Buddha statue installed in Omanthai Pillayar temple grounds

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 31 May 2005, 13:24 GMT]
Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers in Omanthai camp has erected a three foot statue of Buddha in the grounds of Omanthai Pillayar temple in Vavuniya last March, according to local residents. The custodian priest of the Pillaiyar temple fled the area after the soldiers harassed him to hand over the land deeds, residents further said. All residents living close to the temple have been forcibly photographed by the SLA and have been warned against tampering with the statue. Residents say that no one goes near the statue out of fear of the soldiers.

Locals say the priest's family had been attached to the temple for four generations and the temple was built by his ancestors.

A local resident said evidence for the presence of a centuries old lord Vairavar (a Hindu god) statue lies right next to the Buddha statue. Old granite stones from the Pillaiyar temple have been used to pave the path to the Buddha statue to give an ancient look, villagers say. A Bo tree has also been planted next to the Buddha statue.

Soldiers based opposite Omanthai Maha Vidyalayam had put up a sign in Sinhala language on Vesak day that stated an ancient Buddhist temple used to be in that location. Locals who have lived in Omanthai for generations insist no such temple existed and that the current statue the work of the SLA.

Villagers have complained about the statue to the Government Agent for Vavuniya and Vanni MP Sivasakthy Ananthan. Mr Ananthan, who is also a resident of Omanthai, said he knew for certain that there used to be no Buddha temple in that area. He added that he has already taken the matter up with government officials and asked them to resolve the matter amicably.

Tamil residents of the area fled their homes in 1997 during the ill fated Jeya Sikurui offensive by the SLA. When some residents returned in June 2003 to resettle they found a small Buddha statue at the Pillaiyar grounds. Beginning of 2004, when the villagers removed the statue, SLA threatened the villagers with severe consequences if the statue is harmed in the future.

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