Mihintale Raja Maha Viharaya: MoD to withdraw 250 forces personnel
Posted on December 10th, 2023

Courtesy The Morning

  • Move follows claims by chief monk of assassination attempts
  • State Minister rubbishes allegations

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) will move to withdraw nearly 250 members of the armed forces who were deployed to carry out maintenance and support duties at the historic Mihintale Raja Maha Viharaya, State Minister of Defence Premitha Bandara Tennakoon said in Parliament.

The move follows an escalation of a dispute between the Government and the Chief Prelate of the Mihintale Rajamaha Viharaya which began with an electricity bill-related matter. Last week, the chief prelate alleged that his life was at risk due to security personnel entering the temple premises clad in civilian clothes, implying that there may be a move to assassinate him.

Speaking to The Daily Morning, Tennakoon rejected the allegation as baseless and unwarranted. According to the State Minister, nearly 250 members of the armed forces – including several officers – had been tasked with maintenance and construction of the historic temple grounds and to aid in cultural and religious activities.

We have 250 soldiers, sailors and Civil Defence Service officers at the Mihintale temple. They were tasked with helping with maintenance, cleaning, and construction of the historic site. We are withdrawing all of them today (10). These personnel have worked hard to maintain that site, and now the chief prelate claims they are a threat to his life. These are totally baseless allegations and we do not accept it. If he has no trust in our personnel, we are withdrawing them.”

However, the current detachment of police personnel who have been assigned for security duties at the Mihintale Raja Maha Viharaya are to remain at their station, it is learnt.

The Sri Lankan armed forces have continued to be deployed to a number of religious sites, for civilian tasks of renovating, rebuilding, and administrative duties following the end of the war – a role that the military is not traditionally deployed for. The Ministry of Defence has stated that with the ongoing defence review, such deployments will be curtailed. Given the politics involved, it remains to be seen if the Government has the political will to recall all the armed forces personnel deployed for such duties. 

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