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Senseless death of Sri Lankan Good Samaritan


Fr. Nicholaspillai Packiyaranjith'Our dearest Fr Packiaranjith has been killed in a claymore mine attack; the Diocese of Mannar is in deep sorrow.' The news from a friend in northern Sri Lanka was shocking, but not surprising. As a local coordinator for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Mannar District, Fr Nicholaspillai Packiaranjith lived and worked in a contested territory in Sri Lanka's long-running civil war.

The 40-year-old priest was killed on 26 September, when his van was blown up by a mine in rebel-held territory as he was delivering aid to displaced people and orphans. Typically, the army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) blamed each other for the blast. We are unlikely to discover the truth, because both cynically use war casualties to bolster their propaganda.

More than 10,000 people attended the funeral of Fr Packiaranjith on 29 September. In a press statement, the Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, said Fr Packiaranjith served with 'exemplary dedication' and was 'deeply committed to the poor and the marginalised', which made his murder all the more heinous.

Apart from being a priest who gave his life for his people, Fr Packiaranjith represents the victims of Sri Lanka's civil war, which has raged intermittently for over 25 years, claiming at least 70,000 lives. The LTTE wants autonomy in the north-east for the minority Tamils, whose grievances date back to post-Independence days, when they bore the brunt of mob violence and of discriminatory laws and policies imposed by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority.

The war shows no signs of abating. The Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, also the President's brother, recently announced the government's intention to defeat the LTTE '100 per cent' before negotiating a political solution to the so-called 'ethnic problem'. Rajapaksa later went back on his word and claimed to want to reach agreement with the LTTE, but the writing on the wall is clear.

The ceasefire signed in 2002 is no longer worth the paper it is written on. Fierce fighting rages anew. The defection in 2004 of a senior LTTE leader from the east, Karuna, has fuelled the conflict. Both the LTTE and the Karuna faction are indulging in forced recruitment, extending this even to children. Thousands of people have been displaced, and at least 4,000 have been killed since late 2005 when the peace process started to come apart. Over 1,000 have 'disappeared'. There is scepticism about official inquiries set up to investigate well-known cases, like the disappearance of Fr Jim Brown, a priest from Jaffna, on 20 August 2006.

Fr. Nicholaspillai Packiyaranjith Sri Lanka has a history of failed peace talks. The high hopes of those wanting peace are frequently dashed. The island ranks second only to Iraq in the number of unsolved disappearances, a phenomenon fuelled by the notorious 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Commissions of inquiry set up by the former president, Chandrika Kumaratunga, ascertained that 26,000 people disappeared — others put the figure at close to 60,000 — and concluded that the armed forces were largely responsible.

The cases also included disappearances perpetrated in the suppression of an uprising among the Sinhalese in the late 1980s. But impunity is the name of the game in Sri Lanka. There is what the Asian Human Rights Commission aptly described a 'total collapse of the rule of law'. The armed forces and Tamil paramilitary groups literally get away with murder.

The LTTE is not accountable to anyone. It eliminates perceived detractors, uses terror tactics, and expects all Tamils to contribute to the never-ending liberation struggle. Apologists depict LTTE-held territory as a de facto state on a war footing and use this rationale to justify violations of human rights.

Nonetheless, the LTTE has been internationally accepted as the legitimate representative of the Tamils and remains a force to be reckoned with, despite recent military setbacks. The government strategy of talking peace and waging war is bound to fail and only serves to bring suffering.

For all their rhetoric, neither warring party has the welfare of civilians at heart. They fail to learn from the mistakes of history and instead repeat them, with the result that innocents like Fr Packiaranjith pay the price. Sri Lanka's people can only beg for peace and draw international attention to their plight, as Bishop Joseph did when Fr Packiaranjith was killed: 'Enough blood has flowed. We call on all men and women of goodwill to condemn this killing and to voice their strong condemnation of the ongoing senseless war.'



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Existing comments

The sri lanka civilians population sufferings by conflicts urgently need to find a better Way's to resole, heartless strangers don't committed to any human values are fueling the conflicts must put end their dirty works. its time to allow the ceylon tamil people's decide their future like a east-timore Democratic ways of referendums, international community have responsibility's to restore peace with justice.

international community | 04 October 2007  

Thank you Danielle Vella for bringing to light the senseless killing of the Tamil humanitarian worker Fr. N.P. Ranjith in Sri Lanka. I have met Father Ranjith, and he has been a loving and caring individual to my family and all who come in contact with him. Your article educates the reader on the climate of impunity in which the abductions, killings and rights violations take place where almost all the victims are Tamil. However, your hesitation to take an educated guess on the party responsible for this heinous crime will only perpetuate the misery. Though the incident happened in Tamil controlled area, and militaries from both side blamed each other, the LTTE condemned the killing, issued statement praising his service to humanity, organized funeral routes and arranged or allowed protest marches. Contrast this with the total absence of mourning or protest on the other side of the ethnic divide, where the Sri Lankan Government did not even condemn the massacre. If you have doubts on the likely perpetrators of Fr. Ranjith's murder, ask his mother and brother who took part in the funeral. Of course you have to wait till they are safely out of that Asian Darfur before they can speak their mind. May the soul of Fr. Ranjth rest in Peace and bring Peace to his homeland.

Elias Jeyarajah, USA | 04 October 2007  

Even a child can say the killing was carried out by the Srilankan Sinhala buddhist fundamentalist state who killed more than 59 aid workers in just 2 years since December 2005 during so called peace process because of this sort of so called neutral reporting rathan writing truth.
If the UN insist an impartial international investigations, Srilanka will not allow while LTTE will.
So far more than 100,000 Tamils, Muslims and Christians were killed by the Srilankan state since 1948 to date and continuing but not even one Sinhala troop or Sinhala person was punished to date.

seyon | 05 October 2007  

Now it is so obvious. 1. The Sri Lankan Government who awarded TRO for Post-Tsunami efforts NOW frozen the Rehabilitation funds.
2. Now they are CLEARLY targeting the LEADERS of humanitarian, SPIRITUAL and ANYONE who helps the Tamils.
It is so obvious they are on a genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Siva | 05 October 2007  

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