Solidarity, support and prayers for the Bishop of Mannar
27th May 2012
All of us who gathered at the public solidarity meeting to show support to the Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, on Sunday, 27th May 2012, from 10am to 12noon, in the premises of St. Sebastian’s Church, Mannar,
- Express deep and heartfelt appreciation for the Bishop’s role for many years as a “voice for voiceless” victims of war, especially the Tamil’s political aspirations, truth and accountability for past and continuing abuses against Tamil community.
- Call on the government to ensure the Bishop’s safety in context of serious concerns expressed recently.
- Condemn the false and malicious allegations made against the Bishop by various individuals and groups, including Government Ministers and media owned, controlled and sympathetic to the Government.
- Also condemn the efforts to intimidate organizers of this event and attempts by the Police to use judiciary to suppress our legitimate and peaceful activity.
- Appreciate the large number of people who had expressed support, solidarity and special prayers for the Bishop of Mannar in this difficult situation, including Non Catholics, Sinhalese and those from outside the country.
We will continue to pray for the good health and courage of our great spiritual leader Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, bishop of Mannar.
Adopted by all those who attended the solidarity event above.
(The group can be contacted through Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos,
Tel.: +94 23 323 2655, +94 77 787 4071)
Since the beginning of 2012, there has been lot of adverse comments about the Bishop by some Government Ministers, media owned, controlled and sympathetic to the Government. False accusations were made that the Bishop of Mannar aspires to be the Cardinal of “Tamil Eelam”, that he is involved in a conspiracy against the government supported by the INGOs and that he is disturbing Muslim – Tamil harmony. Government Ministers claimed that he should be arrested and prosecuted over a letter he wrote to the President and members of the UN Human Rights Council (together with 30 other Tamil Catholic Clergy from the North, later endorsed by 63 more including a Retired Sinhalese Anglican Bishop, Catholic and other Christian Clergy and lay people, men and women, non-Christians and both Tamils and Sinhalese). More than 16 months after a detailed submission to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (LLRC), he was questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department recently.
The Bishop was also part of a group of Tamil activists who engaged with the Tamil National Alliance on issues that they considered being critical to Tamil people.
The most recent attacks on the Bishop arose due to his public support for decisive action by the member states of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva with regard to reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. The Bishop supported calls for implementation of the LLRC recommendations and presentation of a plan of action regarding the same and an independent and international commission of inquiry to look into matters not addressed by the LLRC such as accountability.
Through above and various other public and private interventions, the Bishop had called for recognition of the Tamil nationhood and political solution to the ethnic conflict, a process of truth telling about abuses that had happened in the last stages of the war and throughout the conflict, return of land forcibly and illegally occupied by the military to people, support for the return of Northern Muslims evicted from the North in 1990 by the LTTE on a level equal to support extended to Tamils, concerns about those killed, disappeared and injured during the war, those detained for long periods and several post war concerns such as militarization, cultural domination of Tamil areas, attacks on journalists and human rights defenders in the south including the killing of a Sinhalese fishermen during a protest against fuel price hikes. His submission to the LLRC included a question about the fate of 146,679 people that appear to be unaccounted for in the Vanni in the last 8 months of the war, based on Government statistics and relevant documentary evidence from Government sources was submitted to the LLRC along with the submission.
The Bishop had never called for a separate country or renewed armed struggle and has rejected both these as not being viable options to be considered in the struggle for dignity and justice of Tamil people and broader reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
The Bishop had been cooperating and engaged with national and local level government officials, including the President, Ministers, The Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, Government Agents, Military officials and Police. He readily agreed to the request for questioning by the CID and was instrumental in taking the initiative to invite the LLRC to conduct hearings in Mannar. He had also cooperated and engaged with the international community, especially inter-governmental bodies, experts and staff of the United Nations, of which Sri Lanka is a member.