Sri Lankan update:
from information supplied by Aru Rajeevan, the president of the Tamil Co-ordinating Committee Australia Inc (NGO providing humanitarian and medical assistance to the people in the North East of Sri Lanka):
We wish to draw your urgent attention to the second kidnapping of five more aid workers (10 in total) belonging to the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), a registered Tamil charity in Sri Lanka. The military-backed paramilitary group is suspected of having kidnapped these 10 relief workers in eastern Sri Lanka.
We plead with the international community to make representations to the Sri Lankan Government , which is accountable in the government-controlled areas of the island to secure the release of these aid workers, and to the Australian Government to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to secure the immediate release of the kidnap victims and to ensure the safety of other aid workers in Sri Lanka operating in the North East.
Stop the spiral of violence
Christian leaders plead for peace with justice amid fears of a resumption of full-scale hostilities…
The people of this country must take serious note that the culture of violence is spreading dangerously and indiscriminately. No one seems to be able to stop the spiral of killing for killing. No one even takes responsibility for wanting to stop this trend. Different but equally tragic incidents are reported almost daily from various parts of the country, and the North and East in particular. As if by design, the centre shifts from Jaffna, to Colombo, to Batticaloa, to Mannar, and now after a period of some calm, to Trincomalee.
The recent deaths of young students in Trincomalee have filled the hearts of people with deep sorrow and even indignation. Some newspapers reported that the post mortem verdict stated that they had died of gunshot injuries. Other versions claim that they died of a hand grenade explosion. The truth will emerge only through an independent commission acceptable to all parties. But whatever the truth, this heinous act that has snuffed the lives of young men in their prime must be condemned without reservation by all just and peace loving persons.
These were Sri Lankan young men who died in an area under the control of the Government of Sri Lanka. Consequently we welcome the decision of the President to inquire into these killings. We urge that this inquiry be comprehensive and that the families, friends and teachers of these young men as well as competent forensic experts be heard and the public informed of its findings. For a start the post mortem report should be released. Such immediate and impartial action brings some sense of justice to loved ones who can never be fully compensated for their loss. To know how and why their sons were killed helps the process of mourning and healing.
An equally heinous act that requires unreserved condemnation is the very recent attack on the naval craft off the Trincomalee coast that has taken the lives of at least 13 sailors. This is a blatant violation of the Cease Fire Agreement and the LTTE simply cannot disclaim responsibility for this and the recent spate of killings that have taken the lives of scores of service personnel. We appreciate the overall restraint shown thus far by the Services and urge that they and the Government of Sri Lanka would continue this trend, in spite of the recurring and highly provocative nature of these attacks.
We reiterate and totally agree with the several voices that have condemned all killings whether innocent civilians, service personnel, LTTE cadres or cadres of other groups. We similarly call for an end to these continuing and senseless killings in our country. The killing of any human is a judgment on us all. Whatever the rationale or ideology, any killing is an indication of our failure to live with differences and our inability to find a non-violent, inclusive and civilised way to deal with grievance and conflict. We are sorry that decades of bloodshed, deprivation and suffering have not provided the counter spirituality and resolve to respect human life and the dignity of our brothers and sisters of the other ethnic group, religion or political ideology.
We implore the President and all leaders of political parties and the leader of the LTTE to take immediate steps to stop this spiral of violence, and in the name of our common humanity to announce their stance and the action they propose taking. Since this will only bring interim relief, we also urge them to address the location stalemate and sit at the peace table without delay. To be magnanimous generally is a quality of leadership; to be magnanimous in conflict and animosity is a sign of Statespersonship. Magnanimity alone will provide the compromise required of all sides if this stalemate is to be broken.
We assure the leaders and people of this country of our unstinted support and prayers in these endeavours.
Heads of Churches
Catholic Bishops’ Conference: Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando, Bishop of Kandy and Conference President; Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar and Conference Vice President; Most Rev. Dr. Oswald Gomis, Archbishop of Colombo; Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus Fernando, Bishop of Chilaw; Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Savundranayagam, Bishop of Jaffna; Rt. Rev. Dr. Kingsley Swamipillai, Bishop of Trincomalee/Batticaloa; Rt. Rev. Dr. Raymond Peiris, Bishop of Kurunegala; Rt. Rev. Dr. Marius Peiris, Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo; Rt. Rev. Dr. Winston Fernando, Bishop of Badulla; Rt. Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony, Bishop of Galle; Rt. Rev. Dr. Norbert Andradi, Bishop of Anuradhapura; Rt. Rev. Dr. Valence Mendis, Coadjutor Bishop of Chilaw; Very Rev. Fr. Damian Fernando, Administrator, Diocese of Ratnapura
Heads of Churches of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka:
Rev Kingsley Perera, President, Sri Lanka Baptist Sangamaya and Chairperson, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka; Rt. Rev Kumara Illangasinghe, Bishop of Kurunagala; Rt. Rev Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo; Rev. W P Ebenezer Joseph, President, Methodist Church; Rev. C N Jansz, President, Dutch Reformed Church; Rev. K Piyadasa, Moderator, Presbyterian Church; Rev. P R Navendrananugoolan, Moderator’s Commissary, Church of South India – Jaffna Diocese; Colonel Roy Frans, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army; Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris, General Secretary, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka.
Cardinal calls on the common humanity to bring peace
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor also has called for all parties to seek a political solution:
“I want to reiterate, with the bishops of Sri Lanka, the need for a united state with maximum devolution, and equality, justice and democracy for all the communities of the island. Only a just and peaceful settlement will bring to an end the tensions in Sri Lanka and the sufferings inflicted at the hands of military and militarised forces. I therefore call on all parties to recall the awareness after the tsunami of the common humanity of all Sri Lankans, whether Singhalese or Tamil, and to make a new effort for peace. In the wake of that disaster Sri Lankans put aside their differences for the sake of their common humanity. I hope and pray they can do so again.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor visited Sri Lanka over the Christmas-New Year period for a tour of tsunami-affected areas, including the mainly Tamil Batticaloa and Ampara districts on the east coast. Talks will be held in Geneva this month between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil LTTE