(1999 February 24)

Last Thursday I was among the panellists who were invited by the ITN to discuss whether there should be talks with the LTTE. Ven. Athureliye Indaratane Thero, Bishop Kenneth Fernando, and Prof. Tissa Vitharana who had gone to Wanniya to meet the LTTE leaders were there to campaign for talks while Ven. Ittapane Dhammalankara Thero, Mr. Gamini Keerthichandra, and myself expressed the view that there should not be any talks with the LTTE. Mr. S. Manoranjan who had been invited by the ITN to participate as a so-called independent observer ended up by, in his own admission, making his observations as a Tamil. It does not mean that he was the only person among the participants who took up a position sympathetic to Tamil racism.

The newspapers had reported that a delegation of 17 Bhikkus, 3 Christian/ Catholic priests and one lay person, which included Ven. Kamburugamuwe Vajira Thero, Ven. Udugama Buddharakkitha Thero, Ven. Hunupolagama Vajira Thero, Ven. Tallale Dhammaloka Thero, Ven. Siyambalagamuwe Vimalasara Thero, Bishop Malcolm Ranjith and Fr. Cyril Anthony had gone to Wanniya with the above mentioned and that the LTTE had expressed their willingness to recommence negotiations. When I walked into the ITN studio I had not read the Midweek Mirror of the seventeenth and I was not aware how the mission had been planned.

At the outset Ven. Indaratane told us that the meeting with the LTTE leaders was accidental. He said, while the others approved it, that they had gone to Mannar on some other business and only there that the meeting with the LTTE was arranged and that it was not pre planned. I knew that it was not the truth but I had no way of challenging their statement. All that we could do was to tell the public that the LTTE is a banned organisation and that we did not know whether it was within the law for any citizen to meet the LTTE leaders and that we did not think that a meeting with them could have been arranged so easily on the spot.

However the following day I was told by a friend, that the Mirror had given a different account of it and I was not surprised. According to "Machiavelli" of the Mirror the "high powered Buddhist delegation" was a result of a series of meetings among Buddhist monks led by Ven. Vajira (presumably Kamburugamuwe) Thero. I shall quote the relevant paragraphs, which are of interest as they reveal part of the mystery.

" Ven. Vajira Nayaka Thera and Ven. Somananda Thera then discussed matters with the spokesman for the catholic Bishops' conference Rt. Rev. Malcolm Ranjith who is also the Bishop of Kurunegala and Anglican Bishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Kenneth Fernando, who had previous experience in talking with the LTTE leadership.

After finalising the delegation and plans for the visit, Defence ministry approval was obtained. The LTTE also had to be contacted for clearance as the delegation had plans to visit the uncleared areas.

Bishop Malcolm Ranjith got in touch with Mannar's Catholic Bishop Rayappu Joseph who facilitated the visit at the end. The composition of the delegation which was sent to him was onpassed to the LTTE which then expressed interest in meeting this inter-religious delegation. The LTTE on its part responded by having its political wing leader Thamilchelvam and the deputy military commander Karikalan to represent the group."

It is clear that the visit had been planned before the delegation left Kolomba. Machiavelli's article gives the impression that the journey was arranged at the insistence of the Buddhist clergy (This is Machiavelli's terminology and I also think that today in Sri Lanka we have a set of Bhikkus who could be identified as Buddhist clergy). Until I get hold of another article or minutes of relevant discussions giving more details of the expedition, I have no way of challenging this position though I do not believe it. It is of interest to note that the "high powered Buddhist delegation" becomes a "high powered inter-religious group" in mid stream.

Now both Machiavelli and the team of three representatives of the delegation cannot be telling the truth and I am of the opinion that most of what Machiavelli has said can be believed. It is very probable that he has been told the details by one or more members of the delegation and he merely wrote what he was told. The question is why did the representatives of the delegation decide to tell something else to the ITN audience.

Before we proceed further another relevant question has to be asked. What is the purpose of banning the LTTE? The ministry of defence has given clearance to this "inter-religious delegation" to meet the LTTE leaders. It is difficult to understand the purpose behind banning the LTTE. What does the government trying to achieve by banning the LTTE? Is it only to prevent the LTTE organising public meetings?

The so-called peace talks with the tigers are not a new phenomenon to the people. Last time we heard of peace talks was when Prabhakaran made his so-called heroes' day speech on the 27th of November 1998. The "discourse" on peace talks is a recurrence phenomenon in our society with some of the Christian and Catholic clergy playing a prominent part.

The people behind the peace talks are mainly the NGO's, the so-called civil society, the western Christian countries, the national Christian council, the various peace councils and peace alliances and the new formation of Buddhist clergy. The Marxists, the neo Marxists and the retired Marxists very often give them a helping hand. Except in the case of the Buddhist clergy and the various types of Marxists, the most active people in these organisations are a few Christian and Catholic clergy and a few influential Christian/Catholic lay people.

It is significant that Britain has been consistently campaigning for so called peace talks for some time now. Foxes and Fatchetts have been visiting this country more frequently than the others have and Britain has already got the President and the leader of the opposition to agree on certain conditions regarding talks with the LTTE. The British high commissioner has had his say on these matters and among the Sri Lankans the organisations that have been agitating most vigorously for peace talks are the national peace council and the national Christian council which is the local body affiliated to the world council of churches. Even the national peace council is connected to the national Christian council. The Suriyamal peace foundation and the national peace alliance headed by Prof. Tissa Vitharana are of recent origin. The national peace alliance, which has organisations like Sarvodaya and the national peace council attached to it, has organised a so-called peace march of twenty thousand "volunteers" in Colombo for Thursday the twenty fourth. It is not difficult for these affiliated organisations to find twenty thousand "volunteers" who are prepared to come to Kolomba and all that Prof. Vitharana and the Suriyamal people have to do is to provide the "leadership".

When one considers the fact that the NGO's (see The Role of the NGO's ) are financed by the western governments and the political parties of the western countries a certain pattern begin to emerge. At present only the USA has banned the LTTE and that again because of its connections with some of the terrorist groups in the Middle East, which are a threat to that country. The LTTE is free to function in the other western countries and they will take action against it only if its members and the members of its front organisations become a nuisance to those countries.

On the whole almost all the organisations, except the political parties, which are for "peace talks" are financed directly or indirectly by the western countries. Of the political parties the Tamil parties from the TULF to the EPDP are for peace talks based on Thimpu conditions, which according to them are non-negotiable. The Marxist parties campaign for talks as their politics depend on principles, which are not valid and in any case, first worked out for European countries. They have been trained to see the world through the western eyes and they do not understand the concept of nation as applied to countries such as Sri Lanka with a long history of a nation inhabiting a country. The UNP and the PA (SLFP) are tied by the Fox agreement and also by the conditions imposed on the governments by the world bank, the IMF and other such organisations. Both the Marxists and the so-called enlightened members in political parties such as the UNP and the PA look at the Tamil racist problem through the framework of nation states and other such European concepts and they are not in a position to grasp the problem.

Thus the organisations and most of the parties that campaign for peace talks are ideologically and financially supported by the western countries. The west, especially Britain have a vested interest in the affairs of the country and are only making use of Tamil racism to achieve their objectives.

The Buddhist clergy is only a token organisation to cover up the activities of the other organisations. They are given the "leadership" only to misguide the people. The real leadership lies somewhere else. The Buddhist clergy is being led by the others, and they act the way they are preached by the others. In the Buddhist tradition the Mahanayaka Theros do not order the Bhikkus and the freedom available to the Bhikkus has been used to form a sect of Buddhist clergy that will in the long run act against the interests of the "Sasana".

The Tamil Christian and Catholic priests have been in general supporters of Tamil racism. Some of them have been strong supporters of the LTTE. The list is fairly long but the names of Frs. Emmanuel, Jebanesan, Singarayer, the Bishop of Mannarma Fr. Rayappa Joseph have to be mentioned. It is not an exageration to say that the Tamil racist movement at least from the time of Mr. Chelvanayakam who himself was a member of the Jaffna diocese of the South Indian Church has been influenced if not dominated by the Christians and the Catholics. What is totally lacking is a Sinhala counterpart to this sect of people. Except for Fr. Merceline Jayakody and may be one or two other priests the Christian and the Catholic priests have not spoken in public on behalf of the Sinhala people. While there are Tamil priests who consider themselves to be Tamils first and then Christians the Sinhala priests are being forced to think of themselves first as Christians. I have met some Sinhala Christian/Catholic priests who are not in agreement with the Bishops but they have been silenced by the authorities.

The Anglican Bishop of Colombo has been one of the most active sympathisers of the Tamil racist movement. Though a Sinhala by birth and by culture he even whitewashes the LTTE. Bishop Fernando has been in contact with the LTTE for some time and he together with the others in the delegation that went to Wanniya try to give the impression that the LTTE can be trusted and that they (LTTE) had given up the call for Eelam and even stand for a unitary Sri Lanka. The good Bishop has gone to the extent of saying that Prabhakaran is a humane person.

In an interview published in the Sunday Leader of 30th April 1995, after the LTTE abandoned the previous "peace talks" with the government, attacking navy gunboats Bishop Kenneth Fernando has said: "I remember as long ago as '93, when I went to Jaffna, in January, I met Prabhakaran, and he told me that we should come and start talks with them, and he outlined the kind of agenda that we could follow. In '94 I spoke to the leadership, and this year I have been there three times already, and on every occasion I spoke to their leadership. I think that they do want the talks to continue and they do have an agenda for peace." This was soon after the LTTE broke the previous "peace talks". Are we to believe the Bishop when he says that the LTTE is ready for talks? The LTTE definitely has an agenda and that is for a piece of the country and not for peace.

I do not want analyse and show that the LTTE is not for peace and that they will not be satisfied without a confederation. Even the other Tamil parties are not prepared to deviate from the Thimpu conditions, which are non negotiable, and it is a futile exercise to engage in any talks on these matters. Rather than wasting our time on these debates I think we should now draw our attention to the people and the organisations that promote these so-called peace talks and try to analyse why they are doing so.

It is quite clear that the leaders of the church are misleading not only the Sinhala Christians/Catholics but the Sinhala people in general. They who enjoyed many privileges under the British wanted to continue with them even after the British left our shores nominally in 1948.Their recent speeches and statements reveal how much they resent the Sinhala Buddhist culture even though the ordinary Sinhala Christian/Catholic has no problem with that culture. They are unfortunately now using Tamil racism in general and the LTTE in particular in order to achieve their objective of retaining the predominant place they held under the British. In the process they together with the NGO's have created a Buddhist clergy to "take up the leadership" in pursuit of their mission. This is a new phenomenon that has to be studied in detail.