National issue: Catholic Church opposes foreign intervention

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith

Alleging that Western powers had caused massive destruction in various parts of the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan, the leader of the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday strongly objected to international intervention in Sri Lanka.

He said a direct dialogue with the TNA would help solve the problem easily as no party harboured ill will towards each other.

He also urged the government to fully implement LLRC recommendations.

He was addressing the media at Lankarama, Balcombe Place, Colombo 8, along with Bishop of Kandy Dr. Vianney Fernando, Bishop of Chilaw cum Secretary General of the CBCSL Dr. Valence Mendis, Bishop of Trincomalee Dr. J. Kingsley Swampillai, Fr. Rohan Silva, OMI, and Sr. Sunitha, AC, representing Conference of Major Religious Superiors, on several burning issues. He called for judicial independence and curtailing powers of the executive presidency. Issues such as disappearance of people should be addressed, he said.

He stressed the fact that foreign intervention would complicate the issue rather than providing a solution, but that should not mean the government should not grant justice to the victims and find solutions to the issues.

“Sri Lankans are not a pack of fools, who are unable to solve their problems and therefore a solution should be found by both parties with the government and the Tamil National Alliance being flexible to each other for co-existence,” he pointed.

“Let us solve the problem. We have great religions in Sri Lanka and our leaders have proclaimed religious values to unite on our own as brothers of one family using spirituality with pure heart and sincerity as a tool to reconciliation,” the Cardinal said.

Asked the approximate number of disappearances during the war, he said about 500 to 600, as the victims’ relatives had sent letters to the respective Bishops regarding their loved ones demanding justice and their whereabouts.

The Cardinal said that those letters were forwarded to the authorities concerned to address their grievances.

The government should either prosecute such detainees remanded in the prisons in different parts of the country or free them without postponing the dates of the trails, he said.

Highlighting the murders that had taken place since 1971 to date, he said so many men and women and even politicians were killed but most of the criminals had not been brought to justice.

He asked, “Where is the justice for the victims? The democracy is weakened!”

The artificial colonization of different communities in the habitual habitat of their original community should be stopped and such colonization should be allowed to take place in time to come with integration, he said.

“And so, we feel that it can be accepted that the North and East were the areas in which the Tamil community had traditionally lived and the administration, through the democratic structures of these areas, by their own leaders, need not be considered a hindrance to peace and integration or unity. It has to be a two-way track too which welcomes others while being linked to one another through their family and other ties.”

“Unfortunately, the introduction of a large number of administrative and security personnel, who have come from the other areas into North and East, seems to have been understood as that kind of attempted colonization by the Government. We feel that this policy could be counterproductive to true integration and unity and should be changed. If not, it could only lead to further tension and future violence. Such intermingling indeed should take place, but in a gradual and natural way as has happened in some areas in the south already,” the Cardinal stressed.

“In order to achieve such integration the policy of trilingualism should be introduced vigorously and all school children and youth be encouraged to study not only their own mother tongue and another major language, including the link language English.”

The Cardinal said that they were not biased towards anyone but were expressing their concern for the betterment of the country. He added that the economic progress was not a progress if the human beings were not concerned in the development.

The press briefing was mainly organized to publicize the Churches’ Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka to reveal the Catholics’ stance on the burning issues of the Sri Lankans, under the theme, “Towards The Reconciliation and Rebuilding of Our Nation.’

The first letter had been publicized in 1984 by the then Bishops. The new version contains the reflections of the Bishops’ conference.

(Courtesy: The Island)