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    » 04/21/2008, 00.00

    SRI LANKA

    Tamil and army blame each in the murder of another priest

    Melani Manel Perera

    Father Karunaratnam was killed yesterday right after midday. He was driving home in his well-known car after celebrating Mass. Sri Lanka’s army and Tamil Tiger rebels blame each other. Everyone remembers him as a tireless defender of human rights and as a real bridge between Tamils and Sinhalese.

    Colombo (AsiaNews) – The murder of Fr M. X. Karunaratnam, a Catholic priest, was widely condemned by all major groups in the country, including human rights groups. Father Karunaratnam was driving back to his parish of Vannivi’laangku’lam after celebrating Mass at Maangku’lam Church when he was killed around 12.30 pm in a road-side bombing in Vanni, along the Mallaavi-Vavunikkulam Road

    Army spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakara said that in the area there is a strong Liberation Tamil Tigers of Elam (LTTE) presence.

    For its part the LTTE rejected any suggestion that it was involved, blaming instead the death on special army units. It noted in its defence that the clergyman chaired the North-East Secretariat on Human Rights (NESoHR ) and fought for the rights of the Tamil population.

    Some residents said that his vehicle was known to everyone in the area, implying that the attack was specifically targeted at him.

    Some pro-LTTE websites have claimed that the NESoHR was connected to the Tamil Tigers.

    Caritas Sri Lanka remembers him as “an example of courage and humanity and will be missed by all”.

    This morning at 11 a requiem Mass was celebrated at the Perpetual Help Convent Chapel in Negombo, not far from the capital.

    Sunila Abesekara, executive director of the Human Rights Documentation Centre in Colombo, told AsiaNews that “he was one of the few voices for human rights from Vanni which he always defended with extraordinary courage.”

    For human rights activists Freddi Gamage and Jayanthi Dandenuya, they did not kill “only a priest, but human rights as such in the area.”

    Fr Sarath Iddamalgoda, who is involved in defending human rights in Colombo, remembers him as “a friendly person, always available; deeply committed to the poor,” whom he could address in both Tamil and Sinhala.

    “With his death another bridge between Sinhala and Tamil communities is lost,” Father Iddamalgoda said. “War is not a solution; an agreed political solution is the only way out.”

    Fr Damian Fernando, national director for Caritas Sri Lanka, said that “the conflicting parties must come to some agreement and reach a peaceful compromise which will bring a lasting solution for peace in Sri Lanka.”

    Other clergymen have been killed in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

    On 20 August 2006 Fr Jim Brown disappeared along with Vimalathas, father of five, at a time of heavy clashes between army and LTTE.

    On 26 September 2007 Fr Nicholaspillai Packiyaranjith was killed by a bomb in Kalvi’laan, on Pooneryn Road, as he brought food and assistance to refugee camps and the orphanage in  a Vidathalvu.

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    See also

    23/04/2009 SRI LANKA
    Dead or alive, Tamil Tiger leader’s fate sealed
    Sri Lanka’s army says it knows where LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, is in hiding. Sri Lankans wonder about Tiger leader’s future with most hoping he gets killed. Political analyst Sarath Fernando says rebels must surrender but Tamil must continue the struggle for their rights.

    27/10/2008 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lanka unaware of the fate of the population in war-torn areas
    Much of the country does not know the real conditions in which northerners live. The Christian Solidarity Movement is trying to raise funds and awareness despite politicians’ intimidation. Ordinary people pay closer attention to the movement’s campaigns. Its coordinator, Father Iddamalgoda, complains about the “lack of democracy”.

    14/04/2008 SRI LANKA
    Bishops’ Conference calls for an end to violence around the Madhu Shrine
    In a press release sent to government and Tamil Tigers, the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka calls for an end to military operations around the sacred site. It wants the Marian shrine, a pilgrimage destination for the entire population, to be protected. Bishops back the decision to move the statue of Our lady of Madhu, dismissing claims it was under duress by the rebels.

    21/04/2009 SRI LANKA
    Army issues ultimatum to Tamil Tigers
    Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry says rebels have been checkmated, announces final assault. Army issues warning, calling on rebel forces to give up their weapons. Tens of thousands of civilians are in flight.

    05/11/2007 SRI LANKA
    Thamilselvan buried today, people fear retaliation
    Civil groups and the Catholic community condemn the killing of the rebel political leader by government forces. It will not bring peace but only generate further hatred. Tigers’ leader reiterates his group’s “renewed determination” to fight for independence.



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