by Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole
Letter to the Editor
(January 11, Washington, Sri Lanka Guardian) At a time when Sri Lanka is rent by Sinhalese-Tamil communalism, I was aghast to read a poorly informed, unsupportable and malicious diatribe on Jaffna Tamil Anglicans by Mr. Lenin Benedict who has been cited elsewhere as the Secretary of the Canadian Democratic Tamil Cultural Association (CDTCA) based in Toronto (Link to article).
Communalism in any form must be put down wherever it raises its ugly head. Communalism is usually based on poor information that is eagerly believed by those infected by it, as the unfortunate Lenin Benedict has done in his article:
1) S.J.V. Chelvanayagam was not an Anglican as claimed but a member of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India. In point of fact, his membership was at the CSI’s Tellippalai Parish. He went to Anglican schools like many Hindus do, but that does not make him an Anglican. He might have attended services at other Churches as many of us Christians do. SJV would have done so in attending chapel at school and other occasions when away from his parish church; that too does not make him an Anglican. It seems that Mr. Benedict had to make Mr. Chelvanayagam into an Anglican to make his article fit his uncontrolled passions.
2) The Federal Party, as far as I know, had no Anglican MP but had Roman Catholic MPs like Naganathan (Nallur), Xavier (Jaffna) and Alahakone (Mannar). This does not make the federalist cause Roman Catholic and it would be wrong to make the case based on this that the Roman Catholics (presumably like Mr. Benedict) were trying to stay on in power by being federalists. Such Christian MPs were always in minority in the party. Indeed, the majority of federalist MPs being Hindu does not make federalism a Hindu cause.
3) It is claimed that Mr. Chelvanayagam started “advocating for an Independent Tamil State in Sri Lanka for Tamils under the British Administration”. Slander! SJV asked only for federalism and that only after the Citizenship Act that came after independence. Where did he ask for continuing colonialism? His advocacy of an independent Tamil nation was at Vadduoddai and he never wanted this Eelam to be a British colony.
4) Mr. Benedict says “the Tamil youths, without knowing the hidden agenda of these Anglicans, sacrificed their precious life for nothing but to keep these Anglicans in power.” By the time Tamil youths began dying in large numbers, SJV who was not an Anglican was dead and gone. By 1984 Anglicans had by and large migrated to countries like Canada. In any case, by the time of the Vaddukodai resolution, SJV was merely a nominal head. By the time of the first large scale death of Tamil youth (I mean 6 or more at a time) in 1979 under the “Bull” Weeratunge rule of Jaffna, SJV had been dead 2 years and there was no Anglican in the Federal Party to be kept in power.
5) It is both interesting and informative that Mr. Benedict, himself having fled to Canada, blames Anglicans who he says have “never stayed in Jaffna with the ordinary Tamil civilians.”
6) Mr. Benedict goes on to write “Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which always harp on the Government of Sri Lanka, whenever and wherever possible, also fund these Anglicans. … Monetary support to continue higher education and Ph.D.s to this elite group are a tools [sic.] used to control this [sic.] elite Anglicans by their masters.” I think I know personally the few Jaffna Tamil Anglicans who have PhDs. I state that all of them won scholarships through the universities at which they studied based on their academic credentials. Let Mr. Benedict name one Jaffna Tamil Anglican who was funded for his PhD for the political reasons he imagines. The rare Church scholarship is reserved for priests and mission school principals to enrich their work for the Church. AI and HRW do not have such massive funds as required for doctoral studies and run on relatively shoe-string budgets and mainly volunteer labour.
7) The article claims “As of LTTE [sic.] they are a known visible enemy. But we Sri Lankans have to be very careful with an invisible enemy, who live with us pretending to be one amongst us, but in fact carry out a mission against the people of Sri Lanka and the democratically elected Government of Sri Lanka. We have to identify these elements … and nip it [sic.] in the bud itself.” Democratically elected when the people of the North were not being allowed to vote? It seems that the Tamil right and the Sinhalese right meet at some point. And nip us in the bud? Like Lasantha Wickrematunga was nipped?
Mr. Lenin Benedict celebrates through his name the great thoughts of Lenin who had sympathies for minorities, and the memories, traditions and faith of Saint Benedict, the founder of western Christian monasticism. It would be better for Mr. Lenin Benedict to live up to his name instead of writing very imaginative and dangerous fiction based on petty jealousies against a minority within the Sri Lankan Christian community.
Indeed, it is not good for the name of the CDTCA to be sullied by the primitive, communalist and perhaps even murderous instincts of its Secretary. It is odd that this article should appear at a time when the JHU is reviving a bill that seeks to withdraw the right of Sri Lankans to choose their religion – meaning in practice only that one cannot choose to become a Christian. The article also sounds very much like the anti-Christian diatribes from Sri Lanka’s south that see Christians behind every Sri Lankan evil. Given these circumstances one cannot but help wonder if the widely believed rumours in Toronto are true that this CDTCA is funded by an high commission in Ottawa.
Editor, Sir, you have been brave in taking up a neutral stand in reporting views of all hues. However, this article takes the cake and does sriLankaguardian.org little good.
Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole, D.Sc. (Eng.) London, Ph.D. Carnegie Mellon, M.Sc. with a Mark of Distinction London, B.Sc. Eng. Hons. Ceylon.
An Anglican whose primary, secondary and tertiary studies in Sri Lanka, the UK, Canada and the US were entirely supported by his family and university-based research funds, to the complete exclusion of Church, AI and HRW funds. (This statement does not cover the tuition-free education that all Sri Lankans receive).
- Sri Lanka Guardian