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"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 by Sachi Sri Kantha > Pharisees of Eelam

Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)
- the Pharisees of Eelam

26 September 2000

...for they preach, but do not practice...You blind Pharisee!  first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean...

Whenever I read the scribbling of the pompously named, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) which appear regularly in the paper print and electronic print, I visualise the Pharisees mentioned in the Holy Bible. The New Testament (chapter Matthew) has  some choice words on Pharisees, which I reproduce below:

"Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice."

Further below these lines, appear the following admonition.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean." [ Matthew 23.1-25]

The Biblical Pharisees were a law unto themselves. They were one of the three prominent societies of Judaism at the time of Christ, and by far the most influential. The New Compact Bible Dictionary (edited by T.Alton Bryant, Zondervan Publishing House, 1977) provides succinct information about the these Pharisees as follows:

"They became a closely organised group, very loyal to the society and to each other, but separate from others, even their own people. They pledged themselves to obey all facets of the traditions to the minutest detail and were sticklers for ceremonial purity. They even vowed to pay tithes of everything they possessed in addition to the temple tax. They would not touch the carcass of a dead animal or those who had come into contact with such things. They had no association with people who had been defiled through sickness.

In truth, they made life difficult for themselves and bitter for others. They despised those whom they did not consider their equals and were haughty and arrogant because they believed they were the only interpreters of God and His Word."

Those who carry the flag under the banner, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) seem to show similar character traits of Biblical Pharisees.

The New Compact Bible Dictionary also states that, "According to Josephus, their [Pharisees] number at their zenith of popularity was more than 6,000."

But the Pharisees of Eelam can be counted in one palm. Jesus has denunciated strongly the practice of Pharisaism in Matthew (Chapter 23) and specifically provides a list of their sins.

Now let me comment on the Pharisees of Eelam. They are in the process of scribbling a revisionist history of Eelam. It is this pretension of theirs as the self-anointed scribes of contemporary Eelam history which I find difficult to digest. In their latest lengthy scribble (Information Bulletin No.24, date of release: Sept.7, 2000), the Pharisees of Eelam have something to say under the caption, '25 years after Duraiappah'. In an amnesiac mood of the events of early 1970s, they extol the virtues of former Jaffna mayor Alfred Duraiappah. According to their scribble, Duraiappah

"may not have represented any great principle or ideal in politics. But he had one great virtue, he was a killer neither in private life nor in politics. He did not aspire to lead the Tamil people, nor did he care to project himself outside the Jaffna electorate...It suited him to have government patronage to pass on and so he aligned himself with the SLFP...He catered to people who wanted life to go on and the people had that choice by right."

Of course, Jaffna Tamils knew what Duraiappah then stood for. Even if one accepts for the sake of argument that Duraiappah was not a killer, whom did he align himself with? - the SLFP state machinery, which in the early 1970s (as even now!) has been a killer, by any human rights criterion. Why have the Pharisees of Eelam omitted the raw fact that the SLFP state machinery killed over 15,000 Sinhalese youths in 1971 insurgency? And what the SLFP regime did in 1970s to the Tamil youth in the Eelam region has also been recorded for posterity. As opposed to the selective regurgitation of Eelam history by the Pharisees of Eelam, Prof. A.J.Wilson in his book, S.J.V. Chelvanayagam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism (1994) has noted the following on Duraiappah's murder.

"This political killing did not meet with universal abhorrence; on the contrary, many Tamils had disapproved of Durayappah's activities on behalf of the SLFP. During this phase the police arrested a number of Tamil youths on suspicion and kept them for long periods in detention where they were subjected to torture. They were to be the indispensable forward troops of the future militant Tamil insurgency."

The Pharisees of Eelam observe uncritically that Duraiappah "catered to people who wanted life to go on and the people had that choice by right."

Funny, that the law enforcement arm of SLFP to which Duraiappah was tacking his stars did not comprehend that Tamil youth had a right to life, unhampered by torture. If only Duraiappah had used his charm skilfully on the law enforcement arm of SLFP to save Tamil youth from state terror, one can be sure that he need not have lost his life prematurely.

It was also an open secret among Jaffna Tamils that Duraiappah, in his role as an SLFP organizer in Jaffna, behaved like a pimp, in both literal and figurative senses. The then crown prince of SLFP (Anura Bandaranaike) was invited to Jaffna and entertained lavishly, on the orders of Duraiappah. But the Pharisees of Eelam now paint an innocent image of Duraiappah, by varnishing truth. While anguishing on the tragic death of Duraiappah, these Pharisees of Eelam do not bother to comprehend why the Tamil youths of 1970s came to hate the then Sirimavo Bandaranaike-led SLFP regime, which Duraiappah chose to pander for his selfish needs.

One only hopes that when an impartial future history of Tamil Eelam is written, the dark portrayals scribed in reams by the current Pharisees of Eelam, and circulated by the adversaries of Eelam with glee, will be tossed into the waste bin.


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