Local charity linked to international sex scandal
August 17, 2009
By Karen Velie
Sri Lankan Police arrested the overseas agent of the VeAhavta charity, founded by San Luis Obispo attorney Eric Parkinson, for sexually harassing orphans.
On August 9, Sinhala police arrested Sellathurai Jeyanesan (also known as Salvaduri Jeyanesan) on a charge of “sexual attacks on Tamil girls,” according to the Sri Lankan Watch. “Furthermore, he has still unaccounted millions which he raised in the name of a church in the United States, Europe, and Israel.”
Parkinson said previously his association with Jeyanesan prompted him to convert an abandoned hotel into an orphanage in 2001. Jeyanesan managed the orphanage while Parkinson raised money to fund the charity.
In 2003, Jeyanesan visited seven North American cities in a VeAhavta fundraising tour. When he spoke to potential donors in San Luis Obispo, two young girls from Sri Lanka accompanied the accused reverend. Sri Lanka media questions Jeyanesan’s decision to take the girls on the month long trip abroad without a female chaperone.
“Among his fundraisers is a California attorney Eric Parkinson…,” says the Sri Lankan Watch. “In 2003 this organization sponsored for the Rev Jeyanesan, designated as a priest of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India, a speaking fund-raising tour to churches and other groups in California, Indiana, Ohio, Toronto, and New York. On this tour he took two young girls claimed as orphans from Batticaloa.”
Supporters of Jeyanesan assert the arrest was prompted by political unrest in the war torn country.
Critics of Jeyanesan, who include officials from the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India, report Jeyanesan has taken monies slated to help orphans, widows, and needy people.
“A majority of NGO’s (non-government organizations) spend most of the money on themselves,” said Harendra de Silva, a Sri Lankan detective who added that the average annual cost of running an orphanage in Sri Lanka is approximately $18,000.
Even so, VeAhavta officials report operating cost for the Grace Care Center orphanage and adult care facility run from $153,366 to $439,000 per year, according to the group’s past three tax returns. In 2005, Parkinson reported $439,000 was spent operating the orphanage (this does not include Parkinson’s salary or U.S. operating costs which in some years have run more than 60 percent of donated monies).
Parkinson appeared on Dave Congalton’s KVEC radio show and asserted that the higher cost of running the orphanage in 2005 was due to the added expense of constructing a building to house needy seniors.
However, Sri Lankan authorities report that the cost of construction should have run closer to $75,000.
Following the posting of a June CalCoastNews article, supporters of Parkinson posted numerous responses rebutting the article and praising Parkinson, a number of which came directly from the orphanage.
About an hour after a post from the orphanage, one that was refuted by numerous bloggers, a poster logged in from the orphanage and made sexually demeaning comments directed at the article’s author
Two other bloggers, from different international locations, also began posting sexual demeaning comments directed at the article’s author.
According to Parkinson and VeAhavta volunteer Lynn Holland, between 30 to 40 U.S. volunteers support the Grace Care Center by providing administrative assistance from abroad and hands on help during visits of usually one week a year at the orphanage.
A June 30 article in the Sri Lankan Watch questions the ethics of Jeyanesan as well as some of VeAhavta’s volunteers.
“Some fund organizers in the West also see this as an opportunity for holidays for themselves in exotic surroundings and amidst people who would serve them right royally as servile minions and cater to their proclivities and appetites that may even be questionable,” according to the Sri Lankan Watch.
Parkinson did not return a request for comment regarding Jeyanesan’s arrest or the questionable cost of running the orphanage.
Earlier today, Jeyanesan went before the court in the Eastern Province town of Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. The courts ordered the reverend remanded into custody for an additional two weeks while they look into new allegations of sexual misconduct.
“The embezzlement of funds by Rev Jeyanesan could very well run into several millions and this is also over a period of twenty years when he was a law unto himself,” said Sri Lanka Watch Editor Victor Karunairajan. “Attorney Eric Parkinson may be one of those fooled by this priest or a partner in this deceit especially if he is going to keep two-thirds of what he raises. This is unacceptable.”
In addition, a Sri Lankan family living in Australia is attempting to adopt the orphan that Jeyanesan allegedly assaulted by making her their godchild.
As news of Jeyanesan’s arrest and charges become available, CalCoastNews plans to provide updates.
Read previous articles on VeHavita:
Local lawyer runs questionable charity
UPDATE: Additional allegations surface against local charity