08/02/2017, 16.10
SRI LANKA
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Deed by Tamil judge towards two Sinhalese children becomes a real example of peace

by Melani Manel Perera

Surviving an attack in which his bodyguard died, the judge offers to care for his two children. The country is struck by such generosity since the judge is Tamil and the security officer was Buddhist. At the funeral, the judge knelt in front of the widow.

Colombo (Asia News) – A Tamil High Court judge has decided to care for the two children of his slain Sinhalese bodyguard.

"As of today, I have four children. I am committed to taking full responsibility for these other two children until my death," said Manickavasagar Illancheliyan at the funeral of Sarath Hemachandra, who died in the line of duty. For some Sinhalese and Tamil activists, this is a true example of peace and reconciliation for the country.

On Saturday 22 July, around 5 pm, a gunman fired at the judge near Jaffna Nallure Kovil, but hit the police officer in charge of his security, Sergeant Sarath Hemachandra, a Sinhalese and a Buddhist, married with two children who later died in hospital from the injuries he sustained.

"I have two children, but from now on I will also care for Hemachnadra's daughter and son," Judge Illancheliyan said. "I will look after these two children as my own children, and not only will I give them the same education, but in the future, I will provide for their marriage," he added.

Hemachandra was his bodyguard for almost 17 years. At the funeral, the judge knelt in front of the widow.

Contacted by AsiaNews, some Sinhalese and Tamil human rights activists noted that the judge’s action is a true example of peace and reconciliation for Sri Lanka. Because he is a Hindu Tamil and his bodyguard was a Buddhist Sinhalese.

"I am speechless,’ said S. Swarnamalitha Peramunagama, a student at the University of Ruhuna (Matara). “This means that for 17 years the judge treated his bodyguard not as n outsider, but as a brother,” he told AsiaNews. “Hence, he could take responsibility for his children. He did not look at race, religion or nationality, he did the right thing”.

Peramunagama, a Sinhalese Buddhist, said that when he arrived in Jaffna and Mannar for the first time in 2015 he was just 24, and scared of Tamils, from what media and politicians said about them.

"I was doing some research on fishermen. Some young Tamil helped me a lot. So I could see that they were not 'tigers' but human beings like us. Thanks to my research I recognised the deep humanity in that population. "

"Tamil’s humanity emerged here with the total acceptance of these two Sinhalese Buddhist children, a great example," he added.

Anthony Jesudasan, a Tamil Catholic human rights activist, said that the act of kneeling in front of the widow “for some people might be opportunistic".

"The judge could have asked for state compensation to the bodyguard’s bereaved family. Instead, he put himself on the line," he explained.

In fact, his action "is a very, very honest and great deed towards the person who saved his life. He sent society a strong message if only Tamils and Sinhalese want to seize it."

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