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Friday, February 23, 2024

Mannar Bishop questioned by Sri Lankan CID on ‘disappearances’

Bishop with President

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Bishop Rayappu Joseph, has come under the scanner of the Sri Lankan regime’s Criminal Investigation Department, which has earned notoriety for employing third degree methods of questioning in its infamous ‘fourth floor’ office in their headquarters in Colombo.

According to reliable sources, two CID officers visited the Bishop’s office in Mannar on May 8 with prior appointment and questioned him on his submission to the LLRC regarding the ‘disappearance’ of 146,679 people during the last stages of the civil war in the period 2008-09.

Bishop Rayappu Joseph had questioned the Sri Lankan government about the fate of 146,679 ‘missing persons’

When the Bishop told the officers that he had submitted whatever documents he had in his possession regarding the matter to the LLRC, the latter is supposed to have replied that they had no access to LLRC documents.

They asked the Bishop if he personally knew any of the missing persons. The Bishop had responded that even a Priest was among the missing, but his concern was for all those who had gone missing.

Reacting to the questioning, a priest wondered why the cops had to question the Bishop when the information they sought from him would be available with the Government Agents, Divisional Secretaries and Grama Niladaris in the Tamil provinces, as they would have the population figures in the Vanni before and after the war.

The Bishop himself had come up with the 146,679 ‘missing persons’ figure based on government records.

The CID officers recorded the Bishop’s statement, and after reading it out to him, had got his signature and stamp

According to the sources, several Catholic Priests were present with the Bishop during the questioning.

They said the officers who questioned the Bishop were both Muslims. They spoke in Tamil, produced identity cards when requested to do so and were polite. They took the names and address of all those present, the sources said.

However, the questioning is being seen as a signal to the Bishop, who is known for his outspoken nature, to give up his campaign for the Tamil cause. The Sinhalese call him as the ‘tiger Bishop.’

It is important to recall here that the Bishop, along with thirty other priests, had made a submission to the recently concluded UNHRC session in Geneva about the worsening human rights situation in Sri Lanka in the post-war phase.

They had written:

“In fact, the post LLRC track record of abducting human rights defenders in Jaffna, obstructing human rights day event in Jaffna, obstructing peaceful campaigns in the North, killing of a protesting fisherman in Chilaw, vicious hate campaigns against journalists and organizations critical of the government, singing of the national anthem in Sinhalese only and a host of such activities indicates the absolute disregard for the LLRC report by the Government of Sri Lanka.”

This submission was considered a major setback for the Lankan government at the UNHRC, and together with other factors resulted in the passing of a US-sponsored resolution against Colombo.

Editor’s note: The Sinhalese doctor Brian Senewiratne from Australia, a regular contributor to The Weekend Leader, had recently sent an article to this portal about his fears for the safety of the Mannar Bishop. The article could not be published then. It will now be published in our weekend edition.


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