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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2611

Will Jesus ask permission from Tigers to feed the Tamils?

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Part II

Bishop Thomas Soundaranayagam says in his New Year message: "My heart rejoices to be able to bless my people for a life with full freedom on the dawn of 2007.” Of course, the good Bishop does not elaborate as to where Tamils could find "a life with full freedom" in 2007. Nor does he say that there is an Eelam in heaven which can guarantee "a life with full freedom." But read together with his previous political statements this conveys the message that "full freedom" can be found only in the one-man ethnic enclave in the Vanni and not in the democratic multi-cultural society where the majority of the Tamils live.

The divided Tamil community has rejected this proposition of the learned Bishop by voting with their feet to signal that they have no faith in the Tamil heaven where there is no food or freedom. Not only the eastern Tamils but even a sizeable segment of the northern Tamils have refused to accept the generous offer of "full freedom" promised by the Bishop of Jaffna in the Vanni ethnic enclave. Unlike the learned Bishop (he has a Ph. D behind his name) the dissident Tamils, including the break-away Karuna group of the east, see Prabhakaran as the antithesis of "full freedom."

Tamils who have lived through the pre-Prabhakaran and the post-Prabhakaran phases have come to realise that their worst nightmares had come to pass in the Tamil Terroristan. Velupillai Prabhakaran, single handed, has reduced the image of the Tamils to a community of semi-savages devouring their own children. He has denied the Tamil people their basic right to live without fear. Prabhakaran has insulted their intelligence by declaring himself to be the "sole representative of the Tamil" which is a covert and unsustainable move to impose his authoritarian regime on the Tamils by eliminating all other Tamil rivals.

He has stripped their dignity by forcing them to accept his mono-ethnic, one-man regime as an alternative to live in democratic, pluralistic, multi-cultural society. He has institutionalized a violent culture in which the Tamils have been denied their fundamental right to live as free human beings with inalienable rights to assert their individuality. His so-called judiciary enforces total obedience to him alone and any Tamil dissidents are condemned to live under the fatwah of a death sentence. He has liquidated mercilessly the entire Tamil leadership that fathered him. Bishop Soundaranayagam, with his Ph. D, qualifications, cannot be ignorant of the fact that the "full freedom" he talks about exists only outside the Tamil Terroristan.

For instance, what freedom has V. Anandasangaree, the peace prize-winning leader of the TULF, to even visit Jaffna? Anandasangaree is on record saying that the Tamils had the freedom to oppose and protest against Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike when she was in Jaffna to formally open the Jaffna University but now he hasn’t the freedom to even visit Jaffna. What freedom has the EPDP candidates who won a local government in the Tamil Terroristan to operate without fear of being gunned down by the Tiger cadres? Is this the kind of freedom that the Bishop can offer his people? Does his definition of “full freedom” include concentration camps, child conscription, and death sentences to Tamil dissidents?

It is not uncommon for heads of churches to align themselves with the most inhuman dictators in history. The Catholic Church unashamedly aligned itself with the oppressive regime of Din Diem of Vietnam in the name of fighting communism. In Rwanda, a predominantly Catholic country, nuns and priests jointly gave a helping hand to massacre thousands of ethnic Tutus, sometimes inside the churches. Latin American churches have never been backwards in backing the fascist dictators exploiting and persecuting the impoverished masses. It is also documented that the Pope Pius XII did not use his authority to save the Jews being persecuted by Hitler, another Catholic. Therefore, it is not surprising to find the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka following its historical trends –particularly the cruel and barbaric traditions of Catholic Portuguese who massacred Hindu and Buddhist religionists in the name of serving their God.

In his New Year message he also paints a grim picture of "war clouds", "starvation," "spectre of infectious diseases spreading amidst shortage of medicines," "fear and anxiety (that) grips the Tamil people as they live day-to-day". As the shepherd appointed to look after his flock he has the option of either wringing his hands or crying out aloud doing nothing or be the Good Samaritan and join hands with community leaders like Douglas Devananda to work out practical solutions. His shedding of propagandistic tears may serve his political agenda but can they bring any relief to the Jaffna victims of Tiger obstructionist politics?

The Bishop must be judged by what he does and not what he says. As the head of the established Catholic Church in Jaffna he has the capacity to organize the delivery of essentials with the cooperation of those in his diocese willing and eager to serve the day-to-day needs of the Jaffna people. He shies away from actively engaging in food supplies to the people by either clearing the obstacles placed by his political allies in the LTTE or engaging like Douglas Devananda in shipping food from available sources.

The Bishop activity so far has been confined to writing letters to the President blaming the government. Jesus didn’t write to Pontius Pilate or Tiberius, the Roman Emperor in Rome, to feed the five thousand gathered at his feet. He worked for it in his own miraculous ways, says the Bible.

Of course, no one expects Bishop Soundaranayagam to work miracles. Nor does he have to because the government has offered the food which can be transported, under his supervision, through A-9 road without going through the Tiger checkpoints. The Bishop's task is to clear the way by putting pressure on the Tigers to clear the checkpoints. This will open the way for the goods to flow freely to the 4,000 private traders, 450 cooperatives outlets and 16 military shops in Jaffna. Problem solved! But Jon Hanssen-Bauer returned from Vanni and told the government that the Tigers have refused the offer of food convoys to go through the exit/entry points on the land route under the supervision of NGOs and Churchmen. The Tigers have also refused to guarantee the safety passage of ships carrying food to Jaffna. If the Bishop and the NGOs, who march for peace in Colombo, have any courage and commitment to help the starving people of Jaffna, they should accept the offer of food from the government and lead the convoy through A-9 road without letting the Tigers touch a single item. But this would not happen because the Bishop and the NGOs would tamely toe the Tiger line by providing excuses for the Tigers to play politics with the food needed so badly by the Tamil people.

Since the Bishop cannot serve both God and Mammon at the same time his actions and words reveal that he has cast his lot with Vanni and not Calvary. He has clearly mixed up moral/theological/Christian duties with the inhuman politics of the Vanni. His misguided notions make him believe that he is serving his people when he serves Prabhakaran. His missionary work is now confined to exploit the suffering of the Tamil people for his political gains which he shares with Prabhakaran, "a pathological killer" (James Jupp, Australian National University). Exploiting the suffering of the Tamil people for political advantage has been the best trump card of Tamil propagandists led by the Tamil Churchmen. It is the poor Tamil people who have always paid the price for the follies and the short-sighted policies of their leaders.

The Churchmen and the NGOs have been willing partners in this crime of creating humanitarian and ethnic crises to blame the successive governments of discrimination and persecution of the Tamil minority. Douglas Devananda, leader of the Eelam People's Democratic Party, on the contrary, is working with the farmers and the people of Jaffna to alleviate the hardships caused by Tiger politics. It is just not a case of food going up north but also the produce of Jaffna farmers coming down south. If the good Bishop is genuinely working for the welfare of his people his duty is to work with Douglas Devananda who is mapping out alternatives to the Tiger obstructions. Instead he writes to the President asking him "consult" and get "the consent" of the Tigers in transporting essentials to his people.

"It is our opinion," wrote the Bishop to the President. "that before its implementation (of sending supplies on A-9 road) it has to be discussed in detail with the LTTE and their consent is obtained. The services of the SLMM and the ICRC are (sic) necessary before it is put into operation."

This insistence on getting "the consent" of the Tigers before the delivering the essential food and medicine items to the Jaffna Tamils reveals the hidden political agenda of the Bishop. Instead of asking the Tigers to cooperate with the government in delivering food to his people he is asking the Government to consult and get the consent of the Tigers which, in any case, is totally unnecessary if the Tigers and the Bishop are genuinely concerned about feeding their starving people. If the Bishop is genuinely concerned about feeding his people does it matter from what source or route it comes? On what moral principles is he asking the supplier of food (in this case the government of Sri Lanka) to get permission from those obstructionists (the Tigers) who are creating the humanitarian crisis? Not even vicious Pontius Pilate obstructed the feeding of the five thousand by Jesus. Jesus led the way by showing that the primary duty is to ensure that the food flows to his people. The Bishop's duty is to follow his example and publicly makes a request to his friend Prabhakaran to get out of the way so that the food can flow to his people. He has not done that so far. Nor is he likely to do so in the future. To the Bishop following Prabkaran is much easier than following Jesus.

The Bishop's demand that the government must first get the permission of a banned terrorist group before the people get their food goes beyond the limits of absurdity to the pits of obscenity. It is immoral for the Bishop to downgrade the humanitarian needs of his people (on whose behalf he shed copious tears) by elevating the demands of a terrorist group as a top priority. Besides, why must a democratically elected state discuss in detail with the uncaring Tigers in Terroristan before delivering humanitarian aid to its citizens in the north? Will the good Bishop recommend to the Norwegian peace facilitators and diplomats, when they pay a courtesy call next time, that their military contingent fighting in Afghanistan must consult the turbaned Talibans before they deliver humanitarian assistance to the Afghans? Furthermore, if the elected government of Sri Lanka delivers free health, free education, free social services to all the Tamils inside and outside Terroristan, without consulting the Tamil Tigers and without their consent, what is the rationale in the Bishop insisting that the delivery of food and medicine to his flock in Jaffna must be in consultation with the Tigers?

Consider also what Rev .Duleep de Chickera, Anglican Bishop of Colombo, has to say on the same subject. In his letter to the President Bishop Soundranayagam quotes Bishop de Chickera as saying that the LTTE must cooperate with the government in sending food to the people of Jaffna which any caring layman or priest would say is the right approach to the problem. But Bishop Soundranayagam goes into reverse and says that the government must consult and get the consent of the LTTE. Doesn’t this indicate that even the goats in Bishop Soundranayagam’s flock can bleat more intelligently and caringly than their misguided shepherd. Given a free choice will the flock in his constituency prefer to follow Bishop de Chickera or Bishop Soundaranayagam?.

Bishop de Chckera also says that the international community too must cooperate with the Government of Sri Lanka to make the supply of food a success. But the Bishop Soundranayagam says: "The services of the SLMM and the ICRC are (sic) necessary before it is put into operation." Clearly, this Bishop is not seeking a solution for the Tamil people. He is seeking a solution save the Tigers by blaming the Government of Sri Lanka – the usual ploy of Tiger propagandists.

The stark contrast between the two bishops on this issue is a clear pointer to their politics on this issue. The Anglican Church has come out in flying Christian colours on this issue. But the Catholic Church has taken the line of anti-Christ. At the core of these partisan politics of the Catholic Church is a moral and a theological crisis which deliberately refuses to distinguish between good and evil. The Catholic servants of Jesus are contributing actively to the dehumanizing of the Tamil society – not to mention the depopulation of the Tamils. This stems from their commitment to politics more than to the pristine core of Christian values. Throughout their history these Churchmen have revelled and excelled in pursing perverse politics more than Christian theology. Bishop Soundranayagam is apparently heading in that direction. There are no redeeming signs of his making any positive moves to feed his people. The ominous signs are that he will, as he has done in the past, continue to feed his flock to the Tigers.

- Asian Tribune -

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