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Government Still Silent Two Months after Fr Jim’s Disappearance

ICC Note:

A Catholic priest who disappeared two months ago has still not been found, and authorities remain uncooperative.

by Danielle Vella

AsiaNews (10/19/06) –The Catholic Church in Jaffna , northern Sri Lanka , is still persevering in its efforts, so far fruitless, to discover what happened to a young Catholic priest who went missing on 20 August. Two months after the “disappearance” of Fr Jim Brown, there is absolutely no news about his fate.

The 34-year-old priest was last seen at a military checkpoint at Allaipiddy, an islet off Jaffna , with another man Vimalathas. Despite repeated calls from the Church and human rights organisations, the authorities have made no effort to trace the two Catholics.

But the Church refuses to give up. The bishop of Jaffna , Mgr Thomas Savundaranayagam, told AsiaNews: “We are in the process of presenting to the recently set up Presidential Commission a complete report on the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Father.” On 10 September, the government announced a Presidential Commission would be set up to investigate selected cases of disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

Meanwhile, the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) has sent a fourth appeal about Fr Jim to the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapakse, although its first three petitions were not even acknowledged. Calling for “an impartial and independent inquiry”, the JPC told Rajapkase: “Your long silence worries us and even makes us suspicious about the hand of the security forces behind the fate of our dear priest and his companion. We still believe that as the head of the Forces, you will be able to ascertain the truth of his disappearance.” The Church is asking for answers from the security forces because Allaipiddy is completely controlled by the Sri Lankan Navy so “it is obvious that nothing could have happened to our dear priest without its knowledge.”

The diocese will be marking two months since the disappearance of Fr Jim and Vimalathas by celebrating Mass on 20 October at the Church of Our Lady of Refuge in Jaffna . Masses will also be said in Fr Jim’s native place of Puthukudiyiruppu and in the church where people displaced from Allaipiddy are living. Allaipiddy was Fr Jim’s first and last parish.

However, no marches will be held because of the “highly risky” security situation in Jaffna .