done something meaningful?

    I will give few clues.

    1. Help find out the whereabouts of Fr Francis and his colleague who mediated with the army for the surrender of the senior LTTE men. He and his colleague were taken away in the very bus the surrendered LTTE men were trasported. Do you know both the fathers whereabouts? Why are you maintaining silence. You have so much influence with the government now that at least why can’t you find out about their fate.

    2. Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran has become a big humbug. Will you able to put some sense to his thinking.

    3. When you deal with the government whom do you represent? Are you speaking for all the Tamils in the diaspora or only the LTTE fronts? Can you put some effort to reach the X section of the Tamil opinion without preaching the gospels of the dead LTTE.

    Your mission must be beyond prejudice and embrace all the victims.

    I hope you would have got the message from this comment.

  • 5
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    When Can We Celebrate Freedom Day In Sri Lanka?

    The day the Tf Prabakaran is established and Prabakaran is Canonised.

    Can you bring back our Youth & Children who were sacrificed by Velu for you to obtain a piece of land?
    You can as you said Prabakaran was like juesus christ.

    Alleluiah !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 4
    3

    Dear Rev Fr Emmanuel,

    The Sinhala Masters always wanted the Tamils to be DEPENDENT, and never
    embraced Interdependence or Independence.The Tamils expected this modality to change with the present Govt which was virtualy empowered
    by the Tamil’s votes.Even under the nose of the International Community,
    the President is exploring ways of misinterpreting the undertaking given
    by the Srilankan Govt to the IC at the UNHRC. The PM, on the other hand, is reported to have already denied in the Parliament what he categorically stated to Jon Snow of Channel 4 TV. Of course they need only the votes of the Sinhalese for the Local Council Elections.

    Presumably the Tamil Prisoners are being kept as a bargaining chip in
    exchange for the thousands of Tamils slaugtered during & after the war.

    Tony Francis

  • 2
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    Subjective and objectives are all mixed up together in your article Reverend. You are on the verge of a turncoat. The Tamils as a race and part of Sri Lanka did not obtain independence from the foreigners or from the majority race. We are still subjugated and treated a second class citizens in Sri Lanka. When the Tamils can celebrate freedom is when they get real freedom. Singing national anthem in Tamil, very late in the ceremony is in itself shows that it is a propaganda to show the International community that the government is appeasing the Tamils for reconciliation and Sambanthan presenting himself with his Sinhala wife is a shame for the Tamils.

    • 0
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      I am sorry that I inadvertently mentioned Mrs premadasa who was seated next to Sambandan as his Sinhalese wife. Regret for the mistake.

  • 4
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    Dear father,

    “forced out the GTF president, Dr Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam, for moderating his stance on separatism”.

    Was Dr Ethirveerasingam treated failry by GTF

  • 0
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    WHAT IS ALL THIS NON-SENSE? A PERSON WHO HAS BETRAYED HIS MOTHER LAND ….BETRAYED HIS OWN PEOPLE BACK AT HOME ……….A PERSON BACKING UP TERRORISM………….CALLING HIMSELF A FATHER….DOESN’T THE CHURCH REALIZE THIS……..WE DO NOT WANT TO PREDICT AS ROMAN CATHOLICS…..EVERY THING IS BEING CLOSELY SCREENED BY ‘OUR FATHER THE ALMIGHTY’…………LET US ALL PRAY TO OUR FATHER THE ALMIGHTY TO GET RID OF THESE TERRORIST OUT FITS RUINING OUR RELIGION………….MORE OVER CAN A PERSON WHO IS BETRAYING HIS MOTHERLAND SPREADING POISON WITHIN THE COMMUNITIES BE A LOYAL PERSON WITHIN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY….HOW LONG HE IS GOING TO BE INVOLVED IN THESE DECITFUL ACTIVITIES POSING AS A CLERGY….YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF..

  • 0
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    Sellam.

    On the verge of a Turn-coat?

    There have been many instances in History of Turn-coats.C.Rajadurai,the political platform orator was one such type.Even SWRD was a turn coat.

    Even in the present Govt: there are turn coats galore.

    The Rev:Father,perhaps,is going by contemporary History.Margaret Thatcher once said I have no U turns in my life,if you want you Turn!
    Rightly or wrongly those who did not do this U TURN have NOT ended up as survivors!

  • 0
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    You are 100% anti Sri Lankan news outlet. You may get very good acceptance in Tamil Nadu. I regret to say the compiler of this story is a well known registered Anti Sri Lankan racist. We are trying to build a unified nation, your paper is still with the Prabhakaran’s era. Your efforts of rekindling the Prabakarans era is disgusting. Prabha is dead you should bury his anti Sri Lankan propaganda, it is good for us.

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