The 10th Anniversary of Sri Lankan army's Mullivaikal massacre of thousands of Tamil civilians
The 10th Anniversary on 18 May 2019 of the Mullivakal massacre in Sri Lanka (SL) not only brought back nightmares for those who suffered it but also opened up the old wounds which had left indelible memories. The SL government conducted the war away from the cameras but the reliable accounts that emerged after the war evidenced a dire situation at that time which must have resembled hell with the lid off.
Since May 2009, the SL government has been trying to erase all evidence of the war by removing damaged buildings and other physical remnants. But the historical events which culminated in the colossal loss of lives couldn't be eliminated easily. The clamour for the disappeared persons, the continued occupation of farmlands by the army and the disruption to the livelihood of fishermen ever since the end of the war are constant reminders of those innocent civilians suffering to this day.
During the final stages of the war, at least two Catholic priests disappeared in the area controlled by the army, never to come back again.
Having successfully negotiated the surrender of about 360 Tamil civilians on the final day of that war, the former Rector of St Patrick's College Jaffna, Rev Fr Francis Joseph boarded one the evacuation buses with other people including woman, children and the elderly.
Jayakumari Krishnakumar whose husband travelled in the same ill- fated bus was an eye witness to this event and she said 'My husband boarded the bus first, then many others and finally Fr. Francis. He believed the army would respect the white robe'.'This particular event is the single largest number of people who have been subject to enforced disappearances at the hands of the Sri Lankan army' said Yasmin Sooka, a former member of the UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka.
Fr. Joseph must have had some premonition and wrote a letter to the Vatican prior to boarding the bus, addressed to His Holiness Benedict XV1. The following excerpts from the priest's letter are not only moving but revealed to the outside world what was happening inside the army controlled territory.
'To His Holiness Pope Benedict XV1
The Sri Lankan government is waging the war to annihilate the Tamilnation, it is a genocidal war.
The cries of woes and agony of the babies and children, the women and the elderly, fill the air that was polluted by poisonous and unhealthy gases.
It is unfortunate that the Church in Sri Lanka does not have the wisdom and guts to air her views forcefully and unequivocally regarding the ongoing war.
I am not unaware that this letter would arouse the wrath of the Sri Lankan government, which will resort to the revenge by killing me. Imploring your Holiness Blessings.
Rev Fr G.A. Francis Joseph.
Fr. Francis' relatives are still praying with tears in their eyes, hoping to see him one day, even after ten years. In another similar incident, Fr. Jim Brown entered the area controlled by the army in Kayts in Jaffna. He was never to be seen again.
Although this seems surreal, these incidents happened. The letter from Fr Francis did go to the Vatican. There is no record of any reaction from the previous Pope on this serious matter. Pope Francis visited Sri Lanka soon after his inauguration and met the presidents, both old and new. Shouldn't the Church in its wisdom sever diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka?
Furthermore, what actions has the Vatican, UN Secretary General, UNHCR, NGOs including Amnesty International and of course the international community taken in pursuit of this matter over the last ten years? Isn't it about time that Sri Lanka is boycotted summarily on all fronts?
The UN's Sri Lankan Tribunal investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity was aborted at birth by a recalcitrant and obstructive Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist government. It is now high time for the UN to show that it has teeth to conduct such investigations, particularly following the recent Easter Sunday massacre of Christian worshippers in their churches and foreign tourists in hotels in Sri Lanka. An urgent and independent investigation needs also to be conducted to establish the culpability of senior SL politicians and officials in the Easter Sunday massacres, as well as any linkages to a cynical sacrifice related to the impending Presidential elections.
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Tamil Writers Guild Editorial Board
Source: Tamil Writers Guild, UK
Date: 29 May 2019