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"Man shall not live by bread alone"

The American saying 'when the dirt hits the fan' appropriately describes the situation created by the Bishop of Ratnapura with reference to the GKCC swindle. It was surprising to see the Bishop getting the wrong end of the stick. This is the result when people without giving thought to their actions, make a bigger mess of a situation by trying to cover up their faults.

I congratulate the Editor of The Sunday Leader on her forthright, factual response to the outburst of the Bishop. By this letter the Bishop  has made an attempt to distort facts and involve the leader of the UNP and also drag in the state controlled media and the President in the hope of weaving a web of controversy.

The crux of the matter is that the Bishop has been led up the garden path about the list publicised in the paper during the past few weeks, after the Kotelawalas' master plan to cheat the investors.

It was Kotelawala and his wife who have 'swindled' the investors and not the Bishop! His hasty and supercilious outburst has exasperated the situation and created a platform for much controversy. Some of the outstanding features are outlined in the letter of the Bishop claiming, "My Diocese is in deep crisis, thanks to GKCC collapse."

If he claims that the 4897 families of his diocese live in utter poverty they could not have contributed towards Rs. 40 million - it certainly would have taken a millennium to do so! Factually, the Church Diocese is supported on the contributions, usually called "tithes and offerings" which usually amount to 10% of a believer's income.

Catholicism has come a long way in the world today due to the fact it has been textured to meet the needs of certain groups viz. Jehovah's Witnesses, Born-Again Christians, Assembly of God, Protestants, Anglicans, Charismatics and other sections, but it is a proven fact that the Catholic Church is the "richest movement in the world."

For instance, Rome is an entirely independent nation with its own leader, rules and regulations, buildings and police with its head being the Pope. I don't want to make this matter a controversy, but the fact is that in early Christian history the workers and leaders did not need to make big investments nor Benz cars and massive edifices to do the 'work of the Lord.'

It is very evident that the Bishop's letter is a very odious method of trying to 'absolve' himself of his sins by involving The Sunday Leader as the "unofficial journal of the UNP" and the President and state controlled media as cohorts thus obfuscating the issue. It was not only the Catholic clergy alone but also Buddhist clergy who had been swindled of their investments, but they have been so discreet so as not to make a big brouhaha of the issue.

The bottom line being 'discretion is the better part of valour,' I suggest to the Bishops concerned, just like all the other investors - big and small - not to make fools of themselves by trying to project a picture of doom! All the investors, not only of the GKCC but also many other investment swindlers of the past, grin and bear the fruits of their greed!

Some investment companies that went underground several years back have still not completely paid in full the dues to their investors and these  investors have not died of starvation or sorrow, but have faced the fact that 'although the going was good,'  the day of wrath had come down on them.

I would like to console the Bishop with a reference to the Bible, Psalm 132 Verse 15 which states: "I will abundantly bless her provision, I will satisfy her poor with bread."

As a Christian myself, it is such an embarrassment to note the worldly ways of a part of Christianity which embraces the principles of pecuniary investments. That is indeed the reason I quoted the Bible in the heading of this letter.

Brian Jansz


Expos‚ well within limits

Headlines catch the eye. Cleverly chosen, they reflect the skills, erudition and imagination of the editor.

"Investors in robes" is apt and fitting, as a fair number among the GK depositors are titled 'Reverend' and their total deposits amount to a whopping sum. 

The monks have not been prudent. Some have pleaded lack of knowledge in the banking business and some others had even acted on friends' advice.

Were they not aware of previous scams reported in the media and the Central Bank's repeated announcements cautioning the public to be wary of high interest rates and unregulated finance companies?  Now feeling contrite, they lament the many hardships confronting them.  So "Father forgive them" is yet another fitting title, as a biblical phrase which resonated, as if Jesus Christ is speaking again on behalf of his latter day shepherds.

Facts are sacred and comment is free, is a well known maxim guiding journalists.  Barring deliberate distortion, facts disclosed become unpleasant to some, and it cannot be helped.  Even the freedom to comment is not unlimited.  So The Sunday Leader reportage of the GK fiasco as well is within the bounds of this maxim.

The contents of the response to The Sunday Leader by the Bishop of Ratnapura and his letter to the Leader of the Opposition are both amusing and amazing.

Newspapers in democracies criticise their heads of state and governments.  True democracies welcome such criticism even if it is done always.  To call The Sunday Leader, the unofficial journal of the UNP "for often criticising the President and the government" is mischievous, ludicrous and skewed reasoning in the extreme.

What amazes one are the concluding paras of the two news items already referred to.  One ends "we only trust in the providence of God" exudes a pious religiosity, while the other, contrastingly, attempts to twist the arm of the Leader of the Opposition to do the Bishop's  biding and also threatening to go to the state media in a manner that would adversely affect the party.

Sadly, the two contributions reveal a split personality - in one, the biblical "Lamb of God" and in the other, a mundane desire to play politics.

No sensible Catholic would be offended by reading The Sunday Leader expos‚s on the GK debacle; instead, most Catholics would have many questions for the Church

D. Joseph


Bishop's boorish behaviour

The Bishop of Ratnapura is bringing more disrepute to the Catholic Church by his letter to the editor demanding an apology. His point is that he is not a swindler and that the money is from the collections of his parishioners.

But has the Bishop paid taxes on the interest income? Withholding tax has not been deducted by Golden Key Company. Did not Jesus ask that taxes due to Caesar should be paid? The Bishop is also obliged to answer the questions raised by the editor.

Parish Councils were set up after Vatican II and a document was issued by the hierarchy setting out the duties of the Parish Council. Is it not obligatory for the Bishop and the parish priests to disclose to the Parish Councils the monies collected in a parish?

Some parish priests announce after the sermon the amount collected during the previous week. But even they do not disclose how the money was spent or how much was invested. Why did not the Bishop set up a trust to deal with the money instead of investing in his name?

 Shouldn't there be transparency and accountability by those who handle monies belonging to the Church? Doesn't the Canon Law have anything to say about these matters? Has the Bishop complied with the Canon Law or other guidelines issued by the hierarchy in Rome about the handling of monies of the Church?

The Bishop and those priests who have invested monies in their names with the Golden Key Credit Card Company have tarnished the good name of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. The Church has to be a credible witness to the gospel and financial scandals as these will hurt the credibility of the Church in its mission and also the respect and standing it enjoys among our predominantly non-Christian society.

The Bishop by also seeking the support of Ranil to close the mouth of the editor through unnecessary threats shows that he is not a believer in the freedom of the media. How can the faithful campaign for religious freedom, when the Bishop is behaving in scant respect for the freedom of expression?

The Catholic laity may trust their priests and bishops but there are examples where in other Catholic countries, priests have misappropriated money belonging to the Church.

A Follower Of Jesus Christ

Investors in robes...

The Catholic Bishop of Ratnapura, Most Rev. Cletus Chandrasiri Perera appears to be angry, offended, and in a huff, because his name as an investor of Rs. 40 million with Golden Key appears in the depositors' list published, without fear or favour, by The Sunday Leader.

The Rev. Bishop is no ordinary priest in the Catholic Church but a prince of the church, elected due to his high scholarly attainments. So it is unpardonable when he gambles with what he now says is diocese money, attracted by abnormally high interest rates of over 30% per annum.

He says Rs.40 million is 'blocked' but fails to mention, conveniently, when the deposit was made. If one assumes he had the deposit for say four years, the good Rev. Bishop would have received a whopping Rs.48,000,000 as interest payments alone during a four year period at the rate of Rs. 12 million yearly. After taking extreme risks, he can't be a crybaby now.

Being furious over the exposure, he could not discern the difference in meaning between "swindlers list" and "list of swindlers." As The Sunday Leader quite rightly asserts, such large sums of money should be in the name of the institution and not in the name of an individual, as there can be dangerous repercussions for real owners of the money. Theoretically, the custodian can hijack the money one day, and the Catholic Church will be left high and dry.

The good Bishop tries to influence the Leader of the Opposition to get The Sunday Leader to retract their article and has coupled his request with a veiled threat that his flock will be instructed to vote against the UNP at the forthcoming Western Province elections unless the Leader of the Opposition bends to his will. He is under the grand delusion that the vestiges of the Holy Roman Empire days are still alive and are at his command.

Furthermore, he will come a cropper if he invokes the aid of what he calls the "state controlled" media. This is a fact but it is not prudent for him to mention it publicly in writing! In these matters he is a greenhorn.

Fernando, Pepiliyana

Preserving Galle Fort

With reference to the article appearing in The Sunday Leader of April 19 under the heading "World heritage tampered at will" written by Dilrukshi Handunnetti, this writer wishes to make the following observations, which, I have no doubt, you will give publicity to, observing your policy of allowing freedom of expression to all shades of opinion.

The most relevant question is what we are trying to preserve and for whose benefit. We are labouring somewhat slavishly to preserve a site left behind by the Dutch during nearly 150 years of forceful occupation of this country, against the wishes of its people. The irreparable damage caused to the places venerated by the Buddhists, and to their culture during this illegal occupation is beyond description in a short letter of this nature.

Thus, what responsible citizens and institutions of this country should do is not to clamour for the preservation of the Galle Fort, but to demand compensation from the Dutch, for the irreparable damage caused by them during their illegal occupation. Galle Fort is only an eternal reminder to the citizens of this country of the damage so caused.

The Australian Prime Minister had, last year, apologised to the local aborigines for the irreparable loss/harm caused to them by the previous governments. What is now required therefore, is to call for a similar apology from the Dutch, for  all the damage caused by them to Sri Lanka and its people.

The so-called clamour to preserve the Galle Fort as Galle Heritage, when in fact, it is Dutch heritage, is to say the least, very deplorable and is an insult to everybody who has some connection whatsoever with Galle.

 Such insult is further aggravated by the fact that the Galle Fort has been listed on par with four places of invaluable interest to Buddhists.

Moreover, could anybody, institution or organisation point a single World Heritage Site in any other country in the entire world, where such site has been constructed by an invading nation who have done irreparable damage to the said country?

Perhaps, the local UN office or their head office could enlighten the readers on this aspect. Perhaps, Sri Lanka could enter the Guinness Book Of Records as the only country in the entire world to glorify foreign invaders, by preserving their leftovers for posterity!

Let not the development projects undertaken in the vicinity of Galle Fort for the benefit of the people, students and sportsmen of Galle and the surrounding areas, be abandoned, owing to this unpatriotic desire to preserve a legacy left behind by our invaders who have caused irreparable damage beyond description to the social fabric and places of religious interest of the country.

It is hoped that saner counsel would prevail in future, when development projects are undertaken for the benefit of the people in areas which are in close proximity to the Gall Fort.

D. H. Gunadasa


Bishop should not blame the messenger

I am familiar with the diocese of Ratnapura since my education began at the 'Convent on the Hill' under the Irish mothers and later, until my father's transfer, at St. Aloysius College whose principal was the Jesuit Laudadio, later to become Bishop.

Rev. Fr. Laudadio made an indelible mark in my soul by giving a flogging - 20 strokes with a rod on my 'behind,' for using a 'Relief' nib, instead of the mandatory 'G' nib - nibs manufactured by a factory in England then producing million nibs a month now made bankrupt not by a Ponzi scheme, but by the ball-point pen.

After running the prosperous diocese of Ratnapura to the ground by dabbing in a scheme, which a student with a rudimentary knowledge of economics would not have touched with a barge pole, the Rt. Rev. Doctor (honoris causa) from Ratnapura in a blistering letter to the Leader of the Opposition, obtained in the usual canny way and published in The Sunday Leader of April 19, has the impudence to blame the paper for exposing the shenaningans, publishing his picture without his permission as though it is protected by copyright, calling the paper a stooge of a particular political party and a desecrator of the cross.

If anyone is to be blamed for desecrating the cross it is the Bishop himself. Cardinal Pell of Sydney, Australia after his ad limina visit to Rome told reporters that the travails of the Catholic Church are the result of the Roman Curia appointing incompetents as bishops. Perhaps Huxley was not off his rocker when he asserted that when he sees a surplice he feels like tearing the gentleman underneath it with his teeth and nails.

Ephrem Fernando


In defence of Ranil

We are not surprised to learn that you too have joined the bandwagon for 'Ranil's ouster' from the UNP leadership. If you too believe that the present Leader of the Opposition is a disaster of "Guinness Book proportions" and whatever "Ranil touches turns to dust," then we know where The Sunday Leader is heading.

Please check your facts on Ranil's record as a minister under President JR's government as well as under President Premadasa. He had silently achieved a lot without much fanfare compared to all the 127 ministers put together in the present regime. His contribution to the peace and stability of the country during his stewardship as prime minister in 2002 - 2004,˙not to mention economic revival after a pathetic negative growth, was magnificent. So I appeal to you to be more magnanimous in your editorial comment.

Pardon me for saying this, but I notice your focus is shifting more towards the Ceylinco Fiasco and Kotelawalas lately and not on the bad governance record of the incumbent rulers with rampant corruption and increasing incidence of law and order breakdown.

I trust you will not abandon our beloved Lasantha Wickrematunge in the process!










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