Vatican appeals over missing Jaffna priest

[TamilNet, Saturday, 02 September 2006, 03:57 GMT]


The Vatican’s representative to Sri Lanka this week appealed to the humanity of those responsible for the disappearance of a Catholic priest in the northern Jaffna peninsula while Jaffna Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam said he is yet to get a response to even his second appeal to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaske over Father Jim Brown’s disappearance. The church-run Centre for Peace and Reconciliation (CPR) in Jaffna joined calls for a proper investigation.




Father Jim Brown, 34, was last seen August 20 at a military checkpoint in Allaipiddy, enroute to his parish accompanied by a man named Vimalathas, a father of five.

“We appeal to the sentiments of humanity of those responsible for his disappearance, asking them to recognize their fault and to act consequently," apostolic nuncio Archbishop Mario Zenari said.

"We feel sad and discouraged about the disappearance of Father Nihal Jim Brown," Archbishop Zenari told AsiaNews this week.

A priest for three years, Father Brown was appointed pastor of Allaipiddy only a few weeks ago. He went missing one week after the death of some 20 people when a church in Allaipiddy was shelled.

Jaffna Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam mobilized for international support as soon as he heard of the priest's and layman's disappearance, AsiaNews reported.

The prelate sent an appeal to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaske for the second time on Monday.

"I requested that the president reply to our letter about the disappearance of Father Nihal Jim Brown and his helper, but we have not heard back yet," Bishop Savundaranayagam told AsiaNews.

Amnesty International, in an urgent appeal Tuesday, called for an investigation into the disappearance of the priest.

“As Kayts Island is strictly controlled by the Sri Lankan Navy (SLN), there are suspicions that the two men may have been taken into custody," said Amnesty.

But the Navy Commander of the north, Rear Admiral Upali Ranaweera, denies the two Catholics were ever arrested.

The church-run Centre for Peace and Reconciliation (CPR) in Jaffna echoed Amnesty’s concerns, saying: “We have seen a sudden increase in the number of civilian people who are arrested and then disappear.”

The CPR noted a disturbing refusal of the security forces to assist in inquiries about missing persons.

“The security forces are refusing to acknowledge reported arrests and to cooperate,” said the centre. “Our official request to uncover truth regarding the disappearances is rejected by the security forces.”

Amnesty International said “There are fears that a pattern of ‘disappearances’ by state agents is re-emerging following the introduction of new Emergency Regulations in August 2005 that granted sweeping powers to the security forces.”


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