Posted on September 21st, 2014

Dr.Tilak Fernando

Valiant Security Forces personnel defeated terrorism under President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s leadership

(Interaction With The God’s Men Of The Cloth – Part IV)

At the height of the LTTE terrorism in Sri Lanka, a delegation from the Council of Churches in the UK visited home on a peace promoting exercise. Upon their return, Sinhala expatriates in London had an interaction meeting with the team that visited Sri Lanka, which turned out to be a vociferous incident. To counter the myth that dominated at home at the time that ‘expatriate involvement was much to be desired’, the same writer published the proceedings of the meeting that took place in June 1999 in a Sri Lankan daily English newspaper. This is being dug out from the archives and reproduced in a serial format in the ‘Life Abroad column’ (part iv) for the benefit of those who were not aware of the incident and/or who were lachrymose and pointed a finger at the expatriate Sinhala community for their lack of enthusiasm in helping the motherland in the hour of need.

Continuation from Pt. iii……. Tilakumara’s next move managed to transfix the whole assembly when he addressed Fr. Davis thus: Fr. Davis, I am a Catholic myself, and I have a lot of Buddhist friends too. Unfortunately in this present scenario, I don’t have a place to hide my face because the Church, the very church you and I belong to, is totally bamboozled and they are dancing to the tune of the Tamil extremists”.

Nissanka Athukorale took his turn next from the audience and wanted to know from Fr. Davis whether he accepted the problem in Sri Lanka as a terrorist problem or not. He insisted on an honest answer to a straightforward question.

Fr. Davis appeared to be looking for a rejoinder, at which point Athukorale explained that the problem in Sri Lanka was definitely a terrorist problem and made it quite clear that the Sinhalese were not against the Tamils but were only against Tamil terrorism – the LTTE, a handful of fanatics who had turned into savagery and barbarity for their own end.

Equality, peace and reconciliation

Wimalasekera, a Sri Lankan expatriate and an architect based in London, took the floor next to inform Fr. Davis that when the Peace Mission from Sri Lanka came to Piccadilly in 1998 he was one of the few Sinhalese expats who was present at the meeting to challenge Jehan Perera when he (Perera) misquoted statistics saying he was ‘not aware of Tamil people living in the South before 1983’!

Then he referred to Sylvie Thiruchandran, a member of the Peace Mission in 1998, and updated Fr. Davis’s knowledge about her activities and how she had turned into a trumpet of the LTTE to propagate deceitful publicity of the terrorists.

Wimalasekera continued his argument emphasising on the fact how the Christian Church opposed the Sri Lanka government proposal vehemently, which was aimed at nationalising schools in the country to give equality to all children irrespective of cast, race, religion, village or suburban, after the so-called Sri Lankan revolution in 1956.

He wanted to know from Fr. Davis whether it was the standing principle of the sacred Church when they talked about equality, peace and reconciliation…?

One thing Wimalasekera was insistent in finding out was whether it was in the agenda of the Peace Mission to go directly to meet with Prabhakaran, the extremist leader, if the Peace Mission was genuine in their philosophy and performance!

Did you make any attempt at all in that respect Fr. Davis? Were you ever introduced to Prabhakaran…..? When you were on a ‘Peace and Reconciliation Mission’ to Sri Lanka, then surely, those who invited you to the country should have made it top priority in the agenda, don’t you think so? If that had been done, there would have been some consolation about your divine influence towards a consulting process”, Wimalasekera added.

Fr. Davis further explained that a section of the Peace Mission went and met with the LTTE representatives in Sri Lanka and what took place would be compiled into a report and published in order that everyone would be able to read the full report.

Stumbling block

Wimalasekera referring back to a statement made by Fr. Davis during this meeting, where he implied that ‘to some greater extent he (Fr. Davis) was convinced that both the terrorists and the army were aggressive on military activities and, therefore, this very fact acted as a stumbling block for any settlement or a peace formula’, said that the military was doing their duty by the State in fighting a terrorist menace. The violence came from the radicals, as such, it would be a common factor to any democratically elected government to defend its sovereignty and its people.”

He urged Fr. Davis not to be negative about the whole issue and also not to believe in the theory that peace could not be reached because the State used military power to eradicate terrorism.

‘In such a disorderly situation, any government in the world, for that matter, will have to put down aggression at any cost’ asserted Wimalasekera in a well-founded tenor. A voice from the gallery was heard saying: That’s what they did in Serbia and Ireland”.

In the midst, an anonymous speaker expressed his reservations about the dialogues of the meeting that might be distorted and misrepresented in some journal or missionary publication all coloured and warped! He then made an appeal to Fr. Davis to ensure that any text that went into publication should only reflect exactly on what took place at the meeting, sustaining its true essence.

Geneva resolutions

Dr. Goonatilake took the floor once again to correct Fr. Davis’s statement that he (Fr. Davis) was unaware of the resolutions that had been passed in Geneva about the homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka. He (Goonatilake) assured Fr. Davis that he would forward all the authentic information (historical as well as the declarations in full) that had been passed up to then, and demanded a guarantee from Fr. Davis in return that he (Fr. Davis) would promise to veto those resolutions in the next Geneva meeting which, Dr. Goonatilake said, would at least be the first step towards a peaceful formula.

I don’t think that is necessary for me to do so”, replied Fr. Davis. Dr. Goonatilake then wanted to know whether Fr. Davis would include his (Goonatilake’s) views in the journal published by the Church, and/or in the official report of the Church Mission when published.

Dr. Goonatilake also assured Fr. Davis that he would issue an open letter of authority to Fr. Davis to publish all his (Goonatilake’s) material at any time in the official report of the Church Mission.

Having said so, Dr. Goonatilake sustained his views further: In Sri Lanka there is a new sect of Buddhist monks nicknamed the Christian nikaya, who are patronised and paid for, by a certain section. That is why I want all these dealings to be in the public domain. This is a transparent society, and if you have a journal I would like to write to you Fr. Davis and expect you to respond back to me publicly. After all, Fr. Davis, you are an adherent and I am an agnostic, but both of us are trying to find one thing – The Truth”.

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