Is the Jaffna Tamil leadership fit to handle increased powers?
In April 2008 when the Security Forces were inching their way up the western coast and advancing towards the Madhu Church — a sanctuary for the Tiger “boys” — Bishop Joseph Ryappah, the prominent LTTE agent in the Catholic Church, did the unthinkable: he hijacked the statue of Holy Mary at Madhu and took it to Theavanpiddi, 70 miles away from Madhu into Tiger territory. He committed this anti-Christian act because the power devolved on the bishopric of Mannar, allowed him to violate the fundamental rights of all Catholics to share the holy image of Mother Mary. It was a blatant political act. It had nothing to do with spirituality or any other Catholic doctrine. There was no need for him to hijack the Holy Statue because there was no threat either to the image of Holy Mary, despite shells fired from both sides.
Hijacking the sacred image
In hindsight, Bishop Ryappah’s sacrilegious act demonstrates that the power devolved to even a Tamil Catholic priest, can be abused and used against his fellow-Catholics. He was also thumbing his nose at the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church, running up to even the Pope, challenging them to take away, if they can, the powers devolved to him which he had abused by hijacking the sacred image. If a Tamil Bishop can abuse the spiritual powers devolved to him by arbitrarily taking sides with the Tamil Tiger fascists what are the chances of Jaffna Tamil politicians using their temporal powers fairly and democratically without oppressing and persecuting their fellow-Tamils, as they have done under the Vellahla and Tamil Tiger regimes?
The complicit role of the Church in aiding and abetting Tamil Tiger crimes against their own people is symbolised in the tragic story related to me by Dr. Noel Nadesan , Editor of UTHAYAM, a novelist and Tamil activist. The failure of the Tamil Churchmen (also known as the spiritual fathers) and politicians (also described as “liberators”) to protect the Tamil civilians comes out unambiguously in this tale. Dr. Nadesan said that the Tamil parents, frightened by the threat of Tamil Tigers in Mullativu forcibly abducting their children, handed over their teenage daughters to the local Catholic Church in Valayar Maddam, near the Mullativu coast, trusting them to protect their young ones. The next morning when the parents came to look for them, they had all disappeared. In the night the Catholic priests had rung the LTTE office in Mullativu and tipped them about the Tamil girls in their care. The spiritual fathers had no compunction whatsoever in handing over the children of trusting Tamil parents to fill the depleted cadres of brutal Tamil Tigers.
In Europe the Catholic priests were exposed for sexually abusing the innocent choir boys. In Christianized Rwanda the Hutu Catholics nuns and priests massacred the Tutsis (800,000 in 100 days) who took refuge inside their Churches. In Sri Lanka the Tamil Catholic priests, most of whom are acolytes of Fr. S. J. Emmanuel’s school of Catholics, handed over teenage Tamil virgins to the Tamil Tiger terrorists.
This crime of sending innocent girls to slaughter has been covered up by the Tamil leadership who pretend to be the guardians of Tamils and by the moral guardians in Rome. Will the TNA, the Churchmen and the NGOs that back them on national and international fronts seeking justice for Tamils establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the crimes committed by the Tamils against the Tamils? Will Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith initiate an internal inquiry within the Church to find out the truth about the hijacking of Holy Mary statue from Madhu and the sacrifice of Tamil virgins and teenage boys to Tamil Tigers? At least the Catholics should be informed of what mechanisms have been set in place to prevent any future politicization of the sacred images by perverse booru-crats in the Church hierarchy? As the good Cardinal knows accountability should apply evenly to all sides, including the Church aiding and abetting the political criminals in the LTTE.
Besides, how can the Catholic Church accuse other religionists of undermining its image and authority when its own hierarchy is behaving like mindless thugs of the underworld attacking its own flock? Or is the morality of Tamil Churchmen and NGOs confined only to look at what happened in the last days of a 33-year-old war, which, of course, is a convenient way of pointing a finger only at the Sri Lankan forces, excluding all other actors in the longest war in Asia?
If this is the highest standard of the moral and the spiritual values of the Tamil Catholics should not Rome take the next step of setting up a Tamil Trans -national Catholic Church ( TTCC) and appoint Bishop Ryappah or Fr. Emmanuel as their Pope with “Paki” Saravanamuttu as the Papal nuncio to the Trans-national Government of Tamil Eelam in cuckoo land?
The dominance of the partisan priests in the Catholic Church, point to the fact that there were no redeeming features in the Jaffna political culture at any level — spiritual or temporal — when Prabhakaran was reigning supreme in the peninsular. The total collapse of the moral order in Jaffna was in accepting on bended knees the subhuman political agenda dictated by Prabhakaran. What is also significant about the Jaffna political culture is that it was hardly inclined towards embracing democratic practices, institutions and tendencies. To begin with, there was no tolerant space within the rigid, narrow and self-serving Hindu-Vellahla culture for democratic politics and personalities to put down their roots and gain some ground either under Vellahla hegemonies or their “boys” like Prabhakaran. Both abused the powers they had to oppress and suppress the Tamils. Both demanded total obedience to their regimes. The Jaffna Tamils found their liberal space only in the south and despite sporadic aberrations the majority of the Tamils continue to live with the Sinhalese whom they vilify at the drop of panamkottay in Jaffna.
The systemic oppressive Tamil culture began with the Vellahlas who ruled the peninsula with an iron fist to keep the low-castes in their immoveable place. The logical outcome of the ruling oppressive Vellahla culture in the peninsula culminated in abandoning the non-violent democratic mainstream and committing themselves brazenly and arrogantly to the Vadukoddai agenda which endorsed the military solution, urging the youth to take up arms. Fascist Vellahla violence gathered momentum in the post-Vadukoddai period with the entire Tamil political class endorsing the Vadukoddai violence which was adopted and pursued with military precision by Prabhakaran. The highest upholders of morality in Jaffna (UTHR excepted) did not have the courage to speak up for basic human rights of their own people when the fundamental rights of the Tamils were violated by their own political leaders.
Besides, political rights of the Jaffna Tamils touted at the highest political level were not the rights of the oppressed low-caste Tamils. No. Every right — ranging from Tamil language to self-determination — related exclusively to the economic and political needs of the Vellahla elite to prop up and perpetuate their anachronistic caste privileges, power and positions. The horrors of the over-determining Vellahala culture which morphed into Prabhakaranism underscore the danger of devolving excessive powers to political entities in the north and east, particularly to TNA which is ideologically and politically committed to Vadukoddai agenda and Prabhakaran. To this day they have not publicly decried the violations committed by their political master, Prabhakaran. Nor have they asked for an inquiry into the abominable crimes committed by Prabhakaran against his own people. They exploit every incident only to point the finger at the Sinhalese. The Tamil crimes against the Tamils are brushed under the carpet because it does not make them smell like roses. Reason: If all their crimes are put together they know that they would smell like their nightsoil carried on the heads of the low-castes in Jaffna.
The known historical record of the Tamil leadership abusing and oppressing Tamils does not reveal any innate or inveterate moral capacity to protect or care for the Tamils. They have excelled at all times in using fascist force to keep the low-caste Tamils under their jackboots but never to elevate them from their depressed casteist depths to give them their due rights and human dignity. When I went to Jaffna to investigate the boiling issue of the Vellahla feudal overlords refusing to let the low-caste Tamils enter the Maviddipuram Temple the poosari told me that if a polluted low-caste “sakkiliya” dares to step into the outermost court (there are seven courts) he will be dealt with severely and special poojas will be held to purify the kovil once again. S. J. V, Chelvanayakam, the father of Vadukoddai violence, backed away cowardly from taking a stand against the Vellahlas obstructing the entry of Tamils to worship their common God. He “tip-toed out of it”, said Prof. Bryan Pffafenberger of Syracuse University, who is an authority on the Tamil caste system in Jaffna. The Catholic Church always took the side of the ruling caste or terrorist elite of Jaffna. They even had separate pews for the low and upper castes. Needless to say that the low-caste were allotted the pews right at the back.