National reconciliation: Church failed to make use of Pope’s visit – Fr. Emmanuel

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President of the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) Rev. Dr. S.J. Emmanuel says the Catholic Church has a crucial role to play in post-war national reconciliation process.

Dr. Emmanuel said that the Catholic leadership should have acted decisively as regards Pope Francis’ intervention to help bring about national reconciliation during his three-day visit to Sri Lanka. The priest asserted that the Catholic church hadn’t made use of Pope Francis’ visit to promote genuine reconciliation. “I very much regret their failure,” Dr. Emmanuel told The Island, at London Hilton on Park Lane during President Maithripala Sirisena’s official visit to the UK.

Dr. Emmanuel was accompanied by GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran.

The entire Sri Lankan delegation stayed at the London Hilton where both uniformed and plainclothesmen provided 24-hour security.

The GTF was working closely with like-minded governments and groups/political parties to promote a lasting solution, Dr. Emmanuel and Surendiran said. The GTF as well as the TNA responded positively towards President Maithripala Sirisena’s visit by not backing protests organized near Westminster Abbey and Marlborough House.

Surendiran pointed out that TNA parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran went to the extent of publicly appealing against protests. The GTF’s absence deprived the organizers the much needed crowds for London protests.

Responding to a query, the GTF said that Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe partnership should adopt Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). An inordinate delay on their part would weaken those wanting a permanent solution to the national issue, the GTF said. Asked to explain, Surendiran pointed out that the new government should lift the ban on Tamil groups imposed by the previous government.

Father Emanual 3The GTF is among those groups included in the list of proscribed organizations.

In the run-up to President Maithripala Sirisena’s visit, GTF President Rev. Emmanuel asked the ruling coalition’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond, MP, to request Sri Lanka to lift the ban on Diaspora groups. The priest too has been designated as a terrorist.

Dr. Emmanuel said that the continuing ban was inimical to reconciliation.

Surendiran said that the gazette notification bearing the number 1854/41, dated 21 March 2014 should be repealed.

In addition to the designation of GTF and Rev. Dr. Emmanuel as ‘foreign terrorist entities’, the proscribed list contains 16 diaspora groups and 424 individuals. Some of those named individuals are citizens of the United Kingdom. There are also others who are not citizens, but resident in the UK.

Surendiran pointed out that as foreign governments hadn’t implemented previous Sri Lankan government’s ban, the new administration wouldn’t find it difficult to repeal draconian law.

The GTF was ready to assist the new administration’s reconciliation efforts, Surendiran said.