Feature Article

People of Maldives cut off face of ‘Sri Lanka Lion’

[TamilNet, Saturday, 19 November 2011, 23:47 GMT]
People in the Addu Atoll of Maldives on Friday early hours cut off the face of the Lion statue installed by Sri Lanka last week in the Maradhoo island of the Addu Atoll, to mark Sri Lanka’s participation in the 17th SAARC Summit held in Addu between 10-11 November. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s monument in the Hithadhoo island of Addu Atoll was also set on fire on last Monday. The Islamic Ministry of Maldives on Thursday ordered the relevant government authorities to remove the irreligious SAARC monuments, which it said, breach the nation’s law and religion, reported Maldivian media Haveeru on Friday. In the 1990s SL President Premadasa built a clock tower in Male, with a dome resembling a Buddhist stupa. It was modified later due to public protest.

SL monument
SL statue in Maradhoo island was doused in crude oil Tuesday night and the head was destroyed Thursday night [Photo courtesy: haveeru.com]

“A group of people have destroyed the Sri Lankan monument erected in Maradhoo for the SAARC Summit that wrapped up in Addu last week,” Haveeru said.

The Sri Lanka monument was given with police protection after it was found doused with crude oil Tuesday night.

According to a police official who was on duty guarding the statue, the defacement must have taken place after Thursday midnight as he had left by that time.

The Pakistani monument destroyed Monday night was allegedly having “worship idols” banned in the Maldives.

Anti-establishment sentiments are normally expressed through the idiom of religion in the Maldives.

But Sri Lanka was playing with the sentiments of Maldivians for a long time.

Roughly from the early centuries of the Christian era to c.12th century CE, Buddhism was a prevailing religion in the islands of Maldives. But the Maldivian Buddhism of Vajrayana (Tantric) affinity was largely different from the Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The maritime culture of Maldives had its own discourse and manifestations of religious expressions. Buddhism was abandoned and Maldivians became a Muslim nation since 12th century CE.

However, the Sinhala-Buddhist revivalists of Sri Lanka, finding Buddhist archaeological monuments in the islands, started claiming since late 19th century that the Maldivian heritage was an extension of that of the Sinhalese.

Maldives or the Dhivehi country was one of the old nations in South Asia. As a unique maritime nation compared to the usual land-oriented nations, Maldives for over two thousand years was independently interacting with several cultures, from the Roman Empire to imperial China. Most of its recorded political and cultural interactions were with South India.

For instance, the Maldivian national hero, Mohammed Thakurufanu, who liberated the country from the short Portuguese rule in the 16th century, got his assistance from the Tamil Muslims in Tamil Nadu. He was staying in a mosque at Bethalai (Veathaa’lai) in Rameswaram to organize his fleet.

Later, when the Muslim-Nayar sultans of Ka’n’nanoor in Kerala (Aazhi Rajas/ Ali Rajas) threatened Maldives, the sultans of Maldives interacted with the Dutch in Colombo and the French in Pondichery.

When the British wanted to sign a protectorate treaty with Maldives in 1885, just because the British thought of signing it through the governor in Colombo, Maldives became a protectorate administered from Colombo. This was cancelled in 1948 when the British declared Ceylon independent, but the British continued the protectorate until 1965.

However, during the time when the Maldives was administered from Colombo, the leverage facilitated Sinhala-Buddhist elite to construct many historical and cultural myths for Maldivians to paint a picture that the Maldivian culture is an off-shoot of Sri Lankan culture and the Maldivians are inferior cousins of the Sinhalese. This was colonialism within colonialism.

Some of the responses in the sentiments that are seen to day in the Maldives are not without background.

The imperialisms operating through oppressive and genocidal states in South Asia should note the resentment of peoples manifesting through various provenance-cum-context idioms.

Rajapaksa visits SL gifted lion at Addu
SL monument
Rajapaksa-gifted lion statue at Addu [Photo courtesy: haveeru.com]

Related Articles:
17.11.11   China timed SAARC summit to open embassy in Maldives

External Links:
HaveeruOnline: Maldives police guard controversial SAARC monuments
HaveeruOnline: Sri Lankan monument in Addu destroyed


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