TNA seeks govt. stand on Trinco Buddha statue issue

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 20 July 2005, 06:06 GMT]
Mr.R.Sampanthan, Tamil National Alliance ( TNA ) parliamentary group leader and Trincomalee district parliamentarian made a statement in parliament Wednesday morning seeking the Government to reveal its stand on the Trincomalee Buddha statue issue following the withdrawal of the case filed by the Attorney General in the Trincomalee District Court for the removal of the statue.

Minister Mr.Dinesh Gunawardene under whom the Urban Development Authority comes and Venerable Athuralieya Ratana Thera, parliamentary group leader of the Jathika Hela Urumaya ( JHU ) interrupted several times when Mr.Sampanthan reading his statement.

They charged Mr.Sampanthan was commenting on the Supreme Court judgement

TNA parliamentarians Mr.M.K.Sivajilingam, Mr.Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and Mr.M.K.Eelaventhan shouted at Mr.Dinesh Gunawardene and Venerable Athuraileya Ratana Thera.

The Speaker told Mr.Sampanthan to read the statement

The full text of the statement is given below:-

"Mr. Speaker,

Mr.R.Sampanthan"I wish to raise the following question relating to a matter of public Importance viz:- The situation that has developed in the Trincomalee Town, and the Trincomalee District consequent to the installation of a statue of Lord Buddha under the cover of darkness on 16 May 2005, without permission from any authority, on land belonging to the State/Urban Council,Trincomalee close to the fish and meat markets and liquor bars, in an environment wholly unsuitable for the veneration of Lord Buddha.

"This statue of Lord Buddha was clearly not installed at this location for purposes of worship.

"The motive for this act was the promotion of conflict between the people of different races and religions.

"This act was part of a concerted plan to destabilize the situation in Trincomalee, and disrupt the conclusion of any measure relating to the implementation of post-tsunami activities that could help in promoting confidence amongst the people in the Northeast; the ultimate objective of this act being to impede the furtherance of the peace process.

"The vast majority of the people looked upon this as an act of unwarranted aggression.

"There was a demonstration, a hartal, against this act in Trincomalee. Sporadic acts of violence occurred at different places in the ensuing days.

Controversial Buddha statue , Trincomalee.
"Additional contingents of armed forces, 100% Sinhala in composition, and additional Police Forces, more than 98% Sinhala in composition were brought into Trincomalee and stationed on duty in substantial numbers in thickly populated areas of Trincomalee town. The Trincomalee town and its outskirts presented a picture of being under military occupation. The Tamil people feel insulted and humiliated by this unwarranted oppression. The innocent are being punished for no reason.

"A government team consisting of the Leader of the House and Minister, Hon. Mithripala Sirisena MP, Hon. Tyronne Fernando Governor Northeast Province, Hon. Dilan Perera MP Deputy Minister, and Mr.Harim Pieris Presidential Advisor and spokesman met with the Tamil representatives at Trincomalee on 25th May 2005. The following assurances were given:-

  • 1.Legal action would be instituted in court for a declaration that the installation of the statue was illegal.
  • 2.Legal action would be instituted through the Urban Development Authority for the removal of the statue.
  • 3. There would be de-escalation in the presence of the armed forces and police, progressively returning to a situation as in normal times.

    Legal action was instituted in the District Court of Trincomalee as per the first assurance.

    No action was instituted as per the second assurance.

    The presence of the armed forces and the police has continued to be more or less the same.

    "A grave incident occurred in Trincomalee on 10th July wherein four unarmed persons, including LTTE cadres and civilians were gunned down and killed. On behalf of the Tamil National Alliance I issued a statement in regard to the said attack. I forwarded a copy of the said statement to Her Excellency President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga with a letter urging immediate action. I table the said letter and statement and request that the same be included as part of the Hansard.

    "On the 13th of July 2005 a Fundamental Rights application filed in the Supreme Court in regard to the legal action instituted in the District Court regarding the unlawful erection of the Buddha statue was taken up for hearing before Justices Shiranee Thilakawardane, Nimal Gamini Amaratunga and Salim Marzook. The media reported that during the hearing Justice Nimal Gamini Amaratunga posed the question as to whether "anyone had the right to erect on state land, a Buddha statue thus committing an unlawful act, and in regard to the said matter, claim relief in court stating that his fundamental right had been violated". The hearing was adjourned till 18 July 2005.

    "On 18 July when the case was taken up for hearing before Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and Justices C.N. Jayasinghe, and Nimal Gamini Amaratunga the same was concluded on the footing that the Attorney General would withdraw the action filed in the District Court and that the Petitioner would withdraw the Fundamental Rights application filed in the Supreme Court.

    "This decision completely negated the decision taken by the government pertaining to the Buddha statue.

    "The Sunday Observer of 17 July reports that "On receipt of intelligence reports concerning the possible subversive involvement of a leading political party in the south, in the recent disturbances taking place in Trincomalee, the government has initiated a full probe into the entire range of incidents in the area during the last few weeks". The report continues, and I quote, "Attempts are also made by certain political forces to involve lower ranking elements of the armed forces too in these subversive activities".

    "In the context of the Armed and Police forces being almost entirely Sinhala in composition, these subversive activities place the Tamil people in Trincomalee in the most vulnerable position.

    "All persons taken into custody during the recent unrest were Tamils. Though Tamils have been the victims of violence at the hands of the Sinhalese, not one Sinhalese person has been arrested. The law and order enforcement machinery in Trincomalee is very heavily biased against the Tamils.

    "Yet another statue has been unlawfully erected recently on the Kantalai Tank Bund Road, though all the Members of Parliament in the district were opposed to such installation, barring one. This is yet another step in the concerted attempt to disturb the situation in Trincomalee.

    "Such a lawless situation does not portend well for peace and stability in the Trincomalee District nor in the whole of the Northeast.

    "Since independence, the Tamil people have been consistently betrayed by every arm of the government.

    The Tamil National Alliance calls upon the government to respond to the following questions: - 1. What steps will the government take to honor the assurances given by the high-ranking government delegation in regard to the removal of the Buddha statue? 2. What steps will the government take to bring to an end the subversive activities being presently carried on in Trincomalee by forces with a vested interest in disturbing and destabilizing Trincomalee and the NorthEast? 3. What steps will the government take to relieve the Tamil people of the oppressive presence of the excessive Armed and Police forces, and to ensure impartial implementation in the enforcement of law and order?

    R. SAMPANTHAN M.P. Parliamentary Group Leader Tamil National Alliance"

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