BUDDHISM IN THE NORTHERN PROVINCE (1990-2019) PART 2
Posted on August 1st, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

There is a tug of war going on in the north between the Buddhist and non-Buddhists regarding the new Buddhist temples built in the north. Neither side is prepared to give in.

The Tamil Separatist Movement complained loudly that Buddhist temples were being built in the north where there were no Buddhists. There are nine Buddha Viharas being built in Mullaitivu district alone, said Tamil Separatist Movement. A Buddha statue has come up in Sambaltheevu with police protection.  In Kokkilai, Mullaitivu district, a Buddha Vihara is coming up with army support despite a claim to the land by a local Tamil.

Other places in the Northern Province where Buddha viharas are coming up are Omanthai, Semmadu, Kanakarayankulam, Kilinochchi, Mankulam, Paranthan and Pooneryn. A 67 foot Buddha statue is coming up in front of the Nainai Nagabhooshani Amman Hindu temple, complained Tamil Separatist Movement.  The British Tamil Forum launched in 2017, a book titled Proliferation of Buddhist structures in Tamil Homeland-sowing the seeds of disharmony.”

The Tamil Separatist politicians   vehemently objected to the construction of Buddhist temples in the north. Tamil Peoples’ Council, headed by Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran said, in 2016    that Buddha viharas are sprouting like mushrooms in areas where there are no Buddhists.. In Mullaitivu District, these Buddhist viharas were constructed after the armed conflict ended.

Tamil National Alliance MP P. Raviharan said in 2018 that Buddha statues and temples had been built in areas where there were no Buddhists. There were 131 sites of Buddhist religious worship in the North, of which 67 were in Mullaitivu. . These were ‘unlawful’ as there were no Sinhalese living in those areas. They must be removed immediately.  

In some areas, such as Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, and Point Pedro, the military has built Buddha statues within or in close proximity to Hindu temples. Buddha statues have come up in front of the 2500 year old Thirukoneswara Hindu temple in Trincomalee and the Thiruketheeswaram temple in North West Sri Lanka.

The military’s construction of Buddhist viharas in traditionally Tamil areas with no Buddhist population is a preliminary step to the Sinhala-Buddhist colonization of these areas and a re-assertion of Sinhala Buddhist dominance, said Adaalayam Centre for Policy Research , Jaffna.

Sinhala colonies, Buddhist temples and Buddha statues are being aggressively constructed with military sponsorship with the sole purpose of Sinhala Buddhisation of the North eastern Tamil homeland, said Tamil Peoples Council.

In 2016, after the Yahapalana government came to power, there were numerous demands for the removal of Buddhist temples, statues, and shrines built in the Northern Province, reported the media.     In August 2016 TNA MPs met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and raised concerns about Buddhist temples and statues being built in the area.  The Northern Provincial Council   passed a resolution in 2016 prohibiting the construction of Buddhist temples in the north.   It had no legal standing, said lawyers.

Tensions flared in September 2017 over the President’s proposed attendance at an illegally constructed vihara on the premises of a Hindu temple in Mannar. A local Hindu priest reported that the military destroyed a Hindu temple in order to construct a Buddhist temple, said Adaalayam Centre, Jaffna. While Tamil landowners whose properties were occupied by the Air Force in Keppapilavu were protesting, the military was reportedly seen constructing a Buddhist temple on their occupied land, continued Adaalayam Centre.  

Those in Mullaitivu have forcefully opposed the construction of Buddhist structures in areas with no Buddhist civilians said Adaalayam Centre. Mullaitivu District has witnessed the military’s construction of Buddhist structures on both state and private Tamil lands. Despite a ban on building illegal Buddhist viharas by local authorities in 2015, another temple is being illegally constructed on land that is partially owned by a Tamil living in the Kokkilai region of Mullaitivu District. Security forces arrested this Tamil landowner in 2015 for protesting against the military land grab said Adaalayam Centre.  

The Tamil Peoples’ Council (TPC),  invited people to join a mass protest in Jaffna on September 24, 2016 to demand a stop to the construction of Buddha statues and Buddhist temples in areas in the Northern Province where there are no Buddhists.  C.V.  Wigneswaran issued a statement where he said, stop erecting Buddha statues and Buddhist temples illegally and in places where there are no Buddhists, except in the army camps.  He also objected to putting up Buddha statues and temples illegally on private lands.

Northern Province Governor Reginold Cooray   said in reply that there are only 13 Buddhist temples in the entire Northern Province and that there is nothing wrong in constructing Buddhist temples.

D.M. Swaminathan, Affairs, responding to a complaint that there were attempt to build Buddhist temple and Buddhist statue in Kilinochchi, said that no one will be allowed to remove Buddhist temples or statues in the north. Buddhist monks and devotees had the right to built temples and statues in any part of the Northern Province.  ( Continued)

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