A Prayer for Adrian Wijemanne

by Brian Senewiratne, Brisbane, Australia

As Adrian Wijemanne lies desperately ill with a serious pneumonia complicating myeloma (a type of bone marrow cancer) I am calling for world wide prayers to whoever determines these things, to spare his life.  Adrian’s loss will be a major blow to the struggle of the Tamil people for justice at the hands or a brutal and irresponsible regime in Colombo.

There are those who are fighting with guns, and laying down their lives in the process, to free the Tamil people from Sinhala domination by taking on the military might of the Sri Lankan armed forces assisted and even rescued(!) by international ‘helpers.’  There are others who are fighting the Government policy of Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-religious chauvinism using the equally effective pen.  The two outstanding exponents of the latter are Adrian Wijemanne and Subramanium Sivanayagam who, for some strange reason, are both afflicted by the same deadly disease, myeloma.  The loss of either of them will be a major blow to all of us who support the entirely justifiable struggle of the Tamil people, not just for peace, but for peace with justice.

In my (very) personal and highly biased (!) list of unsung heroes in the Tamil struggle, there are four – all but one (Siva) in their 80s and even 90s!  Leading the pack is C.J.T.Thamotheram, the eminence grise of the Tamils in the UK.  It was this amazing man, now in his mid 80s and with a crippling ailment, who woke me up at 4am to tell me about Adrian and to invite me to join a "Forum of Writers" he had just set up to counter the anti-Tamil activities of that Tamil Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar. 

Then comes Adrian, the leader of those Sinhalese who have been able to distance themselves from Sinhala ethno-religious chauvinism. 

Then there is the outstanding journalist, Subriamanium Sivanayagam, who has sacrificed his entire career and has lived the life of a gypsy, for the cause of the Tamil people.  He was the founder-editor of the Saturday Review and several other papers, the author of The Pen and the Gun and the just-released Sri Lanka: Witness to History, the Foreword of which was written by Adrian.  The latter records in minute detail the suffering of the Tamil people over the years, a remarkable work.

Then there is V. Navaratnam, born 1910, now in Canada, once the veteran MP for Kayts and the author of The Fall and Rise of the Tamil Nation.  

Four have been removed from my list because they have left the planet.  Prof. Christie Jeyam Eliezer, the doyen of Tamils in Australia who wrote the Foreword to my booklet on the 1983 Tamil massacre.  Into his shoes has stepped his extraordinary wife, Ranee, thankfully still alive! 

Then there was the only Anglican saint I know of, Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe, the Bishop of Kurenegala, an outstanding Sinhalese who was killed by the shock of the 1983 massacre of Tamils.

On the other side of the ‘Christian divide’, Bishop Bastiampillai Deogupillia, the courageous Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaffna who refused to be intimidated by thugs in the Sri Lankan armed forces who thought it fit not only to drop bombs but even buckets of faeces on his home, despite which he opted to stay with his flock in their hour of need.

Then there was my mother’s brother, Edmund Samarakkody, the veteran LSSP politician who fought so hard for the rights of the Tamil people and who refused to join political prostitutes in his party when they crossed over to accept ministerial positions in Sirima Bandarinaike’s Government, thereby setting new standards in political integrity.

Adrian Wijemanne is the Sinhalese "gift" to the Tamil people in atonement, if that is possible, for the terrible damage done to them by the likes of the Bandarinaikes, who have been responsible for the shedding of more Tamil (and Sinhalese!) blood than any other family, the arrogant dictator Junius Jayawardena and his hoodlums, the murderous Cyril Matthew and his villain-in-arms, Venerable Alle Gunawanse Thero whose hands are soaked with July 1983 Tamil blood, and today’s so-called Sinhalese "leaders" who are, in reality, political opportunists determined to wreck the peace process and plunge the country into yet another war, for their own political and economic gains.

Adrian and I have two things in common.  We are both Sinhalese and we both believe with unshakeable faith that the Tamil people will be liberated from the Sinhala regime in Colombo.  It is not a question of "if" but "when," and at what cost in terms of human suffering.  The responsibility lies with the Sri Lankan Government.  It is not a question of a release of the Tamil people from a chauvinistic regime but from a chauvinistic policy, even entrenched in the Sri Lankan Constitution, that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala-Buddhist nation.  If a Sinhala nation is the policy, then there is no alternative to the establishment of a Tamil nation.  It is this that has been presented and argued with such force and irrefutable logic by Adrian Wijemanne.

For more than 40 years as a Physician, I have not infrequently realised that having come to the end of the road with Medicine, one has to leave the rest to a greater power.  This is where we have got to with Adrian.  I am a Christian but not one who believes that the billions who are non-Christians are heading for eternal damnation!  I have been able to distance myself from the arrogance of the Christian establishment and have learnt to respect the beliefs of others.  There are those who believe that events on this planet are "predestined."  They may be right.  There are, however, others who believe differently.  It is to them that I appeal for prayers, cutting across the man-made boundaries of religion, to save the life of Adrian, at least until he sees the Tamil people - who have a special place in his heart - liberated.


Posted April 1, 2005