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Cries from the Palmyra Grove

by Jaffna Diocese Commission for Justice and Peace, April 12, 2008

According to the opinions even in the South Media, the Government was trying to make political gains through its efforts at capturing Madhu, saying that it was recovering Madhu so as to open it to all, whereas the fact was that it was already open to all.

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Cries from the Palmyra Grove

(Weekly statement on the Local Developments – No. 27 - up to 2008-04-07)

The two main issues of the past week are the happenings at the national Shrine of our Lady of Madhu and the killing of Minister Fernandopillai and others so soon after the evacuation of Madhu.

Madhu was open to all people of the North and South all the time till the Army chose to close the access points. Of course just as there were check points of the Army at the army ends of the access roads there were also check points of the LTTE at their ends. Though there was much delay at the points on both sides, there were no complaints at the manner the checking was done. In a war or even in a ceasefire situation of a questionable type these were and are the accepted norms.

However after the present President took over the reins, the situation began to deteriorate culminating in the ex-parte abrogation of the ceasefire agreement and waging of an open war against the status quo though justifying it with various ruses. It was evidently a drive towards a military solution so that the outcry of the Tamils for their political rights could be suppressed for all time.

According to the opinions even in the South Media, the Government was trying to make political gains through its efforts at capturing Madhu, saying that it was recovering Madhu so as to open it to all, whereas the fact was that it was already open to all.

As Bishop Rayappu Joseph himself has stated, this military thrust invited the militants to retaliate and obstruct the progress of the forces leading to the present situation of shelling towards the shrine area and the subsequent evacuation of the sacred statue itself.

Even if the area is captured at such a high cost, the Government will not take over a national pilgrimage centre but only a cluster of damaged buildings without any of the essentials that made that place what it really was. (When Kilinochchi was captured by the army at a great cost, it was said by the occupying forces themselves that only a few stray dogs were there to receive them.)

The Mannar Bishop and  the Bishops’ Conference of SL made repeated requests for over a year to declare the Madhu area a ‘war free zone’. It may be the idea of the Government to accede now after doing all the possible damage. But where is the guarantee that it will not be recaptured by the militants just as it happened earlier too. Thus it may be a wise move to keep the sacred statue at a safer location till a final settlement is presented to the entire ethnic question so that the war itself is brought to an end.

It is painful that meagre political gains be sought at such cost not only of lives and money but more specially paying scant regard to the sentiments of such a large population of devotees of many religions and to the historical and cultural treasures and values at that shrine. When will our politicians be real statesmen not seeking power and political gain at the expense of the Country?

We are deeply sorry for the deaths of Minister Fernandopillai and many others who died with him and for the injuries sustained by nearly a hundred in the same event. It is natural that our thoughts at such moments are carried towards also the many hundreds who are the victims of random aerial bombings and shelling taking place almost daily in the Vanni, and those here who have been snatched often from their very homes mostly by the state security forces or their armed agents and killed or made to be disappeared involuntarily and whose kith and kin are still in continuous mourning.

One time Defence Minister Athulath Muthali declared once that for every Sinhalese killed, ten Tamils will be killed. This appears to be the norm or object now. In any civilized society, even an enemy is dealt with using the minimum possible force and not summarily killed and all civilians are given the maximum possible protection. But the number of civilians killed and maimed here are 10 - 20 times the number of the intended enemies.  

Instead of being satisfied with ‘condemning’ these, let us all strive hard towards the dawn of the day and the situation when this war, the basic evil and all its attendant killing and barbarity will be stopped not by military superiority, but by the prevalence of real peace with justice and due rights for all.

 

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