2ND LEAD (Update, Correction)

Monk commanding Sinhala-Buddhicisation of North-East threatens Tamil villagers in Batticaloa

[TamilNet, Saturday, 04 July 2020, 22:28 GMT]
Panamure Thilakawansha Thero, the extremist Sinhala Buddhist monk based in Arisimalai in Pulmoaddai, whom Gotabaya Rajapaksa referred as “chief prelate for the Northern and Eastern Provinces” in his Presidential Task Force for ‘archaeological heritage management’ in the East, paid a threatening visit to Batticaloa on Saturday. The anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim monk, accompanied with fifteen SL Army soldiers, warned Veaththuch-cheanai Tamil villagers to keep away from their village deity Vairavar and the nearby playground. The monk claimed the folk-deity land as a Buddhist “archaeological heritage site”. Veaththuch-cheanai is situated in Vellaa-ve'li of Poaratheevup-pattu DS division, 40 km south of Batticaloa city.

Panamure Thilakawansha Thero at Veaththoor-cheanai in Vellaa-ve'li
Panamure Thilakawansha Thero at Veaththoor-cheanai in Vellaa-ve'li
Panamure Thilakawansha Thero at Veaththoor-cheanai in Vellaa-ve'li
Panamure Thilakawansha Thero at Veaththoor-cheanai in Vellaa-ve'li

Divisional Secretay Ms S.R. Rahulanayaki, when contacted by rights activists in Batticaloa, said none of the competent authorities had informed her office of the existence of any archaeological heritage site in the village. There has never been any rumour of heritage artefacts at the locality, according to the DS office. However, she was aware that SL Archaeology Department was involved in tracing some locations across the district already in 2003. However, there was no sign of any artefact being scientifically documented. Earlier this year, a group of archaeology related workers came to the area, but they too had nothing to report to her office, the rights activists said.

Ninety-six Tamil families are living peacefully in the village at the moment. Although they lack facilities, they value self-respect and don't reach out for help and are used to sort out everything themselves.

A public sector worker attached to the SL Department of Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs when contacted by journalists said there was no registered evidence of any archaeological significance at the locality. All places with hilltops and ancient trees were regarded as Buddhist heritage sites by default by the SL Archaeology Department. Therefore, Hindu Religious Department also inspected all such locations to see if there were any traces of heritage artefacts. According to their knowledge, there was no report of any controversy regarding Veaththuch-cheanai, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Chairman of the Rural Development Society of Veaththuch-cheanai Sinnathamby Kameleswaran told TamilNet that the villagers had been worshipping Vairavar deity for at least 200 years and they had no knowledge of any Buddhist heritage there.

While the temple was known for its existence for a long time, the residents bought the nearby lands from a private landowner in July 2019 and launched their playground. A youth group donated 300,000 rupees to construct a shed for the audience in November 2019.

In the meantime, officials claiming to be from SL Archaeology Department came to the village in January and February 2020. The officials said the locality as an ancient Buddhist heritage site. They had no evidence to substantiate their claims, Mr Kamaleswaran said.

Later, SL Police intervened to restrict public access to the temple of the village deity. It was also trying to stop the renovation work of the playground, he said.

However, the people refused to drop their weekly prayers. The people didn't hesitate to register their collective opposition with the police also, the RDS chairperson added.

The arrival of Panamure Thilakawansha Thero with SL Army soldiers was interpreted as a threat by the villagers, Kamaleswaran said.

The villagers were planning to stage a protest on Sunday he said.

Veaththuch-cheanai vairavar deity
Veaththuch-cheanai vairavar deity
Veaththuch-cheanai vairavar deity
Veaththuch-cheanai vairavar deity

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