Archive for April, 2005
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The Tamil people of the Eastern Province particularly those of Batticaloa and Amparai districts are fast becoming the wretched of the Sri Lankan earth. A continuous and consistent pattern of inter – ethnic and intra – ethnic political violence directed against them over the years has seriously debilitated them. This systemic violence was compounded and institutionalised in military campaigns conducted by the state and its agents. Adding to their woes has been Mother nature herself. Massive floods, cyclones and now “tsunami” killer waves. This agony is now being aggravated by the fratricidal bloodshed caused by the vertical and horizontal split in tiger ranks.
The Tamil Easterners strong sense of Tamilness, committed devotion to the Tamil Language and expression of vibrant Tamil nationalist militancy are all attributes that any nationality or sub – nationality can be proud of. The Tamil consciousness and political courage displayed by the “Kilakkuthamilar” (Eastern Tamils) in the post – independence period is a heroic saga indeed.
The scholar – poet Swamy Vipulanantha was the epitome of this Eastern Tamil culture and refinement. In later years Tamil scholars and poets like “Pulavarmani” Periyathambypillai., VC Kandiah, FXC Nadarajah, Eelathuppooraadanaar, Neelavanan, Kasi Anandhan, Thimilaithumilan, Vaaharai Vaanan etc contributed to and helped form a powerful Tamil consciousness. The journalistic writings of ST Sivanayagam during his “Suthanthiran” era was a very powerful influence in this respect.
The fiery oratory of “Sollin Selvar” Selliah Rajadurai spearheaded this Tamil nationalist renaissance in the East.Further help in stirring this nationalist cauldron was provided by political activists like Rasamanickam, Manickavasagar, Manickam, “Arappor” Ariyanayagam, “Notharis” Kandiah, Velmurugu master, Sivagnanachelvam Kurukkal, Mala Ramachandran, Sam Thambimuthu, Kala Thambimuthu and the inimitable Kasi Aanandan. Eastern Tamils participated far in excess of their population ratio in all non – violent protests of the past ranging from Satyagrahas to long marches.A large number of Batticaloa Tamils were under house arrest in Panagoda.
When youth rebellion began in the Tamil polity Batticaloa youths were not lagging behind though standardisation was not an issue that hit them badly. Kasi Anandan, “Mandoor” Mahendran, Nadesanantham, Alphonse Mary, Pa. Sinnathurai etc were in the original batch of Tamil youths detained without trial under Mrs. Bandaranaike in the seventies. In later years an innumerable number of Eastern Tamils were arrested, tortured, incarcerated and even killed.
This Eastern Tamil militancy has not been without sorrow and sacrifice. Sinhala dominated governments deliberately deprived the already impoverished and underdeveloped areas of the Eastern Tamils. While Sinhala colonization was encouraged and Sinhala residents given preferential treatment Muslim areas too were relatively looked after well by Colombo regimes at the expense of Tamils. Muslim Parliamentarians being aligned to Governments in power in contrast to Tamil MP”s being in opposition helped this situation further. Politicians like KW Devanayagam, Rajan Selvanayagam. SU Thambirasa, S. Rajadurai, M Canagaratnam, Ranganayaki Pathmanathan etc also joined Govt ranks and attempted to reverse this but the escalation of the ethnic conflict negated these efforts.
The Eastern Tamil problems were further exacerbated by two other factors. A dynamic Muslim minority excelled in trade, small industry and large scale agriculture and fisheries. The Muslims of the East virtually eclipsed their Tamil counterparts in these spheres. This helped fuel resentment.
The second factor was Jaffna Tamil domination and exploitation. The Top Government and semi – government jobs as well as clerical andteaching jobs were monopolised by the “Jaffnese” for a long, long time. So too were vast segments of transport, trade , manufacture and large – scale farming. Many professionals too were from Jaffna. It was only after the seventies that Batticaloa Tamils began asserting themselves forcefully in these fields. Unfortunately the ethnic conflict fall – out prevented positive gains. Today like that of Jaffna the Eastern Tamil elite is scattered in Southern Sri Lanka or is abroad as part of the wider Tamil Diaspora.
It was the ruthless manner in which the Sinhala dominated state responded to legitimate Tamil agitation in pursuance of their rights that affected the Eastern Tamils most. The question of a North – Eastern linkage in the envisaged Thamil Eelam or a greater unit of devolution was anathema to successive Colombo regimes. Dissent had to be suppressed in the East. So attempts were made to bring Eastern Tamils under the state jackboot.
The Special Task Force was almost exclusively located in the East. These STF personnel described as the cream of the armed forces were nasty, brutal and cruel. A well – designed and cunningly camouflaged scorched earth policy was practised in stages at various times in various places. Villages were destroyed, paddyfields ravaged, fishing boats demolished, people massacred. The bread winners of many rural families were killed or indefinitely incarcerated. Youths were arrested and tortured. Women violated sexually. People were driven out of strategic areas.
Today the largest number of orphans, children with single parents, young widows etc are proportionately higher among Eastern Tamils than in Northern Tamil areas. Malnutrition, illiteracy, lack of gainful employment, infant mortality, lack of proper sanitary and medical facility etc are also relatively higher in the East than elsewhere. A foreign tourist without any preconceived opinion traveling through the East will definitely be struck by the visible uneven development between Tamil and other areas.
Another device adopted by the state has been playing the Muslim card. The existing differences between Tamils and Muslims were widened. Cracks became chasms. Inter – ethnic strife between Tamils and Muslims was promoted. A case in point was the notorious Richard Dias of military intelligence who masqueraded as the Muslim Capt. Munas and coordinated Tamil civilian massacres. No action has been taken against this war criminal despite his name being implicated in the Soza Commission report as well as the killing of Tamil youth in Colombo.
The Tamil – Muslim violence where the state instigated, aided and abetted mob violence inflicted much harm on the Tamils in the eighties. But Tamil militants themselves were not blameless. Many Muslims were killed, abducted and held for ransom. Their property was seized. Later on massacres like those at Kattankudi. Eravoor, Sammanthurai etc were conducted against the Muslims by the LTTE. The tigers fortified by strength of arms have oppressed the Muslim people.
There has been anti – Tamil violence by some sections of Muslims too. Though not very desirable at this point of time an impartial survey of Tamil – Muslim violence in the East will certainly reveal that both communities have suffered. Quantitatively the Muslims would have suffered more. This does not obliterate the fact that Tamils have also suffered.
Apart from inter – ethnic violence and state – sponsored, state – aided violence the Eastern Tamils have undergone and continue to undergo massive intra – Tamil violence too. The internecine warfare among various groups resulted in a lot of bloodshed. The tigers are the chief culprits in this. The onslaughts against TELO and EPRLF saw many Eastern Tamils killed. Eastern cadres were murdered not only in Batticaloa or Amparai but in Jaffna too where many were deployed. While northern cadres managed to evade capture the Eastern cadres were virtually stranded in the North and proved easy prey to the LTTE.
With the advent of the Indian Army the situation reversed to some extent. Tamil groups allied to the Indian army took revenge against the LTTE. The tigers retaliated wherever they could. This resulted in phased out carnage. Then came the infamous conscription campaign encouraged by the Indian forces. Thousands of youngsters were dragooned into the Civilian Volunteer Force known as the Tamil National army. When the Indians were leaving the LTTE aided by the Sri Lankan forces attacked and decimated these poor Eastern conscripts. Witnesses saw truckloads and tractor loads of bodies beingtaken away for disposal.
The violence continued. Thiugh the tigers were stronger than before the suffering of the Eastern Tamil people did not cease. A war of attrition took place. Tamil civilians were regularly rounded up and detained. People went missing. Restrictions were placed on agriculture and fishing. The worst was the slow and systematic killing of civilians in singles and twos instead of wholesale massacres as in the past. This regular killing of people in seemingly negligible numbers did not cause an outcry. Yet the cumulative number of those killed was massive.
The East also became the theatre of war for anti – tiger groups to combat the LTTE. The Razeek unit of the EPRLF, the Mohan group of the PLOTE, the Varathan group of the TELO were all active here. The killings unleashed by these outfits against those suspected of being tiger supporters was great. LTTE retaliation was equally horrendous. The ultimate victims as is the case always were the Batticaloa – Amparai Tamils.
The ceasefire brought some relief to the Tamil people but not to the Eastern Tamils. Several things happened. The LTTE conducted a campaign of murder and abduction against members and those it suspected of belonging to other Tamil groups . Even past members were targeted. Several Tamils suspected of being collaborators were assassinated in Batticaloa and even in Colombo.
The tigers also stepped up a widespread conscription campaign where thousands of youngsters were abducted or forcibly recruited in the East. It is also a fact that several children and youths affected and in many instances impoverished by the war also joined the LTTE. The greater number however was conscripted through force and intimidation. Many people left their children as domestics outside Batticaloa to save them from tiger clutches.
Furthermore the LTTE used the ceasefire to infiltrate Government controlled areas to conscript youths and also raise funds. People were often abducted for ransom. Few people were spared with businessmen, doctors, lawyers, school principals and ex – Mayors being detained till the demanded sum was paid. The most notorious example being that of the abduction of an 62 year old retired public notary. This diminished the Eastern Tamil economy further. The seizure of paddy lands, livestock, coconut plantations , vehicles, tractors and fishing boats earlier had affected the East greatly.
The cycle of violence worsened in the East after the Karuna revolt. The LTTE’s Eastern regional commander Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias “Col” Karuna revolted against Velupillai Pirapakaran and struck out alone. The tigers sent forces from the North to quell this rebellion. Around 175 Cadres supporting Karuna who were either captured or had surrendered were massacred in cold blood. Karuna came to an agreement with the leadership to avert further bloodshed and left Batticaloa.
Most of his cadres were disbanded and went home. But the problem did not cease. Hundreds of pro – Karuna cadres including seniors like Robert, Jim Kelly, Visu, Thurai, Thirumal etc were taken to the Wanni. Many are presumed dead. Several others were taken to a tiger camp and tortured. Many were killed. LTTE assassins started tracking down pro – Karuna cadres in all parts of the East and the South including Colombo and killed them. Even people in jails and courthouses were bumped off. The vicious campaign goes on with some youth or youths suspected of being pro – Karuna being killed. Furthermore the tigers are also targeting cadres and ex – cadres of the EPDP, EPRLF, PLOTE and TELO in the East.
This killing spree is not a one – wat street now. The Karuna faction now aligned with the ENDLF led by Paranthan Rajan is targeting the mainstream LTTE. Several tiger leaders of the political wing like Kausalyan, Senathy, Bawa etc have been killed. An unknown number of tiger military wing cadres have been killed too. This cycle of violence where both sides are gunning each other down goes on and on in the East.Many innocent civilians having nothing to do with either faction have been caught up fatally in the violence.
One consequence of the Karuna revolt has been the killing of people like Prof. Thambiah, Journalist Nadesan, Politician Rajan Sathiamoorthy, Ex – Parliamentarians Kingsley Rajanayagam , Ariyanayagam Chandranehru etc. Others like Professor. Thiruchelvam, Government Agent Mounagurusamy etc were injured seriously. If one were to examine this violent history one finds that the Eastern Tamils are being victimised for decades. Eminent people like ex – DDC chairman Sambandamoorthy, ex – DDC member Velmurugu, Former MP Sam Thambimuthu and wife Kala, Rev Fr, Chandra Fernando, Tamil teachers union stalwart Wanasingha Master, Government agent Anthonymuttu…… the list is endless.
The cumulative effect of all this violence is the progressive weakening of Eastern Tamil society. The killings and extortions have demoralised and undermined the elite and people capable of providing leadership. The killing of every individual regardless of his age, occupation, position or political belief deserves condemnation. Every mans death diminishes mankind. The killing of politically conscious people and action oriented intelligentsia causes much damage. Society at large is leaderless and rudderless. This can only weaken the Eastern Tamil people further and reduce them to subservience in the future.
The fratricidal intra – tiger violence is debilitating the Eastern Tamils. When Karuna revolted Pirapakaran promised that he would resolve it without bloodshed. When Karuna withdrew from the East he too stated he was doing so to avoid an armed confrontation where the casualties were going to be Eastern Tamils on either side. How true! But what is happening now?
Eastern Tamils are being killed almost daily. There is a climate of fear. Both sides are hell bent on killing each other. In the final analysis it does not matter whether the LTTE hierarchy prevails or the Karuna faction wins. The casualties are all Eastern Tamils. Either side can only score a phyrric victory.As Mahatma Gandhi said “an eye for an eye can only make the whole world go blind”.
The Eastern Tamils have been affected adeversely in the past through several natural calamities like floods, cyclones and now the tsunami. Furthermore the endless cycle of war related violence has diminished them further. The present man made crisis of intra – tiger fratricide is weakening them further. Is is not time to cry out “Stop in the name of your homeland! stop in the name of your people!! Batticaloa is known as “Meen Paadum Then Naadu” (The land of honey where fish sing) Let the land be sweetened with flowing honey again! Let the singing fish ring out the sound of concord again and again!!
April 23rd, 2005
Vanakkam! Vaalthukkal!! The dawn of our traditional new year or “Sithiraip Puthaandu” in mid – April is an oppoprtune time to commence new ventures. A new column is being launched by your favourite website “TamilWeek” this Parthiba “varusham”. In Lewis Carrolls “Alice in Wonderland” the Walrus said that” the time has come to talk of many things”. Now the Thamilkkuyil sings that “the time is ripe to talk of many “Tamil” things”. This column “Tamiliana will comment on all things Tamil and of interest to Tamils.
Since we are beginning our journey with the advent of New Year let us deal with an issue that bothers many of us at this time. This April new year is one festival that is common to an overwhelming number of Sinhala and Thamil people in the Island of Sri Lanka. What is saddening and maddening is the recurring phenomenon of widespread attempts to divide the Tamils on a religious basis on this happy occasion.
With very few exceptions most Sri Lankan media in English and Sinhala refer to the April New Year as Sinhala and Hindu New Year. Instead of saying Sinhala and Tamil new year the reference is to Sinhala and Hindu. If the yardstick for this is the fact that Christian Tamils cannot subscribe to a Hindu new year then by the same token it is equally inapplicable to Sinhala Christians too. If so it should be Buddhist and Hindu New Year. Assuming an overarching Sinhala identity on the one hand and denying the same to Tamil on the other smacks not only of double standards but possesses designs to divide the Tamils on account of religion.
Granted that the calculation of years on the basis of a 60 year cycle has its roots in “Hindu” astrology. It is also a fact that Christians following Western custom regard Jan 1st as the New Year.The reality however is that Jan 1st has become “universal” over the years. Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians all celebrate Jan 1st as New Year. The Christians may have their Watchnight services but nowadays most places of worship have special ceremonies to mark the occasion.
It is the 365 day cycle after Jan 1st that is followed by everyone in Sri Lanka and the world in practice. The April New Year has become more of a cultural event. The world is awaking up to the reality that all of us have multiple – identities and that the notion of “one land, one language, one race , one culture, one people” etc are outdated. All of us have different identities, interests and spaces. Multiple and plural are the realistic terms of the present and future.
The custom of having two new years is but one example of this multi in ourselves. As far as Tamil Christians were concerned the introduction of Christianity through Westerners did result in many following or aping their practice and customs. Neglect of our traditional cultural values was a regrettable legacy. Post – Colonialism however has brought about a fresh reappraisal There has been a conscious effort to identify with all things Tamil. The Post – Independence politics has accelerated this desire.
Thai Pongal and Sithiraip Puthaandu are seen as Tamil cultural festivals and not as Hindu festivals. If one were to go to our rural or semi – urban places one would find Christians participating and enjoying these festivals as their own. These festivals open up Tamil cultural space. It is however less pronounced in the cities.
Three things are now affecting this pleasant commonality. The state of affairs in the Country and modernisation is restricting the time devoted to the common cultural space in these festivities. The limited time makes people focus more on religion than the social aspects.
Secondly there is an increasing tendency on the part of Hindu Tamils to transform these cultural festivals into religious ones. This is notably so in the case of Thaipongal which was a non – religious event.
Thirdly the rise of religious fundamentalism among Christians particularly the new converts is creating a situation where people are abhorring and shunning these festivals as ungodly and pagan. Thus the cultural roots and legacy of us all is being undermined.
This situation is to some extent applicable to Sinhala Christians too.
It would indeed be a sad day for all of us if we gradually get pushed into singular grooves instead of living and experiencing this vast legacy of humanity to which we are all heirs to.
If this regressive process gains strength we will become Buddhists and Christians and Hindus and Christians. That day is still to dawn.
Until then (God forbid) we are Sinhala and Tamils enjoying our common legacy of April New Year. The “Sithirai” New Year is for Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka. It cannot be for Sinhala and Hindu only. This sustained effort to prolong this “divide” by the Sri Lankan media deserves the strongest possible condemnation.
April 17th, 2005
by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
In the bad, bad days when Lalith Athulathmudali was National Security minister he declared a maritime security cordon around the North – Eastern coast and boasted that there wont be any tiger boats going through. Apart from destroying the livelihood of Tamil fisherfolk the no go zone failed to achieve anything tangible but certainly made Southern hawks happy.
This complacency was rudely shattered when Tamil Nadu political leader Palaniappan Nedumaran made his way across the Palk straits to Tamil Eelam. When news of this journey and back was revealed Sinhala sentiment was shocked. The doyen of Sri Lankan cartoonists Wijesoma captured the public mood in a cartoon showing a ball marked Nedumaran going under a butterfingered fielder towards the boundary line. It was aptly captioned “Bhokku” the pithy Sinhala cricket parlance for a fielder failing to catch the ball.
The Sri Lankan government seems to have done another “bhokku” in this post – tsunami era. Congressman Danny Davis (D) from Chicago, Illinois made an unexpected trip to Sri Lanka and toured the tsunami affected parts of the North – East known as Tamil Eelam. Of course this was not a clandestine trip by Country boat as in the case of Nedumaran but a straight forward open journey by air.
Danny Davis of Afro – American descent has been in Congress since 1996. His constituency has only 8% voters of Asian descent. The guys who deserve praise for getting him to go to Sri Lanka and visit the North – East are not Sri Lankan Tamils as commonly believed but a group of committed Tamil nationalists from Tamil Nadu now domiciled in Chicago.
So Danny Davis touched down at Katunayake and was received by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam at the airport. After meeting with US Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead he embarked on a six day trip to the North – East. He was accompanied and escorted by Tamil National Parliamentarians Joseph Pararajasingham and MK Eelaventhan. Davis toured the Wanni, Jaffna and the East seeing everything that had to be seen. He also met LTTE police chief Nadesan who presented him a memento on behalf of the tiger supremo.
From all accounts the Colombo regime seems to have been caught on the wrong foot. The government had strained itself to prevent people like Kofi Annan., Paul Martin, George Bush Sr and Bill Clinton visiting the Wanni and seeing the tsunami affected regions. But Danny Davis has outfoxed Colombo. Of course the Congressman is not in the same league as Annan. Martin. Bush or Clinton. Still a US Congressman is a US Congressman. Judging by the belated , hostile response to the visit in Sri Lankan circles one is able to gauge the level of outrage in hawkish circles.
As for Danny Davis what does he think? excerpts from an interview to a website are revealing.
“As a member of the minority community in the United States, we African Americans always go beyond our reach to comfort minority ethnic groups in other countries because we feel the importance of upholding human rights, justice,dignity and equal opportunity which is not fully accomplished even in the United States,” the Congressman noted.
“The impression I got from my visit to LTTE controlled areas was that the human rights ofthe minority Tamils have been blatantly violated and that they have been denied of justice, equal opportunity and fair play. The Government of SriLanka has failed to dispatch sufficient stocks of essentials to the Tamil majority areas that were destroyed by the tsunami on slaught. They feel that they have been discriminated against and that they have been denied of equal treatment,” Danny Davis further said.
However, he said, “I totally understood that Iwas getting one side of the picture. Some of the briefings that I got from the LTTE and TNA officials were taken with a pinch of salt. Itwas difficult for me to come to any conclusions within a few days of my stay. But what struck me most is that this ethnic minority has been subject to suppression and that their basic human rights have been blatantly violated with no justice meted out to them”.
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April 17th, 2005
The Indian media organ Tehelka made a name for itself by exposing corruption in the corridors of power. Venkiah Nayudu and Jaya Jaitley lost their positions and George Fernandez clung on tenuously but lost all credibilty. Recently Tehelka sent a correspondent Sathishkumar who spent three weeks in the Wanni tiger land. One of the startling revelations in his despatches relate to a possible thaw in the frosty relations between India and the LTTE. A few excerpts are reproduced here without comment:
LTTE claims to have begun secret talks with IndiaThe Tamils in Sri Lanka still derisively recall the IPKF as the ‘Innocent People Killing Force’. But they now want to forget thepast. Senior LTTE leader E. Pararajasingam, head of the Tamil Eelam judiciary, said that the Tigers have extended a “hand of friendship” with India and are ready to apologise for the “mistake” of assassinating Rajiv Gandhi, if the Indian government also does thesame for its military intervention against them. In fact, another LTTE leader, police chief B. Nadesan, revealed thattheir representatives have secretly opened talks with the Indian government through the High Commission in London. “We are eager to build a relationship. India can pressure thegovernment of Sri Lanka to resolve this question by peaceful means, “Nadesan said. Immediately after the ceasefire was signed in February2002, a delegation comprising LTTE members and sympathisers visited New Delhi for exploratory talks.
It was headed by Father MX Karunaratnam, a Catholic priest fromJaffna who is also the chairman of the North East Secretariat of Human Rights, the LTTE’s human rights commission. “I was in Delhi in2002 and we had fixed up a meeting with the then defence minister, George Fernandes. But at that time there was tension between Indiaand Pakistan and we were told that there might a possibility of war.So our meeting was cancelled,” Father Karunaratnam said.According to Pararajasingam, LTTE intermediary from London, Kuppanhas been in contact with the Indian High Commission there.”He came here and met Pottu Amman (LTTE’s intelligence chief and nowthe second-in-command) and other leaders. He returned to London withour leader’s message for the Indian leadership. We believe that themessage has been transmitted to New Delhi through the Indian HighCommissioner in London.
“When contacted, KS Bhardwaj, Counsellor (Press & Information), HighCommission of India, London said, “I am not aware of anything. But Iwon’t be able to say whether anything is happening or nothappening.” The LTTE leadership also revealed that it had enteredinto some kind of an agreement with the Dravidian parties in TamilNadu after the Rajiv assassination. “Our leadership decided that wewill not do anything that adversely affects any interests in Indiaand the political parties in Tamil Nadu assured us that they willprevent India from doing anything against us,” said Thaya Master, LTTE’s spokesperson.
The LTTE claims that it has witnessed a phenomenal rise ingrassroots support for its cause in Tamil Nadu through the growth ofcaste parties. The party leaders in Tamil Nadu, who the LTTE claims to be incontact with are — Tamil Nationalist Movement president P.Nedumaran; MDMK general secretary Vaiko; PMK leader S. Ramadoss, whohas the support of the Vanniyars who form a sizeable chunk of the middle class in the state and dalit leader R. Thirumavalavan. But the LTTE is extremely careful of the way it positions the growing political support as it does not want India to feelthreatened by Tamil expansionism.
April 17th, 2005
Will ” Chandramukhi” conquer all with her moon – faced beauty?
Will the “Mumbai Express” scorch the rail tracks to a speedy victory”?
Will “Sachin” wield the willow in style to notch a sweeping success?
These are the troubling questions facing the average film fan in movie crazy Tamil Nadu known as “Kollywood”.
Rajnikanth, Kamal Hassan and Vijay have all released their movies for “Parthiba” new year. Rajni has his Chandramukhi, Kamal his Mumbai Express and Sachin for Vijay.
The super stars Rajni and Kamal have releases a film on the same day after fifteen years. There is healthy competition in this clash of the titans. While they are the favourites in thses filmy stakes one cannot rule out “dark horse” Vijays galloping past a trotting Kamal and cantering Rajni too.
Rajnis “Chandramukhi” is directed by P. Vasu. It is a mish – mash and rehash of two successful films in Malayalam and Kannada . Mohanlal and Vishnuwarrdhan excelled in these run away hits.
Chandramukhi is the 50th film to be made by Sivaji films. Rajni is returning after three years since the flop that was “Baba”.
The angelic beauty from Kerala with eyes like stars – Nayanthara – is Rajnis Jodi. Prabhu teams up with Jyothika who steals the show via a superlative performance. The real star however is Vadivel who has bitten into his meaty role well.
If Chandramulhi is the top favourite versatile Kamal’s “mumbai express” is no slowpoke either. Directed by Kamals alter ego Singitham Srinivasa rao the express made simultaneously in Tamil and Hindi is a rollicking comedy par excellence. Kamals partner is Manisha Koirala looking ravishing as ever.
What could stop the express in its tracks is an unfortunate political protest. The new Tamil nationalist combination of Dr. Ramadoss and Thirumavalavan in Tamil Nadu have demanded that all Tamil films should only have Tamil titles.
Though Kamal explained his stance the call to boycott “Mumbai express” has been made. Though Dr. Ramadoss backed out at the last moment Thrumavalavan and his Dalit Panthers have mounted their protest demonstrations.
While the fate of Mumbai express hangs in the balance “Ilaiya Thalapathy” Vijay’s “Sachin” is the dark horse that may outbeat the two veterans. Vijay is fast becoming the darling of the masses. His last three films – “Killi”, “Mathura” and “Thripathy” have all clicked at the box office. “Sachin” evoking Cricketing imagery may surpass this hat – trick.
It is directed by John Mahendran son of legendary director Mahendran who gave us “Mullum Malarum”., “Nenjathai Killathe” . “Pootatha Pootukkal” etc
Vijay has two heroines. One is the sizzling Geniela from “Boys” fame. The other – guess what- is a bewitching belle from Bolly wood – Bipasha Bhasu.
Already 15 theatres in Chennai and 18 in the suburbs are sold out for tickets till April 22nd.
Posses of Policemen are deployed in the theatres to control crowds.
So what will it be Rajni’s action, Kamals acting or Vijays blend of both?
Let the Silver screen reveal the answer!
April 17th, 2005
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
One of the greatest strengths or weaknesses of any Pope is the belief in his “divine” infallibility. One is able to discern the importance given to this infallibility concept in all the media hype surrounding the death of Pope John Paul the second. It was this confidence in Papal infallibility by the incumbent Pope and like minded faith on the part of followers that contributed greatly towards the authoritative mystique exercised by Karol Wajtyla in his Popish avatar.
The infallibility of the Pope is almost sacrosanct in Vatican circles. There is the humorous anecdote about Irish patriot and medical doctor Oliver Gogarty and Pope Pius. Eamon de Valera and Oliver Gogarty were having a Papal audience. Both were decorated by the Pope. As was the custom a priestly aide took the tray bearing two medals to the relatively less important gogarty first. Impulsive as ever Gogarty took the larger medal meant for De Valera and promptly put it in his pocket. Eamon was left with the smaller one.
After the audience was over and both were leaving an eminent Cardinal rushed after them. Accosting Oliver Gogarty the prelate blurted “Dr. Gogarty a dreadful mistake has been made”. Without batting an eyelid Gogarty retorted frostily ” Have I come all the way to the Vatican to have the infallibility of the Pope questioned?”. The Cardinal beat a hasty retreat. Gogarty kept his medal. The Popes infallibility remained untarnished..
With all the grandeur surrounding this belief readers may be intrigued about how Pope John Paul’s infallibility was undermined by the tiny Island nation of Sri Lanka. It is all tied up with the Country’s protracted ethnic conflict tearing the land apart. The Sinhala – Tamil ethnic divide has affected the Catholic Church
there too. Clergy and laity think of themselves often as Sinhala or Tamil first. Being Catholic is relegated to second place.
Our story revolves around the dastardly murder of a Tamil Catholic Priest in Vankala in the North- Western district of Mannar. The priest Fr. Mary Bastian was abducted by a section of the armed forces and murdered after torture. The body was clandestinely burnt. The incident occurred on January 5th 1985.
Several witnesses saw the Priest being taken away by the soldiers. The incident caused massive resentment in Catholic majority Mannar district.
If the detention of Catholic priests like Fr. Aabaranam Singarayar and Anton Sinnarasa had evoked much protest in Tamil Catholic circles the killing of Mary Bastian sent shock waves. It was the first time a Catholic priest had been killed in this manner. Some days later a Methodist Priest George Jeyarajasingham was ambushed and killed by soldiers at Murungan also in Mannar district. Years later Catholic priests like Fr. Wenceslaus and Fr. Chandra Fernando were also killed.
The government of Junius Richard Jayewardene was in the dock. His national security minister Lalith Athulathmudali got a lot of flak internationally. Vatican evinced concern over Mary Bastian. Moreover Pope John Paul the second engaged in action that sent shivers down the UNP government heavily dependent on the Catholic coastal belt at that time.
Pope John Paul engaged in a special prayer for the departed souls of Fr. Mary Bastian and killed Polish solidarity personality Jerzy Popiesky. A Papal pronouncement was made and publicised through customary Vatican channels. Sympathetic concern for the brutal murder of Fr. Mary Bastian echoed all over the Catholic hemisphere.
Athulathmudali in typical Goebbelsian style issued a complete denial. He denied the murder had occurred and added insult to injury by tarnishing the dead priests reputation. The Oxford – Harvard educated Athulathmudali charged that Mary Bastian had run away to India and that he was very much alive in Tamil Nadu. With a censorship in vogue several news agencies picked
up the story. The vehement rebuttal issued by the Tamil Catholic Bishops was virtually suppressed.
To their eternal shame many Sinhala catholic priests collaborated in this elaborate cover up. The most serious collaborator was the present Arch Bishop of Colombo Rt. Rev Oswald Gomis. This priestly propagandist took up Athulathmudalis position and with the tacit consent of Arch Bishop Nicholas Marcus Fernando wrote to the Vatican that Fr. Mary Bastian was alive safely in India. Unfortunately some bigwigs in Rome fell for this story. If the denial came from a government the Holy See would have been skeptical. But coming from eminent men of the cloth there were few doubting Thomases.
This led to the Pope retracting his earlier statement. A fresh press release was issued by Vatican. In that the Pope corrected himself on Fr. Mary Bastian. The Pope had erred in praying for his departed soul. Joyfully he was alive the statement said. In a regrettable omission the Tamil Catholic priests were not consulted by Vatican prior to the retraction. It was later that Vatican was appraised of the true position and realised belatedly that the Holy father had been cunningly deceived by jackals in Shepherdly clothing.
Issuing a further correction remedying the previous position would have eroded the Popes credibility further. Already the image of Papal infallibility had been dented. The Tamil Catholic clergy to its credit did not want to embarrass the Pope anymore. They were devoted to the Pope. It was not for nothing that the
world engages in the chorus “John Paul Two, We Love You”. So they let it go. This was how the Popes infallibility was undermined by Sri Lanka. Firstly it was by retraction of an earlier position an almost unheard of thing. Secondly it was sticking to the same position without correcting it though aware of it being
This man who acted as a Luciferian instrument in deceiving the Pope is now the Colombo Archbishop. This Cardinal Richelieu like Bishops rise in the Catholic church is due to his easy access to the Sinhala corridors of Political power. Oswald Gomis is the only high ranking Catholic prelate from the dominant Goigama caste. This factor coupled with his conservative, pro establishment,Sinhala supremacist views made him one of the powers behind the Sinhala throne.
Casteism is a reality even in the Church. There was a time when all the Tamil Bishops came from the Vellalar community of Karamban. There are churches with “unwritten” rules of being confined to worship by particular castes alone. This feature may be less pronounced in the Sinhala South but the caste factor
is always there. Oswald Gomis was personally close to several politically powerful Sinhala families. This writer has no qualms in describing this arch – conservative, racist reactionary as a political peddler in priestly garb.
Unlike some of the courageous and progressive Sinhala catholic Bishops like Leo Nanayakkara, Frank Marcus Fernando or Malcolm Ranjith Oswald Gomis is one who always wants to hold “pandang” to the Sinhala Buddhists in power.
This appeasement was done earlier at the expense of Tamil Catholics. His consistent attempts to silence the “voice of truth” broadcast by the Manila based “Veritas” Radio is a case in point. Gomis conducted a systematic campaign against Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj and tried to get him removed at the behest of his masters in Colombo. Gaspar Raj through Veritas was highlighting
the pathetic plight of Sri Lankan Tamils.
In spite of this shameless surrender to Sinhala Buddhist hegemony Humpty – Dumpty has had a great fall. The Buddhist forces of intolerance unleashed in the fifties started with the usurping of the roundabout pedestal meant for Josephian rector Fr. Le Goc and went on in the sixties to take over Schools and Hospitals and substitute Poya for Sunday Holiday. Now the same forces are all out to deprive Christians of the freedom to worship and practise their religion.
The Catholic Church should have been at the vanguard of resistance to these efforts. But under Oswald Gomis it displays a shameful inertia. Earlier the Church tried to dissociate from the “evangelicals” under the self – centred belief that the ultra nationalists will leave them alone. But no , the neo fascists know
who their real enemy is and have zoomed in onto target.
It is a historical fact that Tamil Catholics have been comparatively reluctant to emphasise their “Tamilness” in earlier years. On the contrary some piliticised Sinhala clergymen have not been hesitant to push the Snhala line. The most famous or notorious case being that of Bishop Edmund Peiris . When the Chilaw Diovese was carved out of the Northern diocese a substantial concentration of Catholics along the Western seaboard were Tamil Bharathas or “Parathavar”.
Peiris came out with the nomenclature “Tamil Speaking Sinhalese” in relation to the Bharatha community and projected the line that their medium of instruction should be Sinhala. So 48 Tamil medium schools and Tamil streams in schools became Sinhala overnight. It was cultural genocide. The grandchildren began
speaking Sinhala while the grandparents spoke Tamil. The parents were caught in between. Former Arch Bishop Nicholas Marcus Fernando’s mother from Mundal was literate in Tamil only. The son used to correspond in Tamil with the mother.
The transformation of Bharatha identity from Sinhala to Tamil through education is a phenomenal example of a majority assimilating a minority. Mercifully the Bharathas of Vankalai and Pesalai coming under the Northern diocese were free of this “Sinhalaisation” and remain fiercely proud Tamils. The
tragic aspect of this identity conversion was the silent acceptance of this perversion of justice by Tamil Catholics in the name of religion.
Catholics of a later era blame former Jaffna Bishop Emilianuspillai for this lapse. During colonial times the Catholic church in Sri Lanka comprised only two Dioceses – The Northern and Southern. The Northern diocese consisted of the Northern and Eastern Provinces along with areas extending downwards to
Negombo , Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Though Tamils are only one – sixth of the Sinhala population the Sinhala – Tamil ratio in the Catholic church was six to five.
If the Tamil Catholics were vigilant they could hve sought and obtained a separate Arch Diocese for the North – East. This is both administratively convenient and culturally homogeneous. There is nothing wrong in this arrangement. In India for instance the state of Tamil Nadu though uniformly Tamil speaking has two Arch dioceses headquartered in Madurai and Chennai. Just as the political leadership of the Tamils at dawn of Independence from
Britain failed to articulate and demand a federal set up the Tamil Catholic hierarchy too failed to get a separate Archdiocese.
Years later the history conscious Jaffna Bishop Rt. Rev Deogupillai felt the necessity for a demarcation. He wrote to Vatican in 1976 seeking a separate Arch Diocese. There was immense merit in this request. Yet the Sinhala Catholics came down on him like a ton of bricks. Even a progressive like Bishop Leo Nanayakkara condemned Deogupillai for raising the demand. This was linked to the 1976 Vaddukkoddai resolution for Tamil Eelam and depicted as a separatist threat. Deogupillai backed down against his better judgement.
The question of a separate North – Eastern Arch diocese loomed large again in the early eighties. The arrest of Tamil Catholic priests under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act brought out sharply the ethnic divide in the Catholic Church. Sinhala and Tamil Catholics perceived the same phenomena through different prisms. The Papal nuncio in Colombo Nicolo Rotunno was
broadly sympathetic. The Vatican was concerned about the arrested priests plight. The Popes representative also took up the issue with Jayewardene. There was much speculation that a separate North – Eastern Archdiocese was in the offing. Colombo acted hastily and firmly. The papal nuncio was unceremoniously expelled.
Thereafter Vatican did not pursue the “separate” Arch diocese proposal. Pope John Paul Two preferred nd backed Catholic unity. The 1983 violence could have seen the emergence of a North – Eastern arch diocese but for one factor. Jayewardene cleverly blamed it on Communists, Trotkyites, Marxists and Maoists. This was anathema to Pope John Paul whose greatest accomplishment is precipitating the dismantling of the Soviet Communist “Empire”.
Pope John Paul two was fully conversant with the Sri Lankan Tamil predicament. He was briefed on this regularly by Cardinal Loudesamy of Bangalore later stationed in the Vatican. Archbishop Aarolliyasamy of Madurai who was once manhandled at Madhu by Sinhala Catholics for preaching in Tamil also had the Popes ear on this. Though sympathetic the Pope wanted
the Catholic church to remain united. At one stage when Sinhala and Tamil Bishops were dangerously drifting apart Pope John Paul summoned all ten Bishops for a special meeting to Vatican and persuaded them to forge unity in diversity.
One of the things the Pope mentioned then was remarkably prophetic. He pointed out that once the Catholic church was divided on ethnic lines fresh tensions will ensue between Catholics and the Buddhist and Hindu majorities respectively. He warned of rising anti – Christian feelings on both sides of the ethnic divide and wanted the Church to remain united and strong to meet this challenge. Pope John Paul has passed away ,Those prophetic words of his are now coming true.
It remains to be seen whether the Church will face up to religious oppression unitedly in the future. Though highly desirable one cannot see true rapprochement taking place under Oswald Gomis. It may have been possible under someone like Malcolm Ranjith now out of the Country.On the other hand
feelings are rising among Tamil Catholics too. Fr. SJ Emmanuel once stated that he was first a Tamil and next a Catholic. Mannar Bishop Joseph Rayappu went on record defending the tiger flag as the Tamil Eelam flag. With Tamil Catholics identifying increasingly with Tamil Nationalism and Sinhala Catholics
with the Sri Lankan state genuine reconciliation seems remote.
The development that could transform this situation dramatically is rising Buddhist intolerance. There is every chance that the battlelines in Sri Lanka could be redrawn on religious lines. If that happens Sinhala and Tamil Christians could close ranks. Pope John Paul will be proven right. No force on earth can defeat an idea whose time has come.
Meanwhile the much loved Pope has been laid to rest. As Sri Lanka mourns the passing away of a truly great Pope, let us also remember how John Paul was misled by our Countrymen. Like the proverbial saying – about “the axe that chops the mighty ebony tree, getting stuck in a plantain tree”, it was tiny Sri
Lanka that eroded to some extent the infallibility of Pope John Paul the second.
April 10th, 2005