Posted on July 30th, 2023


Another strategy of the Tamil Separatist Movement when dealing with Buddhist ruins in North is to try and surround the Buddhist ruins with Tamil settlements, so that the archaeological reserve cannot expand, also access to the Buddhist monument can be controlled.

In order to do so, Tamil Separatist Movement has brought the residents living close to Kurundi, into the Kurundi issue. Sunday Times reported that attempts to survey the land had been blocked by the locals who alleged that their farming and residential lands were included in the proposed acquisition, they demanded immediate access to those lands. The locals had opposed any new surveys and protests were held demanding a stop to construction work at Kurundi, said Sunday Times.

There was no such action by the locals said Kurundi viharadhipathi Santhabodhi. The protests were artificial ones, conducted by the TNA. The local residents were sympathetic to Buddhism. They had given dane to the monks who had resided at Kurundi earlier. The officials of the Department of Archaeology working at Kurundi said the same thing. We have not had any opposition from those around, they said.

There is no farming going on around Kurundi and the land does not belong to them. The disputed area is pure forest reserve. Aerial views of the Nagacholai Forest   confirm this. There is no long history of cultivation by farmers in the disputed area, either. No evidence of cultivation at all,   said Santhabodhi.  

There are no paddy lands here, and people have not been farming here for hundreds of years.  The nearest village is 6 kms away.The ‘paddy land’ referring to is illegally cleared forest land .    No paddy cultivation was carried out there. Instead in 2020 we saw bulldozers parked there, he said.    

Despite this, it was reported that that the government was planning to distribute the land around Kurundi site to villagers.  Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said In the Kurundi Vihara temple issue, there is an opinion that the relevant archaeological area should be demarcated, and the area beyond it should be given for the people for normal use.

The media reported on March 24. 2023  that President Ranil Wickremasinghe had instructed officials from the Archaeology Department to release 229 acres in Thannimuruppu, Mullaitivu that the department had taken over from farmers of the area.

Udaya Gammanpila, when he visited Kurundi in June 2023, told the media that the government had apparently decided to distribute land belonging to the Kurundi vihara among the people living in the area.

Ven. Ellawala Medhananda had written to President saying that he had heard that the President had instructed that lands belonging to the Kurundi Vihara be transferred to the villagers.

 President’s Secretary, wrote to Ven Ellawala Medhananda on Jun 15.2023, saying that no decision had been made to transfer lands associated with Kurundi temple to others. Lands categorized as forests and wildlife zones prior to 1985 would continue to be protected. An investigation had been initiated concerning certain paddy lands surrounding Kurundi Vihara, and a report would be submitted to the District Secretary of Mullaitivu. The Director General of Archaeology had also been notified.

In July 2023, former Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jagath Dias,   Brigadier Athula Hemachandra de Silva and Lt. Col. Anil Amarasekera have petitioned the Court of Appeal against the government’s decision to release state land around the historical Kurundi temple in Mullaitivu District.

The petitioners have sought to prevent the government from removing the boundary stones already planted by the Presidential Task Force for Archaeological Heritage Management in the Eastern Province.

Declaring that over 300 acres has been now identified to be of archaeological value that needs excavation and gazetting under the provisions of the Antiquities Ordinance No. 09 of 1940, the petitioners alleged that a survey of the area was stopped by Vidura Wickramanayake last September following interference by separatist elements.

 Subsequently the then Director General of Archaeology, Prof. Anura Manatunga  resumed the survey and was proceeding according to a plan when President Ranil Wickremasinghe intervened  and a meeting was  held in the Presidential Secretariat on June 08, 2023.

Subsequent to that meeting, a directive has been issued to alienate land, surrounding the Kurundi temple, to cultivators, who were cultivating the surrounding lands, and to remove the existing boundary stones and to replace the stones after the identifying the archaeological sites.

The petitioners have submitted to Court of Appeal a letter, dated January 11, 2023, sent by the Secretary to the President to the Director General of the Archaeological Department, directing that he obtain the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers before declaring any site to be an archaeological site or monument.

The petitioners pointed out that the power to declare an archaeological site or monument is a power granted to the DG, Archaeology under section 33 of the Antiquities Ordinance No. 09 of 1940. Therefore, the directive issued by the Secretary to the President is an unlawful encroachment of the powers conferred by an Act of Parliament to the Director General of Archaeology. The case is pending.

The Department of Archaeology found in 2020 that the most number of Buddhist ruins in the Northern province were in Mullaitivu and Mannar. Both are coastal districts and the positioning is significant. Mannar has Mantota. Mullativu is on the eastern seaboard .

Tamil Separatist Movement is very concerned about Buddhist control of this coast, which directly faces the Bay of Bengal. They plan to strangle the Buddhist monasteries along the east coast. They plan to do this systematically, starting with Kurundi in Mullaitivu and Tiriyaya below. Mullaitivu to Tiriyaya is a two hour drive by car. The Tamil Separatist Movement is campaigning against the lands allocated to both Tiriyaya and Kurundi. They have complained about both to the President.

There is evidence that the Kurundi monastery is spread across more than 400 acres. Objections have been raised by the Tamil Separatist Movement to the size of Kurundi. Kurundi is clearly the leading monastery in Mullativu but it is not the only huge monastery in Mullativu. The Department of Archaeology found 44 huge (‘visala’) monasteries in Mullaitivu in their 2010 investigation. They found evidence of huge monasteries at Kokavil, Mutiankattikulam and Kurundi. There was evidence of huge monastic complexes at Kumbakarna malai, Janakapura and Komalamunai.

 The team found 6   large monastic complexes in Mannar. They were always near water. They belonged to the Anuradhapura period, but the team did not have the time to accurately identify which Anuradhapura period they belonged to.  

Tamil Separatist Movement says Tamils have been living in Mullaitivu for centuries and have historic rights in the area. That is not so. The British administration settled Tamils in Mullaitivu only in the mid- 19th century.”The 19th century saw the settlement of Tamils along the coastline in Mullativu, Trincomalee   and Batticaloa districts” said historian DGB de Silva.  

It is useful at this point to look at the population density in Mullaitivu today and see whether there is land hunger there. The total land area of the Mullativu District is 261,690 ha. Population was 98,000 at 2020.  Mullaitivu population density in 2021 was 37.45/km. Mullativu has the lowest population density in Sri Lanka. (continued)

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