Rayappu Joseph, Bishop Of Mannar And Others In Danger
I write as a concerned human being, to apprise Sri Lankans, and the international community, including the Pope, of what might happen in President Rajapaksa’s ‘Democratic Socialist Republic’.
The threat to life is not only of Bishop Joseph, his Tamil priests and members of (Tamil) ‘civil society’, but of Sinhalese human rights activists and media people. No dissent is tolerated by the junta running the country. Murder or ‘disappearance’ is the Government’s answer to any problem, and the only method of silencing the dissenting voice, not addressing the reasons for their dissent or protest. What ‘hanging offences’ has the Bishop done to warrant a visit from the Police (8th May) or possible assassination or ‘disappearance’? In a sentence – he has looked after his flock – not just Catholics, but Christians of all denominations, and those of other faiths. The Bible says that they are all God’s children – which Bishop Joseph has applied absolutely.
He has committed two cardinal sins. The first was an outstanding Submission to the deeply-flawed LLRC. The other was to apprise the international community of the plight of the Tamils in the North and East. Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and International Crisis Group (ICG) when invited to appear before the LLRC, refused to do so. They wrote: “There is little point in appearing before a fundamentally flawed commission. The Commission is nothing more than a cynical attempt by Sri Lanka to avoid serious inquiry that would bring genuine accountability”.
AI was scathing. In a 60-page detailed analysis, “When will they get Justice? Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’, AI decimated the Commission, stating it was ‘fundamentally flawed’. Despite this, Bishop Joseph and his fellow clergy decided to appear before the Commission to clearly set out the problems facing the Tamil people – which is more than what their parliamentarians did. LLRC: Submission by the Catholic Diocese of Mannar, by Most Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, Rev. Fr. Victor Sosai, Rev. Fr. Xavier Croos
Despite the end of the war, internationally credible human rights organisations such as AI, HRW, and ICG are not allowed into the North and East, nor are independent observers. As such, we have to rely on people on the ground, like Bishop Joseph, his clergy, and ‘civil society’, to tell us what is happening to ordinary civilians. In February 2012, the US State Department, sent two officials to Sri Lanka to inform the Rajapaksa government that the US intended to submit a Resolution on Sri Lanka at the upcoming 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 February – 23 March 2012). 19 Tamils, non-politicians, (‘Civil Society), including Bishop Joseph, sent a letter to them (10 February 2012). It is a concise and precise letter, written by people with a genuine concern for the Tamil people, and the expectations (and responsibilities) of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). It is another ‘must-read’ paper. It ends, “The Government’s current activities in the North and East are challenging the very existence of the Tamil people and more time to the GOSL to implement the LLRC’s recommendations will only mean further time for the Government to play havoc in the North and East and subjugate the interests and aspirations of the Tamil people.
If the International Community does not act now, like they did not act in May 2009, the Tamils will cease to exist as a ‘people’ in this country.”
On 1st March 2012, 31 Christian clergy in North Sri Lanka headed by Bishop Joseph, wrote directly to the Human Rights Council: “Given the consistent denial of the Sri Lankan government about the scale and nature of war time abuses as well as pre-war and post-war concerns, refusal to address these, and given also the seriousness of the allegations levelled against it as one of the parties to such abuses, we believe it is an independent international body that could best address concerns of truth seeking, accountability and reparations for victims in a way that victims, survivors and their families will have confidence. It is only by addressing these that we believe we can move towards genuine reconciliation.”
On 27 February, 2012, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe addressed the UNHRC. What he said were downright lies, or, as an epistemologist would put it delicately, “the speaker’s propositions did not correspond to the facts”. Two days later, ‘Civil Society’, which included Bishop Joseph, responded. They presented a point by point response to the absolute untruths of the Sri Lankan government. It clearly documented the reality of life in the Tamil areas, rather than the fiction propagated by the GOSL. What is of concern is their decision not to mention their names because they “have come under intense threats.” Mervyn Silva, President Rajapaksa’s Minister of Public Relations and Public Affairs, is a very violent person, operating with his ‘private army’ of goons and gangsters. The Sunday Leader, set out the criminal record of this man, “Meet the Real Mervyn Silva”.
On 23 March 2012, at a public meeting in Kiribathgoda, Silva said the he will “break the bones” of those who supported the US Memorandum on Sri Lanka. He lashed out at Sunanda Deshapriya, Nimalka Fernando, Poddala Jayantha and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu for being involved in undermining the country during the Geneva sessions. Calling them traitors, the MP warned that he would break their limbs in public, and do it himself. President Rajapaksa should explain why this man with a long history of criminality has been given Ministry after Ministry, once even in charge of the Media, despite the fact that he personally destroyed a Media outlet in Colombo. He boasted that as long as President Rajapaksa and the Rajapaksa family are in power, “no one can touch me”.
In what is clearly a death threat, Minister Silva said that past kings would execute those acting against the country, and that, “The time has come now to do what the kings did then”. I do not know whether Bishop Joseph and others in the North are within the reach of this violent man, but human rights activists and anyone even mildly critical of what President Rajapaksa and his junta are doing, are at considerable risk. The UN High Commissioner, Navanethem Pillay’s ‘warning’ to Sri Lanka that there must be no reprisals against human rights defenders after the adoption of the Resolution at the 19th UNHRC, will have absolutely no effect on Minister Mervyn Silva who operates an even more violent group within an already violent regime of the ruling junta. Threats in Sri Lanka from the ruling junta, be it from Mervyn Silva or from Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the President’s very violent brother (in reality the de facto President – Mahinda Rajapaksa being only the de jure President), or the violent Buddhist monks, cannot be ignored.
They are not empty threats in Sri Lanka, as Lasantha Wickrematunga of the Sunday Leader (the only newspaper in Sri Lanka to be critical of the Government) found out on 8th January 2009. He was assassinated in broad daylight in a suburb of Colombo. Many others critical of the Government or even those who dare to question what the Government is doing, have gone the same way, or have been bundled into a “white van”, never to be seen again. There have been 56 ‘disappearances’ in the past 6 months. In its presentation on 13 March 2012 to the Session, AI stated that “Gross and systematic violations continue to take place in Sri Lanka.”All these figures are almost certainly underestimates because many families are too afraid to report ‘disappearances’ to the Police or the Armed Forces who run the North and the East. When they have, they have ‘disappeared’ too. The same applies to rape, as I will set out in a paper I am about to publish – “An epidemic of Rape of Tamil women and girls in the North and East of Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces”.
In striking contrast to the Tamil Bishops in the North and East, and the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who are unable to support an outstanding Tamil Bishop in the North West (Bishop Joseph), support for him has commendably come from the Sinhalese.
Headed by the fine upstanding Bishop, Kumara Illangasinghe, (Anglican) Bishop Emeritus of Kurunegala, 64 Christian clergy, nuns and laity from the South wrote to UNHRC in support of the letter by Northern clergy:
“We… endorse the concerns and calls made… to the President and Members of the UN Human Rights Council by 31 Catholic clergy from Northern Sri Lanka, including the Bishop of Mannar.
We also express our grave concerns about intimidation and discrediting of the signatories… in particular the Bishop of Mannar, by media such as the Sunday Divaina, websites and even government’s coalition partners such as the Jathika Hela Urumaya by accusing the Bishop of aspiring to become Cardinal of Tamil Eelam and that he should be arrested and prosecuted.” It is not only Bishop Rayappu Joseph, his Tamil clergy and ‘Civil Society’ who have been threatened. Sinhalese activists of standing have also been threatened.
Yesterday it was the Tamil civilians in the North and East, today it is the Tamil clergy and ‘civic society’ in the North, tomorrow it will be the Sinhalese. These are the features of a Totalitarian State. It is time the Sinhalese woke up to this tyranny.
Physician, Brisbane, Australia.
Good Pharmacy Practice
There is much concern about good pharmacy practice which is observed in the breach, so much awareness programmes for pharmacy owners and pharmacists are frequently conducted. The sale of over the counter prescription-only drugs is rampant with impunity. According to the Drugs Act, it is mandatory to maintain a prescription book in pharmacies to reccord sales of prescription drugs. The Osu Salas record photo copies of prescriptions. the prescription book has become outdated with the arrival of the photocopy machine. Addiction to medical prescription drugs is now becoming widespread. The precription sales of Corex-D, a cough syrup with a sedative, must now be recorded in a separate book to control addiction to this drug. The drug authority has now made it compulsory to record sales of Tramadol, a prescription pain killer, in a separate book to control addiction. With the threat the sale of Tramadol will be restricted to the Osu Salas if pharmacies do not conform to this requirement.
Very soon the sale of all cough syrups containing sedatives may have to be recorded in separate books, so will tranquilisers, hypnotics, stimulants, to control medical addiction. The sale of locally unregistered drugs is an issue to be morally resolved, in the interests of the doctor and the patient. Doctors contend that they prescribe brand name drugs recognised in the BNF. The CIMS and the MIMS Drug Today and all official drug indexes and their commitment is to the treatment and recovery of the patient. Prescriptions for locally unregistered and locally unavailable drugs are brought to pharmacies for dispensing. Pharmacies refer these prescriptions to the drugs authority for the issue of licenses to import drugs for personal use.The DA, the SPC, the Osu Salas do not come to the rescue of the patients with the issue of these licenses. All the smuggled unregistered drugs, that supplied prescriptions demand, were later legally imported and registered by drug companies on perceiving their large prescription requirements.