(1999 April 07)

The Bishop of Mannar has said that the army should leave after checking the refugees living in the Madu church premises, after the operation Ranagosa cleared the area surrounding the church. It was a well known fact that the LTTE was present in Madu ostensibly unarmed but engaged in various activities. Madu is connected with the so-called peace talks and the Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar has been associated with some of the manoeuvrings by the Bishops Kenneth Fernando and Ranjith Malcolm of the Church of Ceylon and the Catholic church respectively together with their coterie of Bhikkus, of the new "peace nikaya" or the "palli nikaya" as baptised by some Buddhists, that the NGO's have been able to organise in the recent past. These Bhikkus do not act in unison with the rest of the Bhikkus and the Mahanayka Theros and their advisors have to be sought outside the traditional nikayas that function in Sri Lanka.

The mission of the so-called inter religious group (apart from Dr. Vitharana the others in this group were three Christian clergy and seventeen Bhikkus. There were neither Hindus nor Muslims in this group. It was a Christian mission with some Bhikkus taken for cosmetic purposes. Please see The Forces Behind The Talks) to Vanni was organised with the help of the Bishop of Mannar who made contacts with the LTTE leaders. The article by Machiavelli in the mid week Mirror of seventeenth February, which is relevant to this mission included the following paragraphs.

" 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."

Dr. Jayalath Jayawardhane who is another person involved with "peace" had gone to Madu at least twice in order to meet the LTTE leaders. He would not have gone there unless he could meet the LTTE leaders in Madu. No body can deny the presence of the LTTE cadres in and around Madu church premises before the army moved in. Even Mr. D. B. S. Jeyaraj, who would like to see the army leaving the Madhu church premises, is very clear on this matter. In his article on last Wednesday in the mid week review of the Island, he says: "1990 saw a new phase for the church. The UNHCR in a bid to prevent refugees leaving Sri Lanka for India sought to create a haven of peace in Mannar for them. What better place other than the Madhu church premises? An open refugee centre (ORC) where people could move to and from instead of being confined within camp boundaries was set up. At one time the Madhu church camp figure exceeded 30000. The UNHCR also declared the Madhu area as a "neutral peace zone" where the carrying of arms was forbidden. Apparently the LTTE honoured this and cadres would neither bear arms or wear uniforms when in Madhu. ........ Although the Tigers did not carry arms and maintained a low key presence when in Madhu they certainly did clandestine propaganda."

Now we do not know what the UNHCR meant by a "neutral peace zone". Certainly there was no symmetry with respect to the army and the LTTE as there were no army personnel in Madu whether in uniform or not. If the LTTE cadres were present in the Madu church area with the "refugees" and if they were engaged in clandestine propaganda then how could it be a "neutral peace zone"? There is no guarantee that the LTTE did not carry arms. They may not have openly carried arms but to imagine that the LTTE cadres were there without any arms in the vicinity is ludicrous, unless of course that they had been given an assurance by some body whom they trusted very much that he would see to it that neither the army nor the other groups such as the EPDP, PLOTE, EPRLF would enter the church premises.

It is also clear that the Bishop of Mannar had no objections to the presence of the LTTE cadres in the church premises with the "refugees". Neither did he object to the meetings of Dr. Jayalath Jayawardhane with the LTTE leaders in the Madu church premises, probably because he was all for 'peace'. In fact Mr. Jeyaraj praises the Bishop and his colleagues for their peace efforts. Let me quote Mr. Jeyaraj ." The church has been playing a crucially important role in recent times to promote a negotiated peace. Catholic Bishops have been in the forefront of this worthwhile effort. In fact the neutrality of Madhu has enabled these peace moves to advance. The new development has certainly set back the cause of peace."

It is impossible to understand what this so-called neutrality of Madu means. By Madu being neutral, if it is meant that the Bishop of Mannar was neutral then the word neutral certainly acquires some very strange meaning in the district of Mannar. Now we all know the kind of peace that these Bishops are after. The NGO's which are financed by the western Christian countries are also after this particular brand of peace. It is not peace but pieces that they are after. It is in fact part of the clash of civilisations that take place in Sri Lanka. The western Christian civilisation may not have gone to the extent that they have done in former Yugoslavia. But certainly the motive is the same. It is nothing but the establishment of the hegemony of the western Christian civilisation in the rest of the world. In that respect they will not spare even the countries and nations with a culture belonging to the Greek Orthodox civilisation even though they believe in the same God. The Buddhist Sri Lanka may not hold elections on Maundy Thursday, but the western Christian countries had no inhibitions in bombing Serbia during the holy week, the Sri Lankan Bishops were talking about and I have not come across a statement by an Archbishop, leading Bishop, Cardinal or any other luminary in the Church condemning this act. I wonder whether there were any street demonstrations after the Good Friday mass, objecting to these acts by the western powers, in any part of the western Christian world.

There is nothing to hide about the fact that some Bishops in Sri Lanka are for peace not because they are against the clash of civilisations that has been going on for the last five hundred years or so. Huntington in his book Clash of Civilisations talks of an impending cash between civilisations. What he does not mention is that the clash of civilisations in the present form commenced with the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and that he too just as much the Bishops are part and parcel of that clash and that they are not at the receiving end.

Mr. Jeyaraj, in his article further says: "Sections of state media constantly refer to Madhu being liberated from the LTTE but in actuality there was no 'liberation': because it was never in Tiger possession. Like the Vatican in Italy Madhu church premises were an oasis of independence in a desert of LTTE control." Certainly liberated is not the correct word to be used whether with respect to Madu church premises or even Jaffna. The LTTE had not captured any of these areas and in fact even in Jaffna the public servants were paid by the Sri Lankan government, the hospitals and the University were maintained by the government, the examinations were conducted by the Commissioner of examinations etc. It is not a case of recapturing certain areas but a matter of defeating the LTTE in regions including Jaffna. With respect to Madu the position was that the tigers had to be defeated in and around the church premises. Mr. Jeyaraj states that Madu church premises were an oasis in a desert of LTTE control. If there was a desert of "LTTE control" it was up to the army to defeat the terrorists and open up the roads leading to the church for the Sinhala Catholics as well. I do not think that the army has an intention of "occupying" the Madu church premises. However if the LTTE cadres continue to be present with the "refugees" then the presence of the army becomes necessary. The presence of the army in Madu church premises cannot be interpreted as an occupation by the army. If that is the case, then the presence of the army in the Sri Maha Bodhi premises in Anuradhapura can also be construed as an occupation. No body would like to have the army with or without arms in the premises of religious places. But then the solution to that is not to ask the army to leave those areas so that these places would become havens for the LTTE terrorists to engage in clandestine activities and to receive peace mongers who are after negotiations with the LTTE. There is only one solution to the problem and that is to defeat the LTTE militarily.

The argument that the LTTE will attack if the army is present does not hold as in that case it would not be possible to retain the army anywhere. There is no comparison with the Golden Temple in Amritsar as far as the army is concerned. The Sri Lankan army has not done any damage to the Madu Church and the only parallel that could be drawn is not with the army but with the LTTE if they attack a sacred place of the Catholics. If the LTTE attacks the Church then without trying to find arguments to justify their action the government, the army and the people should be more and more determined to defeat the LTTE. There are some people who justify the attack of the LTTE on the Dalada Maligawa saying that the Maligawa was politicised by using it for the 50th anniversary celebrations of independence. These people are either ignorant of history or trying to dissociate Buddhism from the history of the country. The udarata convention was signed in 1815 in the Magul Maduwa and the Dalada Maligawa has been associated with the history of the country from the Anuradhapura period. There is a tradition according to which the protector of the sacred relic of Tooth is the ruler of the country. For those who believe that we have won complete independence in 1948, the Dalada Maligawa premises is the most suitable place to have the celebrations in connection with the 50th anniversary of independence. The LTTE attacked the Dalada Maligawa not due to any politicisation of the sacred place but because they were determined to attack places of significance to the Sinhala Buddhist history and culture of the country. Those who are justifying the action of the LTTE would say that the LTTE attacked the Sri Maha Bodhiya also because of politicisation. In a sense these places are politicised, as they are associated with the kings and the people in the history of the country. In that sense the Westminster Abbey is also politicised. After all the coronation of the British kings and queens take place inside the Abbey. What will the Christian world do if the Catholic I. R. A. attack the Westminster Abbey of the Anglicans under the pretext that the Abbey is politicised?

One last word about the Bishop of Mannar who wants the army to leave the Madu church premises. When a delegation of Pradeshiya Sabha members from Matara visited the Bishop in last November he referred to aletter handed over by the LTTE to Mr. Mandela on the so-called peace talks. This was at a time when the LTTE was thinking of having some kind of official representation in South Africa and when the government of Sri Lanka was taking all possible steps to prevent that happening. The LTTE had apparently said in that letter that they were willing to drop their claim for Eelam provided the government accepted the Thimpu conditions. The Bishop was trying to convince the delegation, just as much various other Bishops have done since then, that the LTTE has given up Eelam. But the problem is that the acceptance of the Thimpu conditions, which are non-negotiable according to the Tamil racist parties, implies that Eelam is accepted in theory and after that Eelam becomes an "aspiration" to be realised in practise with little political manoeuvring.

The army has moved into Madu church area and it is up to the army to decide when they should leave the region. Let the peace vendors who went to Madu to meet the LTTE leaders find some other place for their activities. The politicisation of the Madu church area was done by these people who went to Madu church premises to meet the LTTE cadres perhaps with the intention of preparing grounds for talks between the LTTE and a future UNP government. Now that the NGO's funded by the western Christian countries have given up hopes of the G. L. - Neelan package they may be thinking of asymmetrical devolution, which amounts to a confederation, from a UNP government.