A ceremony was held in Batticaloa this week to mark 50 years since Father Chandra Fernando, a Tamil activist that was assassinated in 1988, was ordained as a priest.
A mass was offered at the St. Mary's Cathedral complex. nd tributes were also paid to priest that championed human rights. Father Fernando was gunned down on June 6th in 1988 by suspected paramilitaries working with Indian military intelligence.
Rev A. Jesudasan presided over the mass, which was organised by the Batticaloa District Multi faith Union for Reconciliation and Peace. The president, secretary, members of the Batticaloa District Multi faith Union, and relatives of Rev Fernando participated.
Members of the clergy and locals also gathered at Father Fernando’s grave to remember the assassinated priest.
The arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in 1987 saw a surge of human rights abuses committed by the troops, many of which were being carefully documented by Fernando and his team.
It was this activism that led to the priest being “disliked by the Indian army for exposing atrocities and rights violations it committed in the east,” wrote former TamilNet editor Sivaram in 2004.
Speaking to Jon Lee Anderson and Scott Anderson in 1988, Fernando was outspoken on the island’s ethnic crisis and the lack of support from even Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church.
“The Church is divided,” he said. “We are completely separate now. The Tamil bishops of the north and east are one, the rest of the bishops are another. The Sinhala bishops condemn the bishops of the north and east. They don’t say anything, just keep quiet.”