Mannar human rights activist Fr Mary Bastian remembered

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 06 January 2004, 14:56 GMT]
Tamils of Mannar district and Vankalai residents Tuesday remembered their parish priest Rev.Fr. Mary Bastian who was gunned down by the soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army nineteen years ago on 6th January 1985 early morning around 12.30 a.m. Fr. Bastian worked for the poor and powerless citizens throughout his life and was instrumental in bringing atrocities and human right violations committed by the SLA in Mannar district to the notice of international human rights organizations.

Father Mary Bastian
During military offensives by the SLA in 1984 in Mannar region, several Tamil youths went missing after their arrests and hundreds of Tamils were detained in Boosa detention camp.

Rev Fr.Mary Bastian compiled a report on such incidents and submitted to the high authorities for necessary action.

He organized assistance to hundreds of Indian Tamils who fled to Mannar district as refugees from upcountry due to ethnic disturbances there.

Rev Fr Mary Bastian organized a campaign to bring the atrocities and human rights violation committed on the Tamil population in the district to the notice of the international community and to fellow priests in the major community.

Several soldiers were killed in a landmine attack that took place on 4th December 1984 at the 11th milepost on Uyilankulam-Murunkan road. Following this the army went berserk and killed hundreds of Tamil innocent civilians while they were working in their paddy fields. Rev Fr Mary Bastian with the assistance of some government officials rushed to site and collected the bodies of those killed and handed them to the Mannar district hospital.

Rev Jeyarajasingham of Methodist Church in Murunkan was shot dead by the army on December 13, 1984 when he was travelling in his vehicle and later his body was burnt along with his vehicle. Rev.Jeyarajasingham also worked with Rev Fr Mary Bastian in bringing the atrocities committed by army on innocent Tamils in Mannar to the international community. Rev Fr Mary Bastian rushed to the site and collected the remains of Tamils including Rev Jeyarajasingham and handed them to the Jeevothayam Methodist Centre.

On December 31, 1984 Rev.Fr Mary Bastian was waylaid by the government soldiers and warned not to interfere in their activities. However on 06th January 1985 government troops surrounded the village Vankalai and fired at the St Anne’s’ Church where Rev.Fr Mary Bastian was staying. When soldiers were nearing the church Rev Fr Mary Bastian came out pleading. But the soldiers fired at him pointblank killing him on the spot. According to several eyewitnesses soldiers dragged his body from the site to an unknown place. Later the then government said in a statement that Rev Fr Mary Bastian had escaped to India in a boat.

The people of Vankalai later erected a statue of Rev Fr Mary Bastian in the compound of St Anne’s Church in his memory.

Vankalai residents Tuesday organized a remembrance meeting in front of the statue of departed parish priest Rev Fr. Mary Bastian, sources said.

Rev.Fr.Mary Bastian born in Ilavalai in Jaffna district was ordained as a priest in the year 1975. He served as parish priest first at Manipay and later in Murunkan and Madhu in Mannar district.


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