Two gunmen threatened to kill Fr SS Johnpillai, priest of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in the diocese of Trincomalee (Eastern Province).
The attack took
place on 26 November, but local authorities did everything they could to keep
the affair under wrap.
Claiming to be Special
Forces officers, two men accused the priest of celebrating a Mass that morning in
honour of Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE), also known as Tamil Tigers.
That same day, the Sri Lankan government
declared illegal any commemoration of the rebels.
"As a priest,
like every morning I celebrated Mass, but I did no honour Prabhakaran or the
Tamil Tigers," Fr Johnpillai told AsiaNews.
Eventually, he wrote a statement to ensure that his story would be known.
night," he said, "I was in the hut next to the church, reading newspapers.
Nobody was around and it was already dark. The cleaners and the sacristan were elsewhere.
Suddenly, two men came out of nowhere, asking if I was the parish priest. When
I introduced myself, they said they had to question me. I asked them to
identify themselves. They told me they were Special Forces agents, but did not
provide any proof of their identity."
point, Fr Johnpillai said he refused to answer questions from two people who refused
to identify themselves. "They became furious and started to insult me," he
explained. "They accused me of commemorating Prabhakaran during Mass, something
which I denied. Ignoring my words, they put a gun to my head, threatening to
fell to the ground in shock," he said. "They left telling me not to come out or
report what happened, promising that they would return soon. I followed them to
take down their license plate, but their motorcycles did not have any".
attackers had gone, the clergyman called the episcopal vicar telling him what
happened. The latter, in turn, called the police officer in charge of the area
who said he could not identify the two.
only at the request of Mgr Kingsely Swamipillay, bishop of Trincomalee, did police
send two agents to provide security to the church and the priest.
the head of the local military, in charge of local security, said that none of
his soldiers had been sent to question Fr Johnpillai.