Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings - Brian Senewiratne > An Open Letter to Rt Rev Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury on his Comments about  Sri Lanka's 'surgical military action'

Tamil National Forum

Selected Writings
Brian Senewiratne, Australia

Concerning  Rt Rev Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
& his Comments about  Sri Lanka's 'surgical military action'

Note by Brian Senewiratne, 22 May 2007
Open Letter to Rt Rev Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, 20 May 2007
Surgical military action ... in streaming video and in stills...
The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe Bishop of Kurunagala & The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera Bishop of Colombo to TamilNet, 22 May 2007
Comment by tamilnation.org, 23 May 2007

Note by Brian Senewiratne, 22 May 2007

 "If the physical assault on our people in the North and East is not enough, we now have to put up with the support given to the brutal regime in Colombo from the Head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. He just �dropped in� or, to use his words �making a passing visit�. Speaking with the Press, and describing what the GOSL is doing, this is what he said,

�It is undoubtedly inevitable that what you might call surgical military action against terrorism should take place�.

Did he actually say this? I had several emails to say that he did not, and that what he did say was twisted by the Media. These emails included one from a senior Tamil, yes Tamil, Anglican clergyman. What these and other apologists were not aware of was that I actually heard the Archbishop over the BBC Sinhala service. How do I know it was him? Well, I have attended a Service in Westminster Abbey and have heard him speak. I know his voice and his accent. There is no place for doubt nor a place to mount a cover-up operation.

I decided to let my blood pressure settle and also give the Archbishop time to apologise to the Tamil and Muslim people in the North and East. It is now 10 days. With no apology coming from the Archbishop, I decided to write him a letter. I felt that a Sinhalese, and an Anglican Christian, had to do this. I knew full well that a Hindu was unlikely to do so, and for a Tamil to do so would have been less effective.

The Archbishop says he �dropped in� to see how the Church is coping. Well, he will not find his Church in the Dalada Maligawa which is where the Mahanayake of Asgiriya lives, or at Temple Trees which is where the President lives. He will not find his Church in amiable conversation with the likes of Douglas Devanada. He will find his battered Church, or what is left of it, in Kayts, Mannar and Jaffna, which he carefully avoided. This is hypocrisy. If it from the Head of the Anglican Church it makes no difference. It still is hypocrisy. 

What I am urging you to do is to write to the Archbishop and tell him what you think of his irresponsible, inflammatory and thoroughly unacceptable statement. My letter to him has his address which, in any case, you can get from the net.

There are one million expatriate Sri Lankan Tamils scattered all over the world. Even if 20% of them are Christians, it is still an awful lot of people. If a couple of thousand letters arrive on the Archbishop�s table, it will, or might, may a difference. This is what Amnesty International has taught us i.e that when thousands of letters arrive on even a tin-pot dictator�s desk, it can make him sit up and think. A couple of thousand protests arriving on the table of a person holding high office, but is completely ignorant, has no idea what he is talking about, and is giving tacit support to one of the most brutal regimes to rule Sri Lanka, might make a difference.

The Archbishop says that he has been called �The comic vicar of the nation�. I have no problem with that. If Britain wants a �comic vicar�, it is not my problem. However, to export him to make inflammatory statements which a brutal regime might use, indeed WILL use, to pursue its murderous assault on its people, is completely unacceptable.

I have just had an email from a shocked Tamil clergyman in Jaffna that a statement is expected from the Archbishop�s office in London and that once it comes out, Duleep de Chickera, the Colombo Bishop, will issue a statement. I don�t think these guys realise the damage done. A �Statement� is not what is needed. What is needed is an unqualified apology to the Tamil and Muslim people in the North and East, and a clear denunciation of what the President and his Army are doing to our people.

The indisputable impression is that where the Tamil struggle for justice is concerned, whether one wears a yellow robe or a white robe is of little importance. The sentiments expressed by the wearer are the same.

Will those who know what is happening to our people in the North and East, please take the trouble to send this person a letter of protest? It is the least that we can do for our people who live in this devastated area, facing indescribable problems.

There is no reason why the writer must be a Christian. He/she can be Hindus, Islamist, Buddhist or half-Buddhists such as myself, or those who believe in nothing. It is a protest about a thoroughly irresponsible and inflammatory �call to war� by someone who does not know what the heck he is talking about and, despite his claims to the contrary, cares even less.

In my letter to him I have enclosed my letter to his Prime Minister which I wrote last year, my letter to him in June 2006, and the outstanding analysis of Brad Adams, the Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, which he sent the Pope when he heard that Rajapakse was going to Rome. I am not enclosing these here but will be glad to send them to anyone if they have problems in getting them. I will also be glad to send you the recording from the BBC broadcast if it disappears from the net.

A number of people have asked me to send the Archbishop my recent DVD on the suffering of the Tamil people. I have sent not one but all four! Will they be watched? Probably not. He is too busy praying or doing what Archbishops do. That was what I was told last year when I flew to London to apprise him of the serious human rights violations that were occurring. When I was told that he as too busy, I suggested that they appoint two Archbishops, one to pray, and the other to listen to the problems facing his flock.

There is one more thing the expat Tamils, especially the Church-going ones can do. This is to get my letter to their local Church and say, �This is what our Archbishop has done, and this is the response of a Sinhalese Christian. What are you going to do? If nothing, may I know why?�

We have no power to prevent the Archbishop from making irresponsible statements which puts the lives of thousands of innocent people on the line, but we have the power to protest. Protest we must, and will. I urge you to join me.

Open Letter to Rt Rev Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

292 Pine Mt Rd
MA (Camb), MBBChir (Camb), MBBS Hons (Lond), Mt Gravatt
MD(Lond), FRCP(Lond), FRACP Australia 4122

Tel + 61 7 33496118
21 May 2007 Mobile + 61 419335334
Fax +61 7 33434306
email [email protected]

Rt Rev Dr Rowan Williams,
Archbishop of Canterbury,
The Anglican Communion Office
St Andrew�s House
16 Tavistock Crescent
London W11 1AP

Your recent comments on Sri Lanka

Dear Archbishop,

I am a Sinhalese from the majority community, not a member of the brutalised Tamil community in Sri Lanka. I am an Anglican Christian whose father�s family were not only Christians but actually built Churches. I was educated in a British Christian missionary school, and later in Selwyn College, Cambridge - founded by Bishop Selwyn - where the emphasis is on theology, not medicine. In Sri Lanka, I have been invited to address the congregation in St Paul�s Church, Kandy, and in the University campus church in Peradeniya (Kandy). I write all this to stress my commitment to the Church.

I quit Sri Lanka some 30 years ago and who runs that country, whether it be Rajapakse or anyone else, is of no concern to me as long as it is run without bloodshed, chaos and the extensive violation of human rights of its people. My concerns are humanitarian � as should be yours.

I refer to your recent visit to that war-torn country. There have been doubts expressed as to whether you actually made the remarks attributed to you. Some of the Christian clergy in Sri Lanka (and other apologists) have claimed that the media deliberately misreported what you said and gave it a pro-government twist. That is arrant nonsense since I actually heard what you said, and have a recording of it. Those who doubt me can still get on to the BBC website, and hear that shocking interview. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/index.shtml?focuswin). I will be publishing my recording of what you said in the next DVD I release. The world must know where the Christian Establishment stands.

This is what you said,

�It is undoubtedly inevitable that what you might call surgical military action against terrorism should take place�.

Archbishop, are you implying that the Tamil and Muslim people in the North and East as �terrorists�, since they are the recipients of what you irresponsibly call �surgical military action�? Do you, as a human being, let alone a Church leader, think that this is �absolutely inevitable�, and do you really think it �should take place?� If you do, it is, to put it mildly, disgraceful.

You owe the Tamil and Muslim people in the North and East an unqualified apology. They are being brutalised by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and its Armed Forces, they do not need to be insulted too. They are sufficiently traumatised already. They are my people who happen to live in a different part of Sri Lanka, but are nonetheless also my people whom who have thought it fit to insult. I strongly object to this.

What your absolutely outrageous and inflammatory comments have done is to legitimise the brutality unleashed on the Tamil civilian population (many of them Christians), by the Sinhalese-dominated Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and its barbaric Armed Forces.

US lawyer Karen Parker, who is not even a Sri Lankan but whose commitment to the Tamil struggle against tyranny and oppression I am well aware of, has already put you straight on what is, and what is not, terrorism. I cannot add to, or improve on, what she has said.

There are numerous articles on the net written by me, and DVDs also produced by me (which are being delivered to your office), to document the atrocities committed by the Sinhalese State, especially after Mahinda Rajapakse became President. These include the targetted bombing of the Sencholai orphanage with some 400 Tamil children, the bombing and shelling of Christian churches in the North, the destruction of Christian Churches in the South, the mass slaughter of thousands of Tamil civilians, many of them members of the Christian community, the bombing of thousands of Tamil homes, businesses, schools with students inside, hospitals with patients inside, markets, and entire fishing villages.

The World Food Program has just stated that there are more than 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and conflict-affected people are now in need of emergency food and relief assistance in the conflict-affected areas in the north and east. In addition, more than 2,000 Hindu temples (Kovils) have been damaged or destroyed. This should be of concern to you in the �Interfaith role�, which is part of the mandate of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This outrage on the Tamil civilians, their lives and their property, and concerns even about their very survival - is this what you flippantly describe as �inevitable�, �surgical military action�, which �should take place�. I regret having to say this, but you are getting into bed with one of the most brutal and murderous regimes ever to run Sri Lanka.

You make these irresponsible remarks at a time when the whole world has expressed serious concerns about the escalating human rights violations in Sri Lanka. These have been extensively documented by your own Nobel Laureate, Amnesty International, the US human rights group, Human Rights Watch, the UN Special Envoy Alan Rock, the International Commission of Jurists, and many other human rights groups.

You cannot be unaware that concerned parliamentarians in your own Parliament in Westminster have just formed a group, cutting across political boundaries, to see what they can do to achieve a just settlement to one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in South Asia. Why do you think the British Parliament has recently suspended some $3 million in debt-relief to the GOSL citing concerns about human rights abuses and the escalating military expenditure? I am glad that they do not think that what the GOSL is doing is �absolutely inevitable� and �surgical military action�� which �should take place�.

A press release states that prior to leaving London, you were briefed by a wide selection of people. Either they did not know what they were talking about, or were picked because of their support for what the Government of Sri Lanka is doing to its Tamil people. In either case, it is a bad reflection on Lambeth Palace.

What your irresponsible comments have done are to :-

1. Encourage even greater violation of human rights of the Tamil civilian population by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.

2. Give invaluable support to Sinhalese ethno-religious chauvinists who are determined to make multi-ethnic, multireligious, multilingual and multicultural Sri Lanka into a Sinhala-Buddhist nation. Today, these extremist elements in Colombo are celebrating your comment � an indication of the damage that has been done by a flippant remark.

3. Strengthen the stance of President Rajapakse and his brothers to establish a fascist dictatorship and embark on a genocidal massacre of the Tamils in the North and East. The photograph of Rajapakse greeting you has been circulated all over the world, enhancing his flagging international image and decreasing yours.

4. Make Tamil civilians in the North and East, who are being brutalised by the current murderous regime, feel that their suffering is of no concern to you, and that what is being done to them is inevitable �surgical military action� which �should take place�..

Your highly damaging comments take no cognisance of the fact that

1. The Armed Forces have bombed, shelled or damaged scores of Christian Churches in the North and East.

2. Christian priests have been abducted and killed in the North and East.

3. Hundreds of terrified civilians, who had taken refuge in several Churches, have been killed by bombs, shells and grenades being dropped on these Churches. Those taking refuge were not what you glibly call �terrorists�.
4. Orphanages, refugee camps, entire villages, schools and hospitals in the Tamil areas have been bombed and shelled.

5. Tamil civilians, by the hundred, in the North and East have been arbitrarily executed without charge or trial. Hundreds of others have �disappeared�, some of whose bodies, with evidence of extensive torture, have been recovered

6. Tamil members of Parliament have been executed. I refer in particular, to Joseph Pararajasingham MP for Batticaloa who was gunned down in Church in front of the Bishop of Trincomalee and Batticaloa on Christmas Day 2005.

7. Tamil media people been harassed, arrested, detained without charge or trial, and some even murdered by Government Forces and Tamil paramilitaries working with them. Printing presses have been destroyed and equipment for printing blocked from reaching the Tamil area.

8. Even Sinhalese journalists, peace activists, and members of civic society, who have questioned what is going on, have been locked up without charge or trial, and some have �disappeared�.

9. Churches and Christian clergy in the Sinhalese South have been destroyed by Sinhalese hoodlums. In at least some of these incidents, Buddhist clergy have been involved. �Sri Lankan Christians� , a group of concerned Christians from a variety of ethnic traditions and diverse denominations, have extensive documentation on their website www.srilankanchristians.com.

Reading the Bible

On 16 April 2007, you talked for 45 minutes in Toronto, on the importance of reading the Bible. Could you quote me the Chapter and Verse in the Bible which supports �surgical military action� under the circumstances that exist in Sri Lanka or, for that matter, any circumstance?

I would draw your attention to St Paul�s letter to the Colossians 3 V.12

�Therefore as Gods chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion�.

Archbishop, did you �clothe yourself with compassion�, for the Tamils who are also God�s people, when you made those inflammatory comments? Or are the Tamils the �people of another God�, and who do not deserve compassion?

I take you to the Old Testament, and one of the Psalms of David, written at a time when men in authority were twisting justice. I quote the New International version of the Bible:-

Psalm 58 v 1-2 �Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge uprightly among men? No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands meet out violence on the earth.�

Psalm 58 v 6 �Break the teeth in their mouths, O God, ��..�.
58 v 7 �Let them vanish like water that flows away��..�

Contrary to what the Bible recommends, you chose to support Sri Lanka�s unjust rulers rather than the unjustly ruled. What you did by condoning State violence, masquerading as �defending the nation from terrorism�, is to support a ruthless regime that has not set any limits on the suffering of the Tamil people. This is how fascist dictatorships are established.

Archbishop, there is no great merit in reading the Bible, as you recommend, if you do not practise what you read.


You have repeatedly said that you hope and pray for the people of Sri Lanka. Of what good is prayer if you give your tacit approval to the GOSL and its Armed Forces in their military assault on the inhabitants of the North and East? It would have been better to pray less and do more to achieve peace, and this you cannot do by talking of, �surgical military action� and that it �should take place�. I hope that your prayers are not based on this type of thinking.
Avoiding the North-East

You did not go to Jaffna, Mannar in the North West or the East. Sir, this is where the major violation of human rights is occurring, where serious and repeated massacres are taking place, where thousands are being made refugees, and where people are �disappearing� every day. Did you even inquire about the massacres of the Tamil civilians and the bombing of entire Tamil villages in the Islands off Jaffna. Kfir jets dropped bombs on these people on January 2, 2007, slaughtering men, women and children, as they celebrated the New Year? The entire population of these areas are Christians, your God�s children.

Did you ask Rajapakse what his so-called �Security Forces� were doing in Jaffna? There is no need to �secure� Jaffna. The Tamil are not going to run away with Jaffna. It has nothing to do with �Security� but much to do with bullying, harassing and terrifying the Tamil people to force them to accept Sri Lanka as a Sinhala-Buddhist nation. Are you concerned? If you are, why did you not ask the President when he entertained you in his home?

In this happy gathering in the President�s home, I noted that standing a few feet from you was Douglas Devananda, the Leader of the Eelam People�s Democratic Party, currently a Cabinet Minister in Rajapakse�s Government. Archbishop, just to translate, �Eelam� stands for a Separate Tamil State.

Your meeting with him would have been a golden opportunity to have asked him about the numerous �disappearances� in Jaffna. You could have asked him to explain the Government�s Human Rights Commission Report that since Dec 2005, the Commission recorded 707 people �missing� in Jaffna. Witnesses allege that the Security Forces and Minister Devanada�s own Party members were involved in the vast majority of cases. In just the past 3 months, 55 people have been abducted during curfew hours, when only the �Security Forces� and their paramilitary �helpers� are on the streets in Jaffna. I am sure Minister Devananda would have been able to explain these very worrying facts, and much more that goes on behind the closed or censored doors of Jaffna.

Archbishop, did you ask President Rajapakse or Minister Devananda who comes from the North, about the ethics of blocking the A9 Highway, the only land access to the Jaffna Peninsula, by the Armed Forces on 11 August 2006? There are some 600,000 Tamil civilians, 150,000 of them children, in the Peninsula facing starvation. Did you point out that this violates Article 55 and 56 of the 4th Geneva Convention which states that:

�An occupying power (eg the Sri Lankan Army), has the duty of ensuring adequate food and medical supplies and protecting public health in the area under occupation (Jaffna)�.

What are you going to do about the continuing starvation of these people, some of them Christian, others non-Christian, but, if you believe the Bible which you recommend be read, are all �God�s Children�?

Did you ask why it was necessary for some of the best agricultural lands in Jaffna to be declared �High Security Zones� inaccessible to civilians? I put it to you, Archbishop, that this has nothing to do with Security but has much to do with mass starvation and genocidal intent by the GOSL. Is this part of �surgical military action� which you say �should take place�?

Did you ask about the total ban on fishing reintroduced off the Jaffna Peninsula by the Sri Lankan Navy? It was imposed on 11 August 2006 to cover the entire North and East coast, partially relaxed in the face of protests by humanitarian organisations and, unbelievably reintroduced as a total ban off the Jaffna Peninsula on 20 February 2007 by the Sri Lankan military. 7,375 people in LTTE controlled areas and 65,000 people in GOSL controlled areas, face severe economic difficulties. Whether they live in the Tamil Tiger controlled areas or Government-controlled areas, they are human beings facing starvation Does this concern you? Is it not further evidence of genocidal intent?

Did you ask about the crisis in education in Jaffna and why some 10,200 children have dropped out of Jaffna schools in 2006 The Jaffna Secretariat Education Department would have told you all about it if you had asked. They would also have provided the reasons :-

� Fear of abduction by Armed Forces and their presence of Army near schools.
� Schools being bombed or being in Rajapakse�s extended �High Security� zone
� Lack of transport with curfews being imposed at the whim and fancy of the Armed Forces.
� Economic reasons � the ban on fishing and agriculture making it necessary for children to work to keep family alive.
� The lack of accommodation because homes have been bombed and shelled, and the simple lack of food.

Does any of this worry the Anglican Church authorities in Colombo or in London? Or is it all part of �surgical military action�?

Your visit to Kurunegala

You held a service in the Anglican Church in Kurunegala. You might be interested to know that the former Bishop of this Church, the late Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe, one of the finest Christians, indeed human beings, that Sri Lanka has produced, said that the Sinhalese people had to apologise for what has been done to the Tamil people. I suggest you read his last Pastoral Address circulated a few months before his untimely death. I will be happy to send it to you.

Bishop Lakshman, who, like me, is a Sinhalese, was my role model. He must surely be turning in his grave to see you conduct a service in his beloved Church and then go on to make the sort of comments that you did. I am so glad that he is not on this planet, the trauma would surely have killed him, as did the 1983 massacre of Tamils in Colombo. He visited a refugee camp in Colombo and went �missing�. He was later found quietly crying in a room. That was the compassion of Bishop Lakshman, something which is seriously lacking today. When God made Bishop Lakshman, he must have thrown away the mould.

Meeting the Buddhist clergy

You saw the Mahanayake Thero of the Asgiriya Chapter (one of the leading Buddhist Monks). Did you ask him which Buddhist stanza asks the followers of one of the greatest teachers of peace the world has known, to block the roads in Colombo demanding a return to war, break up peace rallies and supervise the burning of Christian Churches in the South? (I have a list of the scores of churches destroyed). My mother was a devout Buddhist.

Did you ask the Mahanayake Thero about Champika Ranawake, the Parliamentary representative of the Buddhist monk�s political party, the Jathika Hela Urumaya. Ranawake, the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources in President Rajapakse�s Government, advocates extra-judicial measures to deal with human rights groups, journalists and others who criticised the State�s militaristic aims? Pardon the language but these are his words, �Those bastards are traitors. We can�t do anything because of wild donkey freedom in this country. If those cannot be handled with existing laws, we know how to do it. If we can�t suppress those bastards with the law, we need to use any other ways and means.� to the (Sinhalese) Raavaya newspaper on February 18, 2007.

Did you raise this with the Mahanayake Thero or with President Rajapakse, and ask if anyone in the Buddhist hierarchy or the Government has condemned the Minister�s words and demanded a retraction?

If some of the the so-called Buddhist leaders and thousands of their followers, and a succession of �Buddhist� political leaders (many of them converts from Christianity to politically expedient �Buddhism�, and others such as Rajapakse who claim to be devout Buddhists), were true Buddhists, the Tamils would not be asking for a Separate State, far less fighting for one. Archbishop, this is a complex problem which you simply cannot �pick up on the run�, or, as you put it to Reuters, �a passing visit�. You have to spend some time studying it and until you do, it is totally irresponsible to make the confused and inflammatory comments you have made.

Confused thinking

Your degree of confusion, manifest in conflicting statements made by you, beggars belief. To have the Head of 77 million people in a confused state is obviously a matter of concern. At the press conference on 9 May, 2007 in Colombo you said you were �aware that this is a time of great trial and suffering for the people of Sri Lanka.� You then went on to justify the Sri Lankan military assault which is the cause of the �great trial and suffering� as �inevitable� and that �surgical military action should take place�. Archbishop, you cannot have it both ways.

You told the journalists that the Government�s military solution �increasingly appears to be no solution�. Then you go on to talk of the inevitability of military action and that this �should take place�. Archbishop, where exactly do you stand or do you not know? You cannot stand with a foot in each camp, or, should I say, backing opposing strategies.

You say �that that (the �surgical military action�) will lead ��. to an opening of communication, a re-establishment of the possibilities for civil society to develop�. Archbishop, what line of logic are you pursuing? How can �surgical military action� open up communication? How can uncivil behaviour by a Government enable civil society to develop? Are you aware that leading members of civil society who organised rallies for Peace and campaigned against war, are being threatened and even held in custody without charge or trial by the fascist regime which entertained you? Archbishop, you seem to be saying a lot of words without thinking about what they mean. It is a flow of words which sound impressive but is, in fact, complete nonsense. It is not only nonsense but dangerous nonsense.

You say that you were visiting Sri Lanka to learn something about the situation. I suggest you spend some time watching the DVD that I have just released on the complex Sri Lanka ethnic conflict. I will have a copy delivered to your office. It might make you better informed and hopefully more cautious in talking about things about which you have no idea. The information you have, seems to have been literally picked up on the run from people with an agenda which has nothing to do with peace in Sri Lanka. In disinformation and frank lying, Sri Lanka is one of the world leaders. Regrettably, this includes some of the Church leaders with whom you say you work closely.

You say that you want to see how the Church (in Sri Lanka) is responding. Which church? The one in the Sinhalese South or the one in the Tamil North and East? The ones in the Tamil area are being decimated, along with its worshipers. The one in the South could not care less. I had to deliver an address in a Church in Melbourne on this very same subject. A summary of what I said was that the Christian Church in the Sinhalese South was more Sinhalese than Christian. Would you like to see my address and the justification for my statement?

A reflexive violent response

In a press release before leaving England for Sri Lanka, you said, �Sri Lanka is a place in which conflict and violence has become a reflexive response to political difficulty� .That is, to put it mildly, gross ignorance. The most cursory glance at Sri Lanka�s political history would have made you aware that Tamil political leaders had sat cross-legged in Gandhi style, non-violent protests for 21 years (from 1956 -1977) and had these non-violent protests crushed by Government-sponsored Sinhalese hoodlums, supported by the Police (95% Sinhalese) and later, the Army (99% Sinhalese).

The resort by the Tamil youths to an armed struggle was because of a failure of the non-violent process and negotiations with a succession of Sinhalese Governments to achieve anything. It was not violence as a �reflexive response� as you claim it was. This is staggering ignorance and, coming as it does from someone who has the support structures that you have to get the necessary information, very disturbing.

My visit to London to apprise you of the situation in Sri Lanka

You may claim that you have not been aware of much of what I have alluded to. That is why I wrote to you in June 2006 (copy of letter attached). It was to apprise you of these atrocities that I put my medical practice on hold, took the 26hr flight from Brisbane to London to see the Head of my Church, you, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was told that you were too busy! Here was an ex-parishioner of Westminster Abbey who had done a 52hr trip, asking for just 15mins to talk to his Church Leader and being told that he was too busy. Was that really too much to ask? If that is the score, then there should be two Archbishops � one to pray (and do whatever else Archbishops do), and the other to listen to the supplications of his people.

The Roman Catholic response

I was concerned that the Pope decided to meet President Rajapakse on 20 April 2007. A Roman Catholic friend explained that the Vatican State had no option when the request came from a Head of State. I know it is a question you cannot answer, but if the request came from another Head of State, Robert Mugabe, would the Pope see him and touch his blood-stained hands? I doubt it.

Whatever my reservations, when the Pope did see (Buddhist) Mahinda Rajapakse and his (Roman Catholic) wife, who had presumably come to get the Pope�s blessings on the military assault on the Tamil people, the Vatican got it right. Pope Benedict XVI received in audience the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka for all of 20 minutes! He was then shown the door to the office of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State, who presides over the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Holy See.

Conveying the concerns of the Pope, Cardinal Bertone reiterated to Rajapaksa, the need to respect human rights and resume the path of dialogue and negotiation as the "only way to put an end to the violence."

The Holy See Press Office released a communiqu� immediately after the meeting:

"In the course of the talks - and in the light of the current situation in Sri Lanka - the need was reiterated to respect human rights and resume the path of dialogue and negotiation as the only way to put an end to the violence that is bloodying the island. The Catholic Church, which offers a significant contribution to the life of the country, will intensify her delicate task of forming consciences with the sole ambition of favoring the common good, reconciliation and peace�.

There was none of this inflammatory nonsense of �undoubtedly inevitable� �.�surgical military action� ��which �should take place�, or even the word �terrorism� mentioned.

Archbishop Rowan Williams, that is how it is done, and should be done, if the Church and its Head are to retain any credibility and respect. What happened in Rome was before you arrived in Sri Lanka. It should have been a shining example of responsible behaviour for a Church leader, in a situation where there is a crisis in human rights.

Just consider what a major effect there would have been on the barbaric regime in Sri Lanka if the Head of the Catholic Church and the Head of the Anglican Church said the same thing, instead of one advocating reconciliation and peace, and the other acquiescing a military assault.

There are several reasons for the defence. The Vatican is better informed, and listens to the concerns expressed by its clergy and flock, something which your Church should be doing. At least where Sri Lanka is concerned, the Vatican seems to be prepared to take a principled stance, rather than one determined by political expediency.

Political expediency is precisely what you did in October 2006 when you visited China and failed to confront the authorities on their abysmally poor record in religious freedoms. You cannot be unaware that China has jailed scores of Catholic priests and Tibetan Buddhist minks and nuns because of their loyalty to the Pope and to the Dalai Lama. You have now gone down the same path of political expediency in Sri Lanka.

I strongly advise that you read the outstanding analysis of the Sri Lankan situation submitted to the Pope by Brad Adams, The Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, when he heard that Rajapakse was going to Rome. Tragically, this crucial document, written on 16 April 2007, was available before you left for Sri Lanka and should have been read by someone who claimed to be � �conscious that this is a time of great trial and suffering for the people of Sri Lanka," as you told Reuters Television in Colombo.

I suggest that even at this late stage you look at Brad Williams� letter to the Pope, and write to President Rajapakse to tell him that your attention has been drawn to a letter from the Director of a internationally acclaimed human rights organisation, and that you wish to express your serious concerns about what the Rajapakse�s Government is doing to the Tamil people. That is, of course, if you have �concerns�.

A hypothetical question

Archbishop Williams, can I ask you a hypothetical question but one with practical implications. If Jesus Christ reappeared and visited Sri Lanka, where do you think He would go? I think He would head for the refugee camps in the North and East with more than 400,000 displaced people, to Mannar in the North West where His people have had many a slaughter, and the Islands off Jaffna which have had even more. He would probably have stayed there till all His people were safe, and able to live with equality, dignity and safety in a place they have a right to be in. That is Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, That is what I believe, and that is my brand of Christianity.

The practical dimension

The practical dimension of this belief is why I decided to stand with my brutalised Sri Lankan Tamil people, and why I am seriously upset by your irresponsible and inflammatory remarks.

That is why in 1948, as 16 year old schoolboy, I organised a public protest in my school when my (Indian) Tamil people were made �non-people�. I was only applying what I had been taught in the �Religious Studies� class in the British Christian mission school I was educated. That is why, a quarter of a century later, in 1972, as the Senior Lecturer in Medicine and Physician in the Kandy hospital, I picked up these brutalise people who were dying on the streets of Kandy, having been hounded out of their miserable �coolie lines� by Sinhalese hoodlums from my Government.

That is why in 1972, I challenged the congregation from the pulpit of the largest Anglican Church in Kandy, to take a stance on an unimaginable injustice done to people whose only crime was that they were born poor and into an uncaring environment. I told them that to come to Church, sing hymns and recite meaningless stanzas which they did not practice, was not what Christianity was all about.

If you do not know the story of this blot on Sri Lankan history, these (�Indian�) Plantation Tamils are pathetically poor people, descendents of a million Tamils brought by the British in the 1850s, from poverty-stricken (British) India, to do slave labor on British tea estates. They were off-loaded in Mannar, and forced by the (Christian) colonial master, to walk some 300 km, to the 6,000 ft mountains in central Ceylon, a third of them dying on the way from fatigue, malnutrition and malaria. They were then put into miserable �coolie lines� in the British tea plantations, where they were treated like slaves,

They are the people, my Indian Tamil people, who kept, and still keep, Sri Lanka afloat, but who were disenfranchised and de-citizenised in 1948 by my government, while the Governor General from your country looked on. Where was the Anglican Church when this political barbarism was occurring?

Do you see that praying, which you say is what you are doing for the people of Sri Lanka, is not sufficient. The Church has to act, which I doubt it has in any constructive way in Sri Lanka, in the past half century since Independence from Britain, and probably before.

�Interfaith role�

What is alarming is that you seem to be linking hands with the racist Buddhist clergy who have done, and continue to do, so much damage to Sri Lanka and are making it impossible for any Government since 1956 to deliver peace with justice. As I have said, my mother was a devout Buddhist and worshiped in the very temple in Kandy which you visited.

The game plan - Getting it �terribly wrong�

Dr Sam Muthuveloe of Hope Outreach in your country, in a letter to his friend Canon Julian Reirdorp of Richmond Parish, Surrey, UK says, �� our Archbishop in Canterbury has got something terribly wrong�. I disagree with Dr Muthuveloe. I�d say that �there are none as blind as those who do not want to see.�

Archbishop, I have no idea what your game plan is. Whatever it is, it is highly damaging.

It is possible that it is a continuing attempt to perpetuate the brutal repression of the Tamil people which Britain has done for at least the past three decades by supplying weapons to the repressive Sinhala regime in Colombo.

It is possible that you are trying to deliver on the �interfaith role� part of your position as Archbishop, and trying to link hands with the Buddhist clergy, however abysmal their political and human rights record is, and has been.

It appears to me, and I suspect to the majority of the Tamil people both in and outside Sri Lanka (and I stress I am not a Tamil), that from the Tamil perspective, it matters little whether one wears a yellow robe or a white robe, the sentiments expressed by the wearer are the same.

Moral leadership

In what I can only describe as an amazing claim, you told a Reporter from London�s Daily Mail, that society was missing the point in expecting the Church to be in the business of moral leadership. If to provide moral leadership is not the business of the Church, what is? I think this inability to provide moral leadership has been amply manifested by your inflammatory comments in Sri Lanka.

Comic vicar

In an extraordinary interview with Alan Rusbridge, Editor of the Guardian , you said you had been called the �comic vicar to the nation�. The incredulous Rusbridge asked the question twice. �What vicar?� You replied, �The comic vicar� .Ruxbridge re-checked, �The comic vicar?�

If Britain has a �comic vicar to the nation�, that is her problem. However, it is reasonable to ask the British nation to keep its �comic vicar� rather than encourage travel all over the world to inflict damage which could cost hundreds of lives of defenceless people, because of rash and irresponsible comments which can be, indeed have been, picked up and acted on by despots and despotic regimes.

Where I stand

I am the Patron of the Campaign for Truth and Justice founded in London last year. I enclose my letter to your Prime Minister Tony Blair, which was supported by a petition signed by some 3,000 people in your capital, and handed over to 10 Downing Street. I suggest that you read it. It sets out where I stand and why. It also summarises Britain�s responsibility in creating and perpetuating this mess.

At a personal level, as a Christian I am too committed to my faith to allow the irresponsible and inflammatory comments of the leader of my Church to get between me and my God. What you have succeeded in doing is to distance me from the Christian establishment. You, Archbishop Rowan Williams, are the Spiritual Leader of some 77 million Anglican Christians in the world. You can review that figure downward to �77 million minus one�. Actually, two, since another Christian, the US Human rights lawyer, Karen Parker, writes, �So this is what the Church of England stands for? Remind me never to go there�. Be assured that many more will join us.

An apology and a retraction

As I have said, an unqualified apology to the Tamil and Muslim people in the North and East is not an option but is mandatory, if you are to retain any credibility and, what is more important, if the Christian Church is not to suffer serious damage.

You can undo at least some of the damage that you have done by contacting the BBC Sinhala service, retracting what you have said, and asking that it be widely disseminated. You can do the same with the Church in Sri Lanka, some of whose members are now trying to mount an exercise in �cover-upism� rather than tender an apology on your behalf.

The fall-out

There will undoubtedly be a fall-out from your comments, as the brutal regime in Colombo, now with the tacit approval of the Head of the Christian Church, goes on an accelerated genocidal campaign to deliver the �undoubtedly inevitable� �.�surgical military action� ��which �should take place� . As the resultant bombs and rockets fall on a helpless people, they might modify what the dying Christ said, �Father forgive him, but he knew, or should have known, what he was doing�.

I shed a tear for my Tamil and Muslim people who are mere KFir jet fodder to a ruthless regime backed by international players, which now includes my Anglican Church, whose agenda has nothing to do with peace or justice in Sri Lanka.

Yours faithfully.

Brian Senewiratne

  "surgical military action" ... in streaming video: The White Van - Vaharai Tamil Refugees  - Tear Drops ... and in stills...

Padahuthurai, 2 January 2007

Killinochchi, 2 November 2006

Vaharai 8 November 2006

Vallipunam, 14 August 2006
in Streaming Video

Muthur, 5 August 2006

Pessalai, 19 June 2006

Vankalai - 8 June 2006

Muthur, 25 April 2006

Welikande/Batticaloa, 20 January 2006

Trincomalee, 12 April 2006

Punguduthivu, 18 December 2005

  The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe, Bishop of Kurunagala & The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera Bishop of Colombo write to TamilNet, 22 May 2007

We express our concern that the report titled �Archbishop accepts Colombo�s military action� conveys a misleading impression of the real stance of the Archbishop of Canterbury and what he stated at his media conference on Thursday 10 May 2007, at which we were both present.

Your report singles out a sentence from a statement he made without reference to the sentence that preceded it and the words that followed it. The Archbishop stated the following-

�The military solution to the problems of the country increasingly appear to be no solution. It is undoubtedly inevitable that what you might call �surgical� military action against terrorism should take place but we all hope and pray that it will lead not to desolation, victory for one and defeat for another, but to an opening of communication, a reestablishment of the possibility for civil societies to develop.�

Here, whilst acknowledging that government forces will react to attacks, the Archbishop is questioning whether such a military response was justified unless it had the clear aim of enhancing the possibility of dialogue amongst both sides. He then went on to stress the importance of addressing the underlying causes of tension and the need for a negotiated political solution to the island�s ethnic conflict. The Archbishop�s comments about military action were certain not an endorsement of but rather an observation on the present reality in Sri Lanka. The Archbishop�s views were consistent with his well known views on war which led him to critique the British Government�s intervention in Iraq.

The Archbishop�s position at the media conference, taken as a whole, made it clear that he was opposed to any military solution to the island�s ethnic conflict and that he was very concerned about human rights violations, child conscription and the problems faced by internally displaced persons. He emphasized the need for engagement with those outside the political process. At no point at the media conference did he �accept Colombo�s military action,� or condone it. The Archbishop consistently maintained this position at meetings he had with a cross-section of political, religious and civil society leaders and groups that he met while in Sri Lanka, including the meetings with the President and the Leader of the Opposition.

We shall be grateful if you will please give adequate publicity to this statement of clarification, which will help to provide your readership with a more accurate description of the proceedings of the media conference as well as of the clear and consistent stance taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury. We trust that this clarification will also address the pain that the news report has caused many persons who read your report.

Comment by tamilnation.org

That the Archbishop should be concerned to limit the damage and pain caused by his remarks on 10 May 2007 is understandable - and in some ways welcome. But the letter by The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe, Bishop of Kurunagala & The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera Bishop of Colombo raises additional concerns. They are right to point out that the Archbishop's statement "it is undoubtedly inevitable that what you might call 'surgical'  military action against terrorism should take place" must be placed in context. They point out that the  statement appears in the following  paragraph -

�The military solution to the problems of the country increasingly appear to be no solution. It is undoubtedly inevitable that what you might call �surgical� military action against terrorism should take place but we all hope and pray that it will lead not to desolation, victory for one and defeat for another, but to an opening of communication, a reestablishment of the possibility for civil societies to develop.�

The Archbishop of Canterbury was right to say  that 'the military solution to the problems of the country increasingly appear to be no solution.'  However, (in the interests of contextual accuracy), it would have been helpful if the Archbishop had also placed the 'problems of the country' in proper context and had made reference to the fifty year record of ethnic cleansing by Sri Lanka that had given rise to the armed resistance of the people of Tamil Eelam. He may have also usefully drawn the attention of his audience to the remarks of a fellow countryman, Paul Sieghart Q.C., Chairman of British Justice in 1984  "Communal riots in which Tamils are killed, maimed, robbed and rendered homeless are no longer isolated episodes; they are beginning to become a pernicious habit." [see 1956, 1958, 1961, 1974, 1977 and 1983]

Be that as it may,  the  use of inverted commas ("surgical") in the written transcript in the letter by the Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe & the Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera  suggests that the Archbishop of Canterbury would like to distance himself from the word  �surgical�. At the same time, the question will remain in many Tamil minds whether the Archbishop communicated that 'distance' in the oral comments broadcast by the BBC Sinhala Service and heard by Dr. Brian Senewiratne. Did the Archbishop take care, for instance, to say "open quote - surgical - close quote"? 

Having said that, let us go on. What were these 'surgical strikes'  (with or without quotes) that the Archbishop had in mind when he spoke about their 'undoubted inevitability'?  Did 'surgical strikes' (with or without quotes) include Padahuthurai, Vallipunam, Pessalai, Killinochchi, Muthur amongst others? And why did the Archbishop regard such strikes as 'undoubtedly inevitable'?  By suggesting that it was 'inevitable' that  'surgical' military action  'should take place against terrorism' was he not encouraging the continuance of such 'surgical' action? After all not much can be done about the 'inevitable' except perhaps to hope and pray - and that is what the Archbishop goes on to suggest that we do -

"..we all hope and pray that it (the 'surgical' strikes) will lead not to desolation, victory for one and defeat for another, but to an opening of communication, a reestablishment of the possibility for civil societies to develop.."

That which the Archbishop signally failed to do was to condemn these 'surgical' strikes  (with or without quotes). He failed to condemn Sri Lanka's state terrorism. If he had done so he may have helped in some small way to reduce the suffering of the people of Tamil Eelam. But he did not.

Having failed to condemn Sri Lanka's state terrorism,  the Archbishop asserts that these 'surgical strikes'  (with or without quotes) were against 'terrorism'. The Archbishop fails to pay attention to the words of UN Special Rapporteur, Kalliopi K. Koufa in his Final Report on Terrorism and Human Rights in 25 June 2004 that "the most problematic issue relating to terrorism and armed conflict is distinguishing terrorists from lawful combatants ".  The Archbishop fails to pay attention to the words of David Tucker in  Skirmishes at the Edge of Empire quoted by Lord Carlile in his Report on the Definition of Terrorism  - Presented to UK Parliament in March 2007

�Above the gates of hell is the warning that all that enter should abandon hope. Less dire but to the same effect is the warning given to those who try to define terrorism�

The Archbishop is content to speak of terrorism without seeking to draw a distinction between terrorism and lawful armed conflict. If he had,   he may have taken greater care to avoid offending the sensibilities of a suffering people and refrained from glibly dismissing their struggle for freedom from alien rule as terrorism.

Finally, there is one other matter. The Archbishop hopes and prays for the "reestablishment of the possibility for civil societies to develop" in the island of Sri Lanka. The power of 'hopes and prayers' is  not to be dismissed but at the same time, the Archbishop would have made a  meaningful, concrete and immediate contribution towards resolving the conflict in the island of Sri Lanka if he had addressed the brutal reality which has prevented 'the possibility for civil societies to develop' in the island of Sri Lanka for more than fifty years. Here, he may want to pay careful attention to the words of Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen in Oslo on 21 May 2007 (where he delivered the Spring Lecture on Poverty, War and Peace, at the Nobel Institute) -

"Sri Lanka successfully implemented a number of welfare programmes such as free education, free health etc., to its people which should have contributed to peace in that country. But, by taking a position of upholding exclusive status to Buddhism and Sinhalese, it isolated other sections of the society from having a sense of national identity. Now, there is no likelihood that the Sri Lankan state will go back from that position. Sri Lanka didn�t realize the richness in plurality "

It would have been helpful if the Archbishop of Canterbury had taken the opportunity of his visit to Sri  Lanka to remind his Sinhala Sri Lankan hosts that a 'civil Sri Lankan society'  will not be established by the suppression of one nation by another - and that it will not come by a dominant Sinhala Buddhist ethno-nationalism seeking to masquerade as a  'civic Sri Lankan nation'. It is unfortunate (and, indeed, a matter of concern) that the Archbishop of Canterbury failed to do so.


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