Whilst thousands of Lankan Christians of all denominations celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter Sunday morn, one worrying bell tolls in the nation’s mind – whether Palm Sunday’s attack on a Methodist church in Anuradhapura by a Sinhale mob was the first sighting of the first vulture in the sky boding ill to [...]


Palm Sunday’s church attack ruins nation’s aluth avurudu calm


Whilst thousands of Lankan Christians of all denominations celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter Sunday morn, one worrying bell tolls in the nation’s mind – whether Palm Sunday’s attack on a Methodist church in Anuradhapura by a Sinhale mob was the first sighting of the first vulture in the sky boding ill to darken the nation’s landscape with the prospect of Sinhala chauvinism and religious hatred being resurrected in the year of a presidential election.

For it takes only one small match to set alight a wild forest fire.

On Palm Sunday, which coincided with the Sinhala and Hindu New Year, a group of Methodists had arranged a prayer meeting at their church centre at Kumbichchikulama in the Anuradhapura District. During the nonagathe, the inauspicious period where people are advised to engage themselves in religious observations and do naught else, a gang had gathered at the Methodist centre, shouting filth and threatening those trapped inside.

When the Methodist Bishop Asiri Perera arrived at the scene and alighted from his car, he was surrounded by the mob. He wished them a happy new year but this was returned with a hail of filth. In a video published on his facebook, the Bishop describes his ordeal:

“When I approached our centre, my vehicle was surrounded by a gang of young people numbering 20 to 25, and as I disembarked from my vehicle I greeted them for the New Year. But their response was murderous threats as well as demanding that I leave the place with my Methodist worshippers. I tried to negotiate with them and talk to them nicely, but the response I got was threats and demands, and they also blocked my way from entering the premises of the Methodist Church.

“They surrounded me and told me to leave or suffer the consequences of refusal. I tried to talk my way out of the situation, and somehow managed to get inside the church where I joined the faithful gathered in prayer. There were 12 inside. We conducted our prayers. The group threw stones and firecrackers at the prayer centre. They eventually locked its entrance, effectively imprisoning us inside.

“At the end of the prayer, the faithful realised that we had been locked inside, that we were in a hostage situation, prisoners inside our church.  And so we called the police. The mob had tried to destroy the gate by tying firecrackers on it. It was a traumatic time. After about half an hour the police arrived and freed us. The attackers were still there but the police took no action.”

And this had not been the first time. Two weeks ago, on March 31, the church had been attacked as well. “When the attack on March 31 occurred, it had the backing of a local politician,” Bishop Perera said, adding that “no Buddhist monk was involved in either attack.”

It is good that no Buddhist monk has been involved. And, though reports claim that a second tier SLPP politician had led the rabble rousing, thankfully it has still not entered the big league stage. And that is precisely why, especially in view of what the nation experienced between 2012 and 2014 with the Bodu Bala Sena conducting a campaign of terror against  the Muslims and other religions, it is vital to nip this incident in the bud and not let the vultures of nationalist hate and religious bigotry raise the two spectres again.

So what is the President and the Government doing about it?

So far the Minister of Law and Order President Sirisena has not issued any statement condemning the attack and outlining the orders he has given to the police. Perhaps it is because shortly after his  return from Japan on New Year’s day he took flight to India on a pilgrimage and it has not given him sufficient time to attend to the pressing affairs of state during this avurudu season when people are more busy playing raban, making kavun and going on holidays. Hopefully when he returns he will immediately attend to this and instruct the Inspector General of Police to take stern action.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who was holidaying in Nuwara Eliya, returned to Colombo on Wednesday and on Thursday held a meeting with the Methodist Bishop and other church leaders and the IGP. As a result, six individuals had been issued notices to appear in court on May 5 over their alleged involvement in the attack.

Before racial and religious fires get out of hand, it is vital to douse it immediately. Or else the human toll it will cause will be unimaginable and tragic to a nation still trying to emerge from the wounds of a thirty year terrorist war and a brief, albeit damaging, era of bigotry.

ON MY KNEES DO I BEG FOR PEACE: Pope Francis’s moving gesture to South Sudanese leaders


In the name of peace, I kiss thy feet: Pope’s humble plea to S. Sudan leaders

The Pope last week invited South Sudan’s warring leaders to spend with him a two-day spiritual retreat at the Vatican in a bid to bring peace to that embattled country. His guests were President Salva Kiir Mayardit, Vice Presidents-designate Riek Machar and Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior.

At the end of the two-day spiritual retreat, he addressed them last Thursday and said: “To you three, who have signed a peace agreement. I ask you as a brother, remain in peace.”

Then in a dramatic video clip released by the Vatican, he broke with papal protocol and proceeded to get down on his knees and began to kiss the shoes of his guests.

And what was the most moving, the most touching?

The Pope, a man of over 82 years going on all fours and kissing the shoes of the South Sudan President. Then rising with great difficulty, helped by his aides and stumbling across to the next South Sudanese leader and again going down on all fours and kissing his shoes. And then, repeating the process, on all fours kissing the shoes of the next South Sudanese leader. Then rising with difficulty going before a South Sudanese woman and going down on all fours again, kissing her shoes. It was one the most poignant moving scenes the world watched on television last week of the man revered by millions showing his humbleness at his best, the servant of God begging and kissing the feet of the South Sudanese leadership in the name of peace, in the name of humanity.

And what was the most shocking?

All these three men and the woman standing still and calmly accepting the Pope’s symbolic gesture as if it were the norm. None moved a muscle to stop the pope as he went down before them to say, ‘Your Holiness, you don’t have to do this, for I promise that I will strive my utmost to dawn peace in my land.” It was almost, perhaps used as they must be for their minions back home to bootlick to gain perks and privileges, they expected nothing less from his Holiness who was only doing so, in all his divine humbleness to bring peace to the South Sudanese people.

LETTER: Aloysius’s Serendipity Company’s reply to Sunday Punch query

Minister Navin: ‘Tea estate was sub leased’ to Serendipity Co: ‘No, it was a joint venture’

Top legal firm Sudath Perera Associates, acting on behalf of their client Serendipity Company Ltd.  has sent a letter with regard to the article published in the Sunday Punch column on  March 31 under the headline ‘Were Geoff and Arjun given 450 acre tea estate for 8000 bucks a month?’

At the outset the letter from the law firm representing Serendipity Plantation (Private) Ltd. states:

‘We wish to inform that the aforementioned article contains incorrect factual statements relating to Serendipity. Thus, Serendipity wishes to clarify the factual position with regard to the Mahacoodagala Tea Estate.’

Clarify? Exactly. That was the sole aim and a purpose of the said article. To seek clarification. And whilst one party involved in the transaction which  was not a party to the original lease agreement must be thanked for presenting their side of the story, the answer must come from the Ministry of Plantains, the landlord, holding the demised land in trust on behalf of the nation. It is they who must give credible answer. Not from private parties subjectively involved in the subject matter in which Serendipity Plantations (Private) Ltd and chaired by Geoffrey Aloysius has a vested interest.

As the Sunday Punch article of March 31 said in its opening paragraph, “In the wake of Perpetual Treasuries’ Chairman Geoff Aloysius’s dramatic arrest by the CID on Monday morning over the bond scam affair, an alarming claim has resurfaced to shock the conscience of a nation. The claim was first published in a JVP leaning weekly newspaper in 2017 but none of the mainstream media took it up. It alleges that seven months after the mega billion bank robbery took place and one month after the August General election in 2015, the UNP held Ministry of Plantations had given a 450 acre government owned tea estate to Geoffrey Aloysius and his son Arjun to enjoy its spoils for thirty years till 2045  for  mere 8000 bucks a month on lease’: and then went on to list the claims raised in 2017 and concluded the article by stating that the Sunday Punch, too, sought clarifications on the claims raised.

The concluding para stated: ‘Perhaps the Plantation Ministry may wish to clarify the matter and clear the air over this otherwise seemingly shady deal and set the record straight in the public interest.’

Secondly, the legal letter also states that Maturata Plantations Ltd, owned by Geoff Aloysius’s father, had not sub leased the land to Serendipity Plantations co-owned by his son Geoff.  Instead it states that it was a joint venture. The question then arises whether a tenant can at a subsequent date during tenureship enter into a joint venture with another legal entity, no matter the personal nexus, without the prior approval of the landlord. That might well depend on the original lease agreement of which the general public haven’t the foggiest.

It was to clarify all this that the Sunday Punch raised the claims and requested the Plantation Minister to shed light on the matter in the best declared traditions of Yahapalana promise to exercise transparency in all matters as a positive sign of good governance.

The Minister’s reply, in answer to a question raised in Parliament two weeks ago on the matter during the Plantation Ministry budget debate was to simply state, “The issue about the tea estate given to Aloysius has been raised several times. Geoffrey Aloysius’ father formed the Mathurata Plantation Company in 1991. In 2016, the Mahathudugala estate was suffering losses upto Rs 24 million. The Mathurata Plantation Company and the Serendib Company did a business of carbonic tea.  Geoffrey Aloysius at this point had joined as a partner of the Serendib Company. The Mahathudugala estate has 252 Ha. Only one of the bungalows of the estate had been leased out for the use of the manager. The rest of the estate was under the plantation company.  The agreement was under the plantation company and th eJEDB.  All the government dealings were between the JEDB and Mathurata Plantations. Therefore this is a sub-lease. Mathurata has given a sub-lease to Serandib. Therefore, the government is not involved. During my period the sub lease system has been scrapped.  The Serendipity has agreed to pay the lease money to the Mahathudugala estate. Therefore, this is a private transaction between two companies and the government is not involved it.”

Odd isn’t it that while Minister told Parliament that ‘Maturata has given a sub lease to Serendipity’ and goes on to state that ‘Serendipity has agreed to pay the lease money to the Mahathudugala estate’, Serendipity Plantations Co in its letter sent through its lawyers insists that ‘Serendipity confirms it has no lease or sublease involved on the estate’?

In the light of  these contradictory positions adopted by both parties to the issue, with the Minister talking of a sub lease and Serendipity Company denying its existence and instead talking of a joint venture, more reason is it not that the Plantation Minister issues a clear statement as to the real status of people owned land? His answer in Parliament during the budget debate when he concluded saying “this is a private transaction between two companies and the government is not involved in it,’ is clearly not enough.

No wrong doing by any party is alleged. But isn’t it always better for the Government to come clean, clear the air,  over an affair involving a man remanded three weeks ago over the infamous billion bucks Central Bank bond scam? And enlighten the public as to the true state of affairs?

The Temple of God

By Don Manu
Where does the temple of God exist
But in our hearts and in our midst
Where does His spirit dwell enshrined
But in the purest souls refined

No monuments of ornate gold
Can serve as altars to God behold
But in the poorest, purest breast
Does reside in he who’s blest

To kill, to steal, to fornicate
To lie and to intoxicate
To bear within the slightest hate
Is to damn and lay the soul to waste

Where naught but brutish passions reign
God’s exiled from the soul’s domain
The mind’s turmoiled in perpetual pain
Where only Satan dost remain

No bliss for him who does deny
God His temple and Heaven its light
No peace for him who dares defy
The divine law of moral might

A heart which greed and sin disown
Knows no sorrow but joy untold;
A heart that’s host to God alone
Has made Heaven its fixed abode

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