Life Abroad – Part 97 GENIAL FINALE – VAGUE FAÇADES (Interaction With The God’s Men in Cloth – (Pt. V– conclusion)
Posted on September 28th, 2014

Dr.Tilak Fernando

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 (final part) 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. iv:…..Dr. Goonatilake continued his views thus: 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.

Thusitha Gunawardena, another young Sri Lankan expatriate from the audience became curious to find out whether Fr. Davis considered the LTTE as a terrorist organisation at all? A diplomatic answer from Fr. Davis surfaced at rocket speed, amplifying throughout the hall with an eco, which sounded: I am against any terrorist activity.

Gunawardena made an attempt to get his message through to Fr. Davis by pointing out that the USA had banned the LTTE as a terrorist group and wanted to know specifically why Fr. Davis was so reluctant to give a direct answer! Fr. Davis became helpless and to a certain extent ‘marooned’ within a barge of questions firing from all sides of the audience simultaneously. He simply said, I dont know..!

Athukorale was seen taking the floor once again in trying to convince Fr. Davis how crucially important it was for the Sri Lankan audience to find out their precise role and his personal views on the subject, especially after visiting Sri Lanka on a ‘tour of peace and reconciliation’.

If the American government has branded them as terrorists, I am at a loss for words Fr. Davis, when you come out with such answers, as I dont know!

By the same token Athukorale wanted to know from Fr. Davis whether he observed, during their tour, the existence of Tamil populace in Colombo conurbations and in the South of the country by their thousands; did he manage to talk to such a mixed population during their visit who spoke the Tamil language amply and, did he take a count on how many Tamil shops and businesses thrived in Colombo cities and in the South? But one important thing I want to ask you Sir, is that, did you see a single Sinhalese or a Muslim living in the north, in the terrorist dominant area at all”…?

Precise facts

 Athukorale pointed out to Fr. Davis that it was very important that he got his facts right on the whole issue at the meeting as he (Fr. Davis) was going to produce an official report, which was going to be in the public domain in the future.

“If you went on a delegation to Sri Lanka on a fact finding mission sir, and come here after a so-called thorough investigation and tell us that you dont know enough about the problem, then it is a very sad state of affairs! It is very important, therefore, that you gather collective ideas of the people in this room and make sure that some of the questions raised here are reflected and shared in the official report as the view point of at least a section of the Sri Lankan expatriates living in the UK”.

Wimal Ediriweera, another well known patriotic Sri Lankan referred back to Jehan Perera and his team who visited London once and claimed that the LTTE was actually fighting for their freedom as an oppressed section of the Sri Lankan society. The onus was on Fr. Davis to find out whether the Tamil terrorist claims were Just or NOT, Ediriweera declared.

.You must decide Fr. Davis whether it is a case of terrorism or freedom fighting, because the ultimate solution will rest on that. If the government is fighting terrorism it is one thing, and freedom fighting is yet another. In this scenario it is unfortunate that the Church has taken a misguided path and even in most of their literature the problem is referred to as a fight against oppression of the Tamil people by the Sinhalese chauvinists, he added

Tragedy

“The most tragic part is that you base your findings just by looking at a map of Sri Lanka in isolation. If you want to know whether the Sri Lanka government or the Sinhala peoples claim is right or wrong, then you must compare it not in isolation, but in reference to the rest of the world” !

Some of the Sinhala people have been living in the UK for over for 25 years, and if they were to take up arms tomorrow and ask for a piece of land in England or Scotland as their homeland will the British government or the Church tolerate it? The Tamils are in the same situation in Sri Lanka,” Ediriweera pointed out.

During the British rule, Tamils were brought from Tamil Nadu by the British and the Sinhala majority was controlled with the use of the Tamils. When (Ceylon) received independence in 1948, The British government leaned on the Sri Lanka government to extend the privileges given to the Tamils during the British rule and up to now, over 51 years of independence, (at the time of the meeting). Tamils have only increased their economic and political power and there was terrorism, Ediriweera explained.

For past 51 long years of independence, the Sinhala majority of politicians have divided the balance of power with Tamil parties – there are in fact 7 of them today (1999). Sinhala politicians/administrators have incorporated Tamil colours too into the National flag. The language of Tamil has been made an official language along with Sinhala. Sri Lanka is perhaps the only country to declare religious holidays for all other faiths, Christian Tamil and Muslim. Can you then tell us what problems do we have in Sri Lanka with the Tamil people? It is only a certain section of the Tamil community for their own selfish gains have appointed themselves as ‘saviours of the whole Tamil nationand adopted terrorist activities and begun to demand for a separate Tamil land within Sri Lanka.”

The writer, being an impartial listener, watching dramatic actions and interactions of the ‘Peace Promoting meeting’ at the Sri Saddhatissa International Centre on a Sunday evening was convinced with one important factor- i.e. despite emotions getting in the way in some quarters intermittently, and others at times going at a tangent on ethics and morals of the Church, Fr. Davis was updated with a lot of existed problems in Sri Lanka at that time, much more than he experienced during his visit to Sri Lanka.

Once the meeting was adjourned Fr. Davis had a cordial discussion with many expats who informed him on various attributes of the crisis, which Fr. Davis had been totally ignorant of, including the Tamil claimed land map, which was explained to him in detail.

It was the fervent hope of all those who gathered at the SIBC that evening, when the report compiled by the Church on their fact finding mission to Sri Lanka was released, it would be an unbiased and a balanced view point in printed form reflecting on all the valid points raised at the ‘Promoting Peace’ meeting held on 27 June ‘99 in London.

Sri Lankan expatriates expected to see the draft of the report and offered voluntary assistance to make any amendments, if necessary, before it went out to printers finally.

After all, Church is the Christian Gods domain and everyone expected that Gods men of the cloth would go by the truth in their report” they said.

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