YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Sri Lanka and Tamils

April 12, 1985

Father Angelito Peries' letter (March 15) did not surprise us at all since this is not the first time he has demonstrated irresponsibility about the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka. Last year one of his television statements provoked a demonstration in front of his Whittier church by Sri Lankan Catholics protesting against his demagogy.

As an organization surveying the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka, we could vouch that Father Peries' letter is nothing more than a propaganda blitz.

According to our studies, the incident at the school adjacent to St. Anne's church at Vankalai in the terrorist-infested northern Sri Lanka in January, 1985, occurred in a completely different manner from what he has described.

The security forces were there investigating an alleged haul of arms and ammunition in the school when they were shot at. In the ensuing battle six soldiers and eight Tamil terrorists died. The 72-year-old Thangachiammal was an unfortunate victim caught in the cross fire.

According to the due process, a magisterial inquiry has been held into these deaths and an inventory of the captured arms and ammunitions has been taken by the magistrate who conducted an on the spot inquiry.

One day after the incident the bishop of the area claimed that Father Mary Bastian had been killed by the security forces and his body was missing. On the orders of the government that reacted to the allegation, the chief of the island nation's police force, himself a Tamil, appointed another Tamil, a deputy inspector general of police, to conduct a full-scale inquiry into the incident.

The inquiry has so far revealed that five terrorists captured after the shoot-out and the people present in the adjacent protest mission had given sworn statements that Father Bastian was not present during the shoot-out. The special investigating officer also has recorded statements of the fishermen of the area who said that Father Bastian was a sympathizer of the Tamil terrorists and was seen among a group of people owning boats on the beach of Mannar, from where they operate transportation of terrorists and their arms and ammunitions between India and Sri Lanka. They suspected that he might have gone to India in one of those boats.

While the inquiry was going on, the Catholic Advocate of Melbourne, Australia, in its issue of Jan. 31, declared that Father Bastian who was believed to be dead had been found alive in South India and gave as its source, the Vatican Radio.

The only information the Catholic hierarchy in Sri Lanka had, which indicated that the priest might still be alive, was an unconfirmed report that he had been seen on the beach in the Mannar area in northern Sri Lanka. This was revealed at the bishop's conference, which held an inquiry at that time. The security forces have denied that they killed any Catholic priest at all.

If Father Angelito Peries had any evidence that the security forces killed Father Bastian and that he is not alive, we wonder why he has not passed that information to the inquiry, which is still open so that the culprits could be brought to justice. It could be easily done through the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington, which is headed by a Catholic, Ambassador Ernest Corea. If not satisfied with the police, such evidence also could be used for a private criminal complaint under the Sri Lankan penal code.


Los Angeles

Jayawardhana is secretary of the Sinhala Defense League and vice president of the World Federation of Sri Lanka Unions Abroad.

Los Angeles Times Articles