THE MADU CHURCH FEAST
(1999 July 07)
Mr. D. B. S. Jeyaraj has written yet another piece on Madu. In an article entitled "Hidden Dangers of the Madhu Church Feast" written to the "Midweek Review" of 30th June, Mr. Jeyaraj repeats some of his pet theories on the LTTE, Madu Church, Dalada Maligawa etc., even after they have been demolished. The repetition of statements even after they have been shown to be incorrect has been a feature in the literature on the so-called Tamil cause. The Tamils, who write on the so-called ethnic problem, have an advantage over the Sinhala people. The Tamil propaganda machinery has been successful in propagating the myth that there is a group of Tamil writers who have been identified by the media and the "scholars" as balanced authors. There is no such group among the Sinhala people. They are either Chauvinists or enlightened scholars.
In this article I wish to discuss the above-mentioned article by Mr. Jeyaraj and an interview given by Bishop Rayappu Joseph to the Sunday Times of 27th June. Mr. Jeyaraj in his article points out the risks that the Sinhala Catholics would have to take if they were to go to Madu this year after a lapse of more than ten years. The government may have been interested in seeing that many Sinhala pilgrims went to Madu this year due to political reasons. However it cannot be denied that due to the military operations under the present government the Sinhala Catholics are now in a position to go to Madu after a long period. There is nothing wrong if the government claims credit for that achievement, which after all is a fact. Why should we prevent the government from taking credit for what they have done? Has the government politicised Madu by making way for the Sinhala Catholics to attend the feast? It was the LTTE, which politicised Madu by having their camps in the vicinity of the church.
Mr. Jeyaraj, it appears that, unlike the government is very much concerned with the lives of the Sinhala Catholics. He says: " The problem in this situation however is the potential danger that may possibly await unsuspecting pilgrims from the South. There is a necessity on the part of responsible persons to alert the ordinary people to the prevailing insecurity instead of allowing a cold bloodedly calculating regime to display a callous disregard towards safety of citizens and expose them to possible harm." The Sinhala Catholics who have known the LTTE from the days of Nayaru and Kokilai cannot be fooled by a government or any other body to risk their lives. They will take a decision on their own as to when to go to Madu, but why should the Tamil Bishops and a few Sinhala clergy try to interfere with their decision? Why should they discourage the Sinhala Catholics from going to the Madu feast? It is clear that there is a campaign launched by various interested parties to prevent the Sinhala people from going to Madu, thinking that it will reverse the process of Tamilisation of Madu, which is close to the heart of the so-called moderates as well.
Mr. Jeyaraj approvingly quotes the interview given by Bishop Rayappu Joseph to "The Sunday Times". The Bishop has said, "Unlike in the past, this year we have to be mindful of the two adversaries. That is why we made an appeal to both the Army and the LTTE to respect the concern of the church. Not a drop of blood should be shed and if it happens I would cancel even hundred feasts. .....All should realise that this is a spiritual event." Mr. Jeyaraj then adds: "Due to certain constraints the Bishop seems unable to be forthright but it is possible by reading between the lines to discern what the Bishop seems worried about very much and yet does not state explicitly. What the Bishop is concerned about, and very correctly so, is the safety of the people attending the Feasts at our Lady of Madhu Church." Now it is a good thing that people are worried about the safety of the pilgrims who attend the feast. But is that all the good Bishop is worried about?
When the Bishop was questioned on the chances of normalcy returning to the Madhu area this is what he has said. " As long as the Army remains in the area, it is difficult to think of normalcy. The Church has been appealing to the government and the LTTE to make the Madhu area a peace zone. But there is not much interest shown by the President or the Army. The Government talks of peace and normalcy but little is done." The Bishop has also been asked the question "You are living in an area where people talk of LTTE moves. Are the Tigers willing to give up their armed struggle and enter into negotiations or do they want to fight on?" His answer is revealing. The Bishop has said: "Fundamentally they want peace. But the same time they won't give up the struggle. The LTTE wants the government to accept some basic concepts, such as equality, respect, and acceptance. Negotiations have to be conducted on an equal footing. The Government has to realise that they cannot weaken the LTTE and then thrust upon them a solution. The LTTE will never accept that." In answer to the question "Do you think that foreign mediation will help solve the crisis" the Bishop says: "Third party mediation is definitely needed at this point."
Now one does not have to read between the lines nor has to quote the many statements the Bishop has made on previous occasions to find out what he means. Anyway this is not the first time that the Bishop has given testimonials to the LTTE. He has always maintained that the LTTE is for peace. Even if one were to agree with the Bishop that the government only talks peace, can one agree with the statement that the LTTE wants peace. It is true that Anton Balasingham is in London to look for a mediator and is expected to go to South Africa in search of one. But what is he really after? What does the LTTE mean by peace? Peace in the abstract has no meaning. One has to say explicitly what one means by peace. If the LTTE is really after peace and if the Bishop does not want any pilgrims being hurt all that the Bishop has to do is to ask the LTTE to lay down arms and what the LTTE has to do is to comply with the request without any protest. Then there will be peace and the Sinhala Catholics would be able to go to Madu without worrying about taking any risks. But the Bishop is not prepared to do that. He talks of third parties. Why third party mediations? The Bishop talks of equality respect and acceptance. Respect for whom? Is it foe a bunch of murderers who are capable of killing the Sinhala Catholics if they attend the Madu feast? The Bishop can respect them, but surely not the government. We all know that the LTTE as well as all the other Tamil racist parties are unanimous on the Thimpu conditions. The Tamil racists want the government to agree to these conditions before any negotiations begin. The Bishop can rest assured that even if the entire western world force the government to negotiate with the LTTE by accepting these conditions the Sinhala people will not allow the government to do so. The government knows that more than the Bishops and the ambassadors of the western countries. The acceptance of Thimpu conditions means agreeing to a confederation. Even if the government is interested in weakening the LTTE and then to "thrust upon them" a "solution", the Sinhala people, not the NGO variety, will not agree to that. What is the problem that has to be solved? The problem is due to Tamil racism. LTTE terrorism is only an aspect of Tamil racism. The solution to the problem is to defeat the LTTE militarily and Tamil racism politically.
The Bishop does not want the army in the vicinity of the church. He has requested the Army to withdraw and as a result the Army is now about a mile away from the Madu church. However apparently the soldiers go to the church for water and according to the Bishop "when ten or fifteen armed soldiers hang around the area it is going to be a problem." Now what do the Bishop and Mr. Jeyaraj who quotes the Bishop approvingly and expresses similar sentiments want the army to do? Earlier before the army moved in to the church area the LTTE cadres were there. Whether they carried arms or not they were there. They were involved with the refugees and the presence of the refugees in Madu gave the LTTE terrorists a cover to be present in the area. It is also very likely that some terrorists pretended to be refugees. No wonder that the army had to resettle the refugees in other camps in the region. No body would object if the Bishop, the church, Tamil diaspora and even others took an interest in the welfare of the refugees in their new surroundings.
The Bishop in response to a question has said: "The senior LTTE members never visited the Church premises armed. It was only the lower cadres. Whenever we saw the cadres armed we complained to their leaders and they never came again." Now this means that before the Army moved in the LTTE cadres had come to the Madu church armed and whenever that happened the Bishop or his representative had complained and the those cadres had not come again. But that does not mean that there were no more visits by the armed LTTE cadres. A new set of terrorists would have come armed and "whenever" that happened the Bishop complained to the LTTE. So the LTTE would have made its presence with armed cadres, though not with the same set, right through out. Quite apart from the armed terrorists there would have been many unarmed cadres, especially working among the refugees. The Bishop has maintained a deafening silence about that type of activities. Now after the army moved in and especially after the refugees were taken away the LTTE cadres both armed and unarmed had to leave the area. The Bishop does not seem to like the new situation. He would have preferred the old pattern where he made a formal complaint about the armed cadres to the LTTE, the LTTE calling them back and sending a new batch of terrorists for the Bishop to complain again after some time. This seems to be the normalcy he is thinking about and as he says, "as long as the Army remains in the area, it is difficult to think of normalcy". The Bishop is now unable to make his occasional compliant to the LTTE and he seems to be unhappy about the tern of events.
Let us assume that the Bishop is thinking of some other kind of normalcy. In order to find out what this other normalcy is, let us suppose the army is withdrawn as requested by the Bishop. One does not happen to be an NGO scholar to speculate on the outcome of the exercise. The terrorists would come back and the Bishop would have the satisfaction of making his occasional complaints to the LTTE. What about the Sinhala Catholics who would like to go on pilgrimage to Madu? They would have to wait till there is a change from the normalcy according to the Bishop. What the Bishop as well as Mr. Jeyaraj should not forget is that it is the LTTE that politicised Madu. Mr. Jeyaraj in a previous article also had said that the Madu church premise was an oasis in a desert of LTTE control. As I have said in my article "The Army in Madu" if there was a desert of army control then it was left to the army to defeat the LTTE and open the roads to the Madu church for the Sinhala Catholics as well. Mr. Jeyaraj seems to say that if the LTTE is defeated then there won't be a desert and without a desert there cannot be an oasis. Therefore to maintain the oasis one has to maintain the desert! He does not want to force the LTTE to desert the desert. He is happy with the LTTE desert and keeping the Sinhala Catholics away from the desert and consequently from the church. The Sinhala Catholics would not be in a position to go to the Oasis, as they have to pass the desert on their way. If the LTTE had not politicised the church by having a desert around it the army would not have moved in. The army had to move in because of the LTTE but Mr. Jeyaraj accuses the government and the army for being responsible for politicising the church. Nobody can object to the army having camps in the vicinity of the Madu church or anywhere else if the army thinks it is necessary to do so in the interests of the country and its people. The Madu church is part of Sri Lanka and in the process of defeating the LTTE terrorists the army has moved into that area. Madu church is not the only religious place in Sri Lanka close to which the army is present. If the LTTE were to attack the church or the pilgrims then it is more the reason why this group of murderers has to be defeated. Asking the army to withdraw on the pretext that the LTTE will attack the church will only encourage the terrorists.
In connection with Madu, Mr. Jeyaraj is not tired of repeating that the Dalada Maligawa was politicised when the government decided to hold the 50th anniversary celebrations of independence at Kandy. Though Mr. Jeyraj is careful enough to say that it does not justify the LTTE attack on the Dalada Maligawa, by repeating this statement he gives credence to the tale that by deciding to have the independence celebrations at Kandy the government had politicised the Dalada Maligawa. In this connection let me repeat what I have already said on this in a previous article. "If the LTTE attacks the Church then without trying to find arguments to justify their action, the government, the army and the people should be more and more determined to defeat the LTTE. There are some people who justify the attack of the LTTE on the Dalada Maligawa saying that the Maligawa was politicised by using it for the 50th anniversary celebrations of independence. These people are either ignorant of history or are trying to dissociate Buddhism from the history of the country. The udarata convention was signed in 1815 in the Magul Maduwa and the Dalada Maligawa has been associated with the history of the country from the Anuradhapura period. There is a tradition according to which the protector of the sacred relic of Tooth is the ruler of the country. For those who believe that we have won complete independence in 1948, the Dalada Maligawa premises is the most suitable place to have the celebrations in connection with the 50th anniversary of independence. The LTTE attacked the Dalada Maligawa not due to any politicisation of the sacred place but because they were determined to attack places of significance to the Sinhala Buddhist history and culture of the country. Those who are justifying the action of the LTTE would say that the LTTE attacked the Sri Maha Bodhiya also because of politicisation. In a sense these places are politicised, as they are associated with the kings and the people in the history of the country. In that sense the Westminster Abbey is also politicised. After all the coronation of the British kings and queens take place inside the Abbey. What will the Christian world do if the Catholic I. R. A. attack the Westminster Abbey of the Anglicans under the pretext that the Abbey is politicised?"
Now why is Mr. Jeyaraj worried about the army moving in and making way for the Sinhala pilgrims to go to Madu? He says: "Consequent to the dispel of Tamil refugees from Madhu and the establishment of army camps in the vicinity there is also a rising fear among many Tamils that Madhu church and its environs may be gradually "Sinhalised". ...Thus there is a fear that as in the case of the holiest Hindu shrine in the island Kathirgamam becoming 'Kataragama' Madhu the holiest Catholic shrine too may become 'Maduwa' in due course". The cat has jumped out of the bag. All these talks about humanity, respect for the Bishop are only to cover up the main concern. The Tamils according to Mr. Jeyaraj are worried about a Sinhalisation of Madu. I am told by some Sinhala Catholics that the mass at the Madu church was not held in Sinhala sometime ago. They also remember how the Sinhala pilgrims were treated at Madu not so long ago. The Tamils are indeed concerned of a so-called Sinhalisation of Madu, which is nothing but giving the rightful place to Sinhala. Mr. Jeyaraj conveniently forgets that Madu was originally a place of worship of the Sinhala people and like most of the other places were Tamilised later. Mr. Jeyaraj refers to Valigamam in his article without realising that originally even this area, in the peninsula which is further to the north of Madu, was Valigama. If he is interested he can read Fr. Gnanapragasar, whom by any means cannot be branded as a Sinhala Chauvinist, on the place names in the north. The most hilarious aspect in this regard is the reference to Kataragama. Mr. Jeyaraj is under the impression that Kataragama is derived from Kathirgamam. The historical facts prove the opposite. The Mahavansaya , which was written in the 5th century A.D., long before there were any Tamil settlements in the country, refers to Kataragama in Chapter 19. The stanza 53 of that chapter mentions that the Kshatriyas from Kajaraggama (Pali version of Kataragama) were present at the ceremony in connection with the planting of the sacred Bo Tree in Anuradhapura. Stanza 61 of the same chapter says that one of the eight Bo saplings (Ashta pala Bodhi) from the sacred Bo Tree was planted in Kataragama. As there were no Tamils in Kataragama in the 5th century A.D., it is absurd to claim that Kataragama is derived from Kathirgamam. I am told that in Tamil, village is Ur and not gamam or kamam and that the gamams in Tamil are in general derived from gama and not the other way round as claimed by Mr. Jeyaraj. It is of interest to mention that originally the god worshipped by the Sinhala people at Kataragama was Mahasen and that the king Dutugemunu himself on his way to Anuradhapura to meet Elara had made a vow at the Mahasen Devala (not kovil) at Kataragama. God Skandha is a later addition and the Sinhala Buddhist culture is such that the two gods are now amalgamated into one god as in the case of gods Vishnu and Upulvan. What is clear from the article of Mr. Jeyaraj is that he is also interested in trying to prevent the Sinhala people and their culture and history being given the rightful place, hiding behind concepts such as Sinhalisation of Madhu.