Notes on Jaffna 9 – Yalpana Vaipava Kuvmathy

No 9. Yalpana Vaipava Kuvmathy – 1918

This is a recent publication. The Author is Mr. K. Velupillai, the Manager of the Jaffna “Native Opinion.” The work bears evidence of considerable and painstaking research and it contains much useful and interesting information. It is written in Tamil and though in some passages engaging, its style is defici­ent in’ ease and variety.

The correct version of the Andrado-Puthathamby story is given here. But it is marred with a singular addition. Mr. Velupillai, not to be outdone by previous writers, who had given out the story with their own figments and pigments, makes the peculiarly curious statement that Father Caldero came by a know­ledge of the conspiracy through the secret of the confessional. No authority is however given for the statement.

Dr. Baldaeus, whom Mr. V. follows in his version of the story, says that the lonely part he (Father Caldero) had taken in the shameful affair, was a letter written to him by the conspirators, in which they declared to him their purpose, addressing him Padre detuas almas (the father of their souls). On this letter only Mr. Velupillai seems to base his statement; he is wrong. Confession cannot be made through letters. What the Church of Rome teaches and practises in respect of the Sacrament of Penance is so definite and clear that it is needless to waste words on it. It is a pity that Fr. Gnanapragasar, from whom Mr. V. acknowledges to have re­ceived the greatest help in the compilation of his work, has not enlightened him on the point.

To make the confession, priest and penitent should meet to­gether at the same time and place. Where were the conspira­tors? According to contemporary history, they were within the fort of Jaffna and they were prisoners of war. Where was Fa­ther Caldero? We are not told, nor are we sure of where he then was – At any rate it is certain, that the priest was not close by, to enable the conspirators to make their communication by word of mouth. Their writing to him the letter is proof positive of the fad that the priest was away at a distance. The matter, on which the conspirators were anxious to lay heads together with the priest, admitted of no delay, required the utmost caution and secrecy, and involved such serious risks that they would surely have preferred to have met and spoken to him, had he been within easy reach. But in the situation in which they were placed this was not practicable. Hence they wrote him the letter.

From the commencement of their occupation of Jaffna, the policy of the Dutch Rulers was characterised by religious intoler­ance of a violent nature. The Catholic Clergy were prohibited from performing Sacerdotal functions and the laity from following their religious avocations. Immediately on the surrender of Jaffna to the Dutch, the Jesuit Missionaries working in Jaffna under the Portuguese were sent away, and Fr. Caldero, as Dr. Baldaeus says “was prevented through sickness and debility to take his departure with his brethren.”

Being sick and weak it is doubtful if the priest (Father Cal­dero) was able to have attended to his duties even unnoticed or covertly. On the other hand, could we for a moment suppose that the Dutch Authorities with their known intolerance and bigo­try would have permitted the conspirators, who were prisoners of war under their immediate charge, to follow their religious du­ties as they pleased.

Further there are sufficient grounds to infer that the priest was not within the fort. The College, the Hospital and Convents of the Portuguese Jesuit Missionaries of Jaffna were, according to Ribeiro, in the town, “outside the walls of the fort.” The priest being an invalid must then have been an inmate of one of these institutions, most probably of the hospital. This accounts fully and clearly for the why and the wherefore of the necessity for the conspirators to have written to him the letter in question.

The reader would thus see that every writer who has written on this subject, has been giving out the story with his own ad­ditions and alterations, so that we have now a variety of ver­sions of this silly story.

Mr. V. characterises the version of the story as given by Mr. Mootootamby Pillai in his “Jaffna History” as purely imaginative. But he shows a lamentable lack of judiciousness in quoting it “in extenso” after such condemnation.

                                                                                                                                                Jaffna, 3rd Dec. 1920

Details from the book Notes on Jaffna, American Ceylon Mission Press, Tellippalai, Ceylon 1923. The entire appendix has been used to discuss the Andrado – Poothathamby story.