Destruction of archaeological sites in Sri Lanka
Posted on May 5th, 2014

Dr D. Chandraratna, Perth, Western Australia 

 It was rather sad to read an interview given by Ven Medhananada Thero to the ‘Ceylon Today’ News-sheet recently lamenting the destruction and pillaging of the archaeological treasures of ancient Sri Lanka. He referred to Diyathithawela Nandimitra Aranya, Kudimbigala in Seruwila in particular, and a number of other places that have been dug for treasures and some others fenced up for habitation. The tragedy of this ongoing vandalism is not only the permanent loss of the heritage for the entire human race, but also more importantly the likely distortion of the historiography of the nation. Undoubtedly it will assist those who would like to rewrite the history of Sri Lanka in the future so as to trivialize and relativize the proportionate contribution of the ancient Sinhala civilization to the history of this ancient country.

 It is no secret that the rape and pillage of ancient civilizations has been big business for millennia. That there were numerous episodes in the colonial history of colonized nations where the imperialists looted the valuables of their respective colonies, which many are even today blatantly refusing to return by recourse to some anachronistic common law of property, is disgraceful. All intelligent souls of this earth feel a sense of repugnance about this grandest heist of all by colonial robber barons. Some decent countries have realised the error of their ways (not so much voluntarily) and are returning the artefacts as Australia has done very recently. The National Gallery of Australia has accepted without challenge the formal request by India for the return of the $ 5 million Chola dancing Shiva. This valuable piece has been handed over to the care of the Australian government for it to be duly returned to India. Likewise the NSW gallery in Sydney has agreed to hand over the $ 300,000 worth Shiva and Nandi Aradhanarishvara piece of antiquity.

 There are hundreds of dealers who are on the look out for the world’s treasures like the Indian fraudster Subhas Kapoor who has amassed $100’s of millions worth of stolen artefacts from Indian temples. We are told that Egypt is one country, which has lost so much in the last century.  Valuable pieces from Egypt have gone to the museums in New York, London, Paris and Berlin. An Australian journalist says ‘the place was picked clean of its obelisks-‘scores providing posh exclamations marks in St Peter’s Square, Place de la Concorde and Central Park.’ There is one sitting beside the Thames and also one in Adelaide. Many have plunged to the bottom of the Mediterranean in ships that did not make it.  It is also true that the Spanish melted the golden artefacts looted from Mesoamerica. The Baghdad museum was ransacked after the US invaded Iraq and in Afghanistan the Taliban true to form destroyed the giant Bamian Buddha statues. The major European auction houses are allegedly in the racket and the looting.

 The poor countries find it impossible to stop this trade that is in the multi million-dollar mark without adequate safeguards at the sites and the ports from which they make the exit. Laws alone, which are not effectively policed, will not stop the pillage. We as a nation will be made the poorer if the plunder of our heritage is not prevented. The department of Archaeology along with the Minister for National heritage must bear the responsibility of protecting every bit of our history especially when the revisionists are keen to rewrite the history of the land for political mileage. All Sri Lankans should support Ven Medhananda for his heroic attempt to preserve our war wounded cultural heritage and when I say all Sri Lankans I really mean all decent Sri Lankans regardless of race and creed.   

2 Responses to “Destruction of archaeological sites in Sri Lanka”

  1. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    After reading the article I would like to address the last paragraph. That of the war wounded. If history of that terrible war is to be respected then a museum of adequate proportions be built in Colombo to display the weaponry, tactics that history of the 30 year long war. It has only been 4 years since the end of the war and already Sri Lanka has faced 3 UN human rights accusations, Tamils blatantly honoring the leaders of the Tamil Tigers and the Tamil Diaspora continuing its crusade to fund the LTTE and re write the war and the history of Sri Lanka

    In that context a Museum/gallery that not only displays the weapons and shows the war but videos of victims both Sinhalese and Tamil relate their personal stories be documented for the public especially the international public to see and hear about it. Israel has gone to such lengths to document the Holocaust that now it is normally assumed the Holocaust was mainly an act against the Jews. It was really not. More Christians died in the death camps (Google Christian deaths under Nazi Germany Wikipedia) than the 6 million Jews. More Christians died in the cities of the European Axis powers and allied powers than the Jews, more Christian soldiers by the millions died fighting to defeat Nazism and yet Israel has made sure the world never forget what Nazi Germany did to the Jews.

    In the same light there are enough of taped evidence, weapons, documents which eventually will be thrown away, the ongoing Tamil Diaspora’s attempts to resurrect Eelam to the numerous stories yet untold by the victims of that war to make a Museum to commemorate and to cement once and for all what the war was all about, and why it should never happen again. It would be a fit tribute to the history of Sri Lanka.

  2. Nanda Says:

    Some good news again !

    May be these buggers are not getting enough nowadays ! Nevertheless good news because some negotiation may happen.

    May 06, Colombo: An ally of Sri Lanka’s governing party, the National Freedom Front (NFF) has unanimously adopted several proposals at its second national convention to submit to the government in order to continue with its support.

    The party held its second national convention at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium Monday evening under the theme “Defeating fatal traps against the Motherland”.

    The NFF will present the 12 proposals for reforms to the President and the United People’s Freedom Alliance government, the party decided at the annual convention held.

    The party vowed to abandon the Government if the proposals for reforms were disregarded by the government.

    NFF Leader, Minister Wimal Weerawansa addressing the convention said although Sri Lanka defeated the terrorism the government has miserably failed to take measures to defeat separatism and racism.

    He said his party does not want to put on a false display of unity while being in the governing party and the NFF would issue a red notice to the government.

    The party requested the government to swift actions against any organizations that seek to disrupt the peaceful coexistence and harmony among the people from different communities in the country. According to Weerawansa, extensive dialogues will be held with regard to the correct direction in which the country should move.

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