The 9th of May 2022 will go down in History as a dark day in the history of our country. Two of our Anglican Clergymen were also victims of the mob attack on innocent civilians that day. The attached is a detailed account of what transpired that day, from their own experience and view point. We hope that the detailed description of events will help many of us to understand the ground realities of the day and what could have been done to avoid death destruction that followed. I am thankful to Fr. Andrew and Fr. Niroshan for sharing their experiences while praying that we will not experience such cruelty in our land again.

The Right Reverend Dushantha Rodrigo
Bishop of Colombo



May 9th, ‘Temple Trees’: the shock of political terror

Two young pastors bear witness and demand accountability


By a special correspondent

“The barricade placed to keep the public at a distance from ‘Temple Trees’ could have been used to protect the Mynah Go Gama protest camp from the attacking mob, but the police allowed the mob to go through to assault us.” This is how two young church pastors remembered the 9th of May, caught up as they were on that fateful day for civilised Sri Lankan politics.   

Church of Ceylon (Anglican) pastors Fr. Andrew and Fr. Niroshan were recalling their traumatic experience when the hallowed protocols of Sri Lankan democracy were upturned by the launch of a thug assault force from within the official residence of the Prime Minister itself. The two pastors, one the Vicar of St.Michael’s church, Kollupitiya and, the other, Vicar of St. Paul’s church, Milagiriya, had rushed to MGG that morning to be in solidarity with the protestors camped opposite the front entrance of ‘Temple Trees’. They had seen busloads of SLPP activists arriving near ‘Temple Trees’ and feared hostile moves against now the world-famous people’s pro-democracy movement.      

By midday, however, they had been overwhelmed by the exact opposite of democracy - as they now recall, disillusioned as they are, of the whole beguilingly ‘civilised’ façade of ‘Temple Trees’, the cherished home, for seven decades, of Prime Ministers and even some Presidents of their homeland.

“We reached the MGG campsite at about 10:30 a.m. and joined the protestors, who were from all walks of life, men and women, of various age. They were peacefully expressing their public protest against the oppression and corruption of the Rajapaksa regime, calling out slogans and holding up banners and placards. We anticipated some kind of trouble and wanted to be present in order to mediate as clergy.”

The two young male Anglican pastors were soon to be cruelly victims, together with the whole contingent of protest campers, of the planned thuggery that came from a direction they never anticipated.

“It must have been about 12:30 p.m., judging from the subsequent phone calls we made as the attack began; we saw a large mob of shouting, angry-looking people, charge out from within the police protective barriers at the top of St. Michael’s Road.”

“We saw that the Police barricade maintained at the top of St. Michaels Road (where it falls on to Galle Road) to bar people and vehicles from moving behind ‘Temple trees’ were now widely open allowing the frenzied crowd, many visibly wielding poles, to rush out toward us. We couldn’t understand why these barriers were not used by the police there to block this obviously aggressive mob and many behaving in a drunken manner.”   

“We did our utmost to avoid a confrontation between the two thugs and the protest campers. The MGG campers readily responded to pleas by us and many others there to avoid any physical confrontation with what clearly seemed to be a mob of angry, hostile, SLPP supporters. We also pleaded with the Police officers at the site not to allow the mob to charge through Mynah Go Gama which was sited on the sea side of Galle Road, opposite the front entrance of ‘Temple Trees’.” 

“The Police could have easily sent the SLPP group on the land side of the Galle Road in front of the Temple Trees. But, to our amazement, the Police allowed the mob to charge through the Mynah Go Gama on the seaside. 

“There were two young Buddhist Theras with us as we, as clergy, tried to prevent the mob from attacking the MGG camp. The frenzied SLPP goons were not willing to listen to the clergy’s pleas. On the contrary they attacked the protestors and the clergy with bare fists, poles, bottles and other implements. One Venerable Thera was hit by a stone. The attackers yelled obscenities at the clergy. We appreciate the Police and STF for protecting the clergy, which we believe, saved us from any severe injuries.

“However, the Police took little action to stop the SLPP goons attacking the protestors, including women, who were engaging in a peaceful protest. The Police, instead of taking action to stop the attackers, allowed them to storm the MGG, in spite of the clergy appealing to the police not to do so. This is unacceptable and we strongly condemn the failure of the Police for failing to counter this mob and see it as negligence of duty at the very least.

“The mob could have numbered about 1,500 and the Police at the site did not attempt to block them as they proceeded to beat up those protest campers who had not fled and wreck the whole camp. Many MGG campers and watching supporters were injured by the SLPP mob who seemed to be wielding metal and wooden poles.

“The Police should have known better to deploy more strength to control the situation. There was a squad of Riot Police already quartered for at least a month in the premises of St. Michael’s Church, Polwatta, near to ‘Temple Trees’, but the squad deployed only after we, the two Anglican clergy, retreated back to the Church after being attacked. By then, much violence had been done.   

“The STF Riot Squad and the Police presence at the Mynah Go Gama at that time was about 75-100, which was hardly enough to control a mob of this nature. We later learned that this small number had not been enhanced in spite of the news media informing about the build-up of the mob several hours earlier.  

“Immediately after the attacks and chaos at Temple Trees, we learned that, initially, there had been a big meeting of SLPP activists inside ‘Temple Trees’ that had been addressed by the Prime Minister himself, several Ministers and other SLPP personalities. We were horrified to learn that the people who attacked us were not some bunch of street thugs but comprised entirely of elected local government legislators, council chairmen, trade union officials and other office-bearing politicians.

“We learned that the mass media had reported this meeting ‘live’ and circulated images of the event. So, the authorities, if they were competent, could have prepared better for what happened.

The two Church of Ceylon pastors are still trying to reconcile themselves to what happened to them on that day and their prior understanding of basic norms of behaviour by citizens, especially citizens elected and working as public officials of the Republic. They want an accountability enforced, knowing full well as clergy, the importance of such exercise of accountability for the maintenance of institutions of the Republic.   

“The nation needs to see that those currently holding office investigate this whole incident fully, and to bring all concerned to justice. Especially those public officials, from local government level up to the national level, who made up most of the attackers, must be held accountable for what seems to be their blatant abuse of power and misuse of public resources and facilities to perpetrate brutality against democratic activity. It was they who should be advocating and acting against such thuggery rather than behaving as thugs themselves!”

“Minutes before the approaching mob fell upon the peaceful protestors, persons dressed like the PM’s security unit stood on the front wall of ‘Temple Trees’ to watch the attack. There is video footage of the SLPP supporters signalling to those on the wall as if they were victorious in their thuggery.”  

“Now, weeks after this horrendous attack seemingly organised and incited by top elected public officials and launched from within a ‘High Security Zone’, namely ‘Temple Trees’ is only partially investigated. While people of the citizens’ protest movement have not been questioned and remanded, those top officials who gave leadership and virtually deployed the attack are enjoying bail while others have yet to be even questioned.”

Such a disillusionment of the norms of Democracy, seemingly brought about by their own elected political leaders, only spurs Fr. Andrew and Fr. Niroshan to look to their institutional and society leaderships as well as the national political leaderships to respond forcefully to this shocking incident. They await, if impatiently, for those most responsible to be treated according to law and justice.

bishop of colombo rt revd dushantha rodrigo


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