Sri Lanka: Locals push back bid to erect Buddha statue in Tamil area

By Athula Vithanage

Tamil villagers and politicians succeeded in stopping a state assisted group led by a Buddhist monk who tried to put up a Buddha statue in the Hindu majority Mullaitivu district.

At least two Buddhist monks arriving in a convoy at Kumulamunai on Tuesday (4) with a group of strangers gave rise to a tense situation when they attempted to carry the statue to a nearby archaeological site atop Kurunthoor Malai.

Villagers later assisted by local politicians and a member of parliament stopped the group from carrying out the act.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian Thurairasa Raviharan explained to the visiting group that installing Buddha statues in a non-Buddhist neighbourhood creates unnecessary problems.

'Conservation work'

The Tamil speaking area had witnessed many state sponsored attempts at settling majoritarian Sinhala Buddhists from outside while thousands of locals are yet to get back their traditional land occupied by the military.

Police who escorted the group from the Sinhala majority were shown a letter issued the day before by the regional archaeology authority authorising the Buddhist monk to carry out “maintenance and conservation work” at the Kurunthoor Malai archaeology site.

“Chief incumbent of the Sapumaltenna woodland hermitage Venerable Galgamuwe Sanghabodhi thera will provide the infrastructure facilities and labour,” says the letter written by Assistant Director (Vavunia, Mannar, Mullaitivu) DM Piyathilaka Banda to the officer in charge in the Mullaitivu police station.

It does not say whether any archeology experts will be accompanying the Buddhist monk.

State backed colonisation

The Sapumaltenna woodland hermitage is carrying out large scale construction works to facilitate Sinhala Buddhist settlements in the predominantly Tamil Mullaithivu region.

Tamils in the north and east of the country have continuously protested state sponsored moves to take over land since the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009.

The archaeological and forestry departments in addition to security forces have been identified as the main government bodies carrying out the land-grab.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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