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Last modified on: 12/7/2012 7:56:29 AM The Devils Advocate; A response to Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph's letter to Australian Government

The Devils Advocate; A response to Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph's letter to Australian Government

By Fr. Nicholas Selvaraja

Under the cover of darkness a group of people board a rickety old fishing trawler to make the trip to their destination dreaming of a luxurious life down under. The mafia and their agents that operate the human smuggling operations entice unsuspecting individuals into paying thousands of dollars promising them jobs once they reach their land of promise. What these economic refugees do not know is the gravity of the arduous journey or the immigration laws of the country they are heading for.

Most of these illegal human smuggling vessels are apprehended by the Sri Lank Navy within Sri Lanka's territorial waters. Some others manage to make it only to be arrested by Australian authorities. The continuous string of boat people has become a contentious issue for the Australian government. In order to curb the menace of economic refugees Australia has toughened its border protection laws and re established detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island. The government of Australia has accepted the fact that these supposed 'asylum seekers' are indeed driven solely by economic means and not otherwise.

The three decade long war brought untold miseries and hardship to Sri Lankans irrespective of race or religion. Sri Lanka has seen its share of controversial figures in the past and still continues to do so. It is not surprising to note that their controversial nature has sometimes brought effective outcomes and changes in powerful nations. A person can call himself a controversial soul but the issue is how effective is his stance to prove his claim.

Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph is one such controversial character who is being working hard to promote LTTE separatist agenda. His actions and utterances have come under criticism by one and all. During the war he of all the people in an act of vindictive and revengeful purpose blamed the government for the disappearance of over 146,000 people. Whereas he never uttered as much a single word against the terrorist when they held and herded the hundreds and thousands of innocent tamil civilians including women and children from place to place placing their lives as a human shield and a bargaining chip against the advancing troops. He made such hue and cry when the government troops were trying to clear the areas including the sacred sanctum of the Madhu shrine where the LTTE tigers have fortified their positions with bunkers and launched attacks at the troops. His duplicity and down right complicity and also the support to the LTTE tigers was broadly highlighted to the world when he on his own accord removed the sacred Statue of our Lady of Madhu from its safe sanctity to further into the terrorist held territories thereby compromising its safety.

At a time when Sri Lanka is rising up from the decades long sufferings and terror, the clergy like Bishop Rayappu Joshep have a vital role to play, if they are genuine enough to be true crusaders of peace.

His recent remarks at a skype meeting organized by the NGOS and human rights groups in Sri Lanka a day prior to the 14th session of Universal Periodic Review in Geneva is detrimental to the country's image in the post conflict era and also threatening the hard earned peace over defeating the LTTE's scourge. Moreover, it is far beyond the truth. With no proper proof to claim, he went to the extent of claiming the government for human rights violations in the country. All the while he was crying out loud of not being an LTTE terrorist sympathizer he was carrying out its orders without impunity.

There are numerous instances where he had publicly displayed his support to the terrorist organization. Just to mention one,  Once he hoisted the LTTE flag at a rally in Mannar town condemning the killing of a top rung terrorist leader and was audacious enough to make a statement defending his action. Such is the action of a man who has made his elevated position to undermine the actions of a legitimate democratically elected government to support an internationally banned terrorist organization. How far the church could trust him is debatable.

Once again the Bishop of the Realms has exhibited his inanity and brought upon himself the wrath of the peace loving people by writing to the Australian authorities urging them not to deport any illegal Sri Lankan refugees. According to his letter dated 03rd December and addressed broadly the deported Sri Lankan are meted out with restrictions, intimidations and also subjected to questionings and surveillance and other forms of harassments and discriminations by the military and police. He says the lives of these people are under threat.

What we like to say is  even foreign diplomats including British diplomatic officials have accepted that there are no abuses or threats to lives of deportees whether they are Tamil, Sinhalese or Muslims in Sri Lanka. Is the Rev. Bishop is so knowledgeable as to discern and speak on behalf of the more than 1360 deportees sent to Sri Lanka from Australia, the United Kingdom and Togo. So far not a single one of those deportees have come out complaining of any threats to their lives or any other forms of intimidation or abuse from state authorities. In fact they have publicly praised the way they have been treated upon their arrival to Sri Lanka. Australia alone has deported about 550 Sri Lankan refugees from September to November 2012. Well that speaks volumes of the confidence placed on the government of Sri Lanka by the Australian authorities. Australian authorities have admitted to the fact that these boat people are indeed economic refugees and is the Rev. Bishop so high and mighty to dictate terms and restrain them from practicing their laws and deport the refugees whom they have deemed unfit to be granted entry into their country.

Is it considered such a crime to execute the laws of the land on individuals who have breeched immigration and emigration rules? Can any responsible government give a free pass and let its citizens take boat trips across the ocean to foreign countries as and when they please, flouting local and international laws?

Bishop Rayappu Joseph goes on to state the removal of INGOs from the North and East. The government has not placed any restrictions on the operations of not a single reputed INGO from Sri Lanka. In fact a host of INGOs are involved in a wide array of issues pertaining to education, livelihood development, health and sanitation, counseling, demining and other humanitarian issues. That includes UN organizations as well. I like to ask the Rev. Bishop as to which legitimate INGO that has been sent away from the North and East. If he is talking about all the outfits and so-called INGOs that acted as LTTE proxies and tried to carry on their sinister agendas, he is correct, the government did send them away as they were nothing but terrorists in a different form wearing a different costume.

The Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph has not given up the futile effort in carrying the separatist agenda whereas his terrorist brethren have all been wiped including his 'leader' Pirabaharan. The government is committed in its post conflict reconciliation efforts. When the people affected by the war are trying to forget the past and rebuild their lives in reconciliation with the others, It is the likes of these LTTE remnants that are trying to rekindle the fire of hatred and division among the peace loving people of Sri Lanka.

It is high time not only for the Catholics but all Sri Lankans to question Bishop Rayappu how ethical of him to take the cover of the church and the holy cloak to go against a united and peaceful nation and its people.

In the absence of the LTTE terror he needs to provide true 'spiritual comforts' to his followers rather than making detrimental statements to harm the hard earned peace of his motherland.

People don't want him to be 'silent' but we want him to be a voice with true facts to gain sympathy to his own people who strive hard to stand on their own feet. It is not the time for him to be a sympathizer of terror but to wear cloaks of a true messenger of peace.

-The Ministry of Defence bears no responsibility for the ideas and opinion expressed by the numerous contributors to the "Opinion Page" of this web site-

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