Public Consultation Meeting in Heritage Area of Kandy Kickoff Meeting (Organized by UDA and JICA 28thth July 2017).
Posted on August 14th, 2017

SudathGunasekara  

I thank you for inviting me for the above meeting

But I am afraid whether I would hurt your feelings by making these observations. In the first place participants were not given a clear idea as to what the Organizers mean by the heritage city of Kandy is and what its proposed boundaries are. Having listened to the main speakers the impression we got is that Kandy like any other city is also a model of another multi –cultural, multi religious and multi ethnic city in keeping with the often spoken current political interpretation and fashion prevailing among politicians for meeting their political ends and public officials to repeat such jargon to win favours from their political masters and also by certain academics with western training fancied by neo-liberal thinking to exhibit perhaps their intellectual attainments. The remarks made by the official from the UDA that day regarding Kandy city clearly proves my point. As such neither the government officials nor the JICA team of 17 be allowed to decide the future urban morphology of this historic city. And you being a Sinhala Buddhist from Matale and an academic from Peradeniya, I think will have to take precaution to protect this pristine and unique heritage of ours. It is your onerous duty and responsibility as well, I think.

I also went through the sketch of the Project Area for the Detailed Plan (Preliminary) prepared by JICA you gave me. I have a big problem regarding the demarcation, location as well as the nomenclature they have adopted in that plan. I think this is arbitrary and does not conform to reality on ground and therefore highly controversial. When you talk of a Heritage Area in Kandy the first and foremost factor I think is the identification of the Sacred Areas. That should form the core of the Project I think. Things like cultural and environment heritages then follow. Things like heritage, commerce, public transit, sacredness, civic and culture could be found all over. In fact they intermingle isn’t it. Out of this big list priority has to be given to sacredness and heritage in this case I think. Sacred areas cannot be relocated as such they need to be restored and protected in situ. Before marking Sacred and Heritage areas on map you will have to discuss it with the Asgiriya, Malwatta, DN, Bssnayakas of the 4 Devales and any others who are well versed in the Archaeology and history of the Kingdom. Since all these elements are intermingled in an ancient city like Kandy much care has to be paid in marking out commercial areas within the city. I suggest you suggest shifting whole sale business to Pallekele or Katugastota. Congestion, especially the traffic jam, could be reduced at least by 50% if you do that. The western most tail end part of the Colombo Street is the worse in this regard.

As for me Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country as it had continued to be so for the past 2500 years and I think Kandy has been recognized as a world heritage only  in that context. It is the Sri Daladamaligawa, the Esela Perahera, the Four Devalas, the Kandy Lake and Asgiriya and Malwatta, the two Head Quarters of the Theravada Buddhist tradition and the unique Arts and architecture associated with these institutions and the Sinhala Buddhist cultural heritage akin to them that have made it a world heritage. In other words they form the core elements of this Sinhala Buddhist heritage. St Paul Church or the Meeramakkam, Cross street or Rajaveediya Mosques built on temple lands have no role in making Kandy a world Heritage city. People who talk about multiculturalism in Kandy should know that they have nothing to do with the spirit or the substance of the historical heritage of Kandy

Though we call this city as a Sinhala Buddhist Heritage city, going by the present subversive trends in action, as for me I do not know as to how long it will remain so. For example 65 to 70 % of the business premises in the heart of the city are already owned by Muslims and Tamils. If you come to the town at 12 noon on any Friday and take a stroll around you can see what I am trying to say. The tragedy here is all these lands were owned either by Asgirya and Malwatta or the Four Devalas or Suduhumpola Temple and still come under the jurisdiction of the Buddhist Temporalities Ordinance. They had been either directly leased out from these institutions or purchased at exorbitant prices from previous owners by Muslims with money lavishly given by the Mosque or provided by Arab countries in the Middle East for a long time. Just walk round the streets incognito and see how many mosques are there within the precincts of the city yelling, ‘Allahu akbar’ etc, which they call praying, 5 time s day in a language none of us understand.. We don’t know what they say and what they do inside as no one is allowed to enter these places either. But one thing is certain they all gather in the mosque to work out their strategy to capture the city by way of land, business and political power. Just see around as to how many streets have been already named after Muslim names. Also look for the number of taverns and the number of meat and fish stalls are there in and around this Buddhist sacred city. The Municipality has not been able to ban fish and meat stalls even in the Central market within few hundred feet from the Sacred Tooth Relict, the most revered palladium of the Whole Buddhist world. That is how the heritage and the sacredness of this last capital city of the 2500 year old Sinhala Buddhist Kingdom had been protected by the authorities. These are only few vital issues that come to my mind just now.

I suggest you recommend invocation of the Buddhist Temporalities Act and direct all temple and Devala authorities to cancel all leases given to non-Buddhists within a specific time frame and give such land in future only to Sinhala Buddhists if you are really serious in protecting the heritage of Kandy.

Talking about the Greater Kandy Area just go round and see how the suburban towns like Kadugannawa, Pilimatalawa, Peradeniya, Gelioya, Gampola, Digana, Teldeniya, Medamahanuwara, Madawala, Katugastota, Akurana and Galagedara have already come under the siege of Muslims. My information is in all these places already over 50% is under them going up to 100% in places like Akurana. In some of these areas Sinhalese are not allowed to buy land or business places. They have already become Muslim enclaves.

Business sector is dominated by them. The monopoly of both whole sale and retail trade in spices like Cloves, Pepper, Nutmegs Arica and Coffee is entirely in their hand. The Sinhala villagers around these centers sweat and toil day and night. The benefit goes to the Muslims. With the new money they buy the land, build palatial buildings, buy super luxury vehicles, send their children to the International Schools in the town and get them educated in the English medium and invade all sectors like banking, business and now even public service. The Sinhalese villagers on the other hand with their meager resources send their children to the village schools and the elder folk provide the cheap labour for the Muslim businessmen. They are being exploited by the non-Sinhala traders deceived by the politicians continue to go down the social and economic Gadarene slope. This is the vicious circle that operates in the suburbs around our dream heritage city.

Therefore I suggest you take action to revolutionize the minor Export crops sector with a broad package of subsidies, technical assistance, extension and marketing and by introducing agro business like essential oil and other value added industries on a cooperative basis at village level to increase farmer income and protect them from exploitation by the middlemen. This will also motivate younger generation to remain in agriculture and minimize rural-urban migration. If the prevailing disastrous trends are not arrested immediately and remedial measures are not taken within another 25 years there want be a Sinhala heritage to be seen either in the village or in the  City. The same will be true of Matale as well. And finally of the whole country as it has already happened to Colombo, Galle, Aluthgama, ,Puttalam and the Eastern Province.

You as the Key advisor in this Project I think can do a lot to prevent this tragedy happening to  Mahanuwara at least.

In this mission I suggest you adopt an independent and apolitical approach in formulating and implementing this Project.

I suggest you seek the advice of the Asgiriya and Malwatta Chapters, Diyawadana Nilame of Sri Dalada Maligawa and the Basnayaka Nilames of the Four Devalas and the Pitisara Devalas around the city as they are the true custodians and repositories of the Heritage what is called Kandyan and I also suggest that you keep all NGO agents and politicians at arm’s length in this exercise, if you wants to formulate a realistic Plan that will guarantee the protection of the Heritage of the last Capital of the 2500 year old Sinhala Buddhist Kingdom of this Island nations. Also I suggest you have a word with Gerry and Maddu as well on this subject. You may also draw your attention to improving the 76 Pirivenas in the hinterland giving priority to Asgirya and Malwatta maha Piriven to give a new lease of life to native education in the face of destruction being done to the very foundation of our educational system by the International school mafia.

Also I suggest that you immediately start a comprehensive socio-economic survey of the whole hinterland of the Kandy city as the core to get a firsthand knowledge as to how the core periphery relationship operates in this sub-region. I am sure you must be fully familiar with Gunda Frank’s thesis on this subject. I do not think you can formulate a comprehensive development plan for Kandy without first doing a survey like that.

PS I do not know whether you are familiar with the multi- billion 5.5 Km Mulgampola-Tennekumbura tunnel proposal that is being worked on with a view to solve the Traffic congestion in Kandy town. Its possible negative impacts on the Heritage city and its environment with possible disastrous outcomes like what happened in the Uma Oya project may have to be addressed by you Project.

Finally, as for me, we should take all steps to conserve and protect the distinct Sinhala Buddhist heritage of this city at any cost to preserve the city as the mirror image of its cultural hinterland. As you know villages are usually invaded by urban culture resulting in disintegration of very foundation of the native culture. If we are to preserve our identity adequate measures will have to be taken in time to protect the village from urban invasion. I am convinced that Kandy city should ever remain as the epitome of the last capital of a 2500 year old great Sinhala Buddhist civilization. It should never be converted to another Hanoi, Rome or London or another Hindu, Muslim or Christian heritage city. It should be restored to its pristine glory by removing all what is not Sinhala Buddhist in spirit, form and substance. It should be jealously guarded for ever to remain as Mahanuwara (Kandy) the last word of a Sinhala Buddhist capital so that even future visitors who visit this city will get mesmerized as Governor Hue Clifford did in 1825 by calling it the legendary ‘Garden of Hesperides in the Paradise Island of Ceylon’

The main purpose of this note is to focus the attention of Project Designers and Managers as well as the general Public on the need to be extremely circumspective in this kind of projects with foresight in order to achieve desired results while protecting the heritage of a nation. and avoid possible  irreparable damage in future as it has already witnessed in the Uma Oya Project.

SudathGunasekara

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