Feature Article

Buddhist monk, SL military obstruct territorial contiguity of Tamil homeland at Kokku'laay

[TamilNet, Saturday, 20 June 2015, 23:48 GMT]
An extremist Sinhala Buddhist monk, Sri Thissapura Gunarathna Thero, who has occupied the lands of Eezham Tamils at Kokku'laay, located along the coastal Mullaiththeevu - Batticaloa Road, has deployed the occupying Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers to proceed with the construction of the Vihara, completely ignoring an interim order issued last week by Mullaiththeevu District Secretariat to not to proceed with the construction of the ‘Sri Sambodhi Vihara’ until the dispute of lands occupied by the Incumbent monk is solved. The monk and the soldiers of the occupying army continue to the work despite the pressure and objection coming from the Eezham Tamils. The area surrounding Kokku'laay is the focus of Sinhala colonisation presently, as it is the key location for wedging the demographic contiguity of the North and East as well as direct communication between Mullaiththeevu and Trincomalee.

Monk with visitors
Sri Thissapura Gunarathna Thero taking Sinhala visitors from South on a boat trip at Kokku'laay

Kokku'laay Vihara
The monk talking to Sinhala soldiers about his plans
Kokku'laay Vihara
Pinthalaya featuring Sinhala ‘war heroes’ [Photo courtesy: nation.lk]
Shown within the box is the target area of Colombo discussed in the feature
Kokku'laay Vihara
The map as displayed in the architecture model of Gunarathana Thero
Kokku'laay Vihara
Sri Thissapura Gunarathana Thero with the architecture model of the Buddhist Vihara establishment
Kokku'laay Vihara
Colombo has not opened the land link between the North and East through Mukaththuvaaram in Kokku'laay. Instead, the people using the costal road from Mullaiththeevu to Kokku'laay have to travel through the Sinhala settlement in Padaviya and reach Pulmoaddai.

While Colombo's ministries are involved in the Sinhalicisation of Kokku'laay using the 1959 declaration of wildlife sanctuary surrounding the areas of the lagoon, the Sinhala Buddhist monk is deployed with SL military backing to construct the Vihara as a key installation to facilitate the Sinhalicisation of the strategic strip.

A section of the lands seized by the monk belong to three Tamils, one of them Mr Manivannathas, the son of former postmaster Mr Thirugnanasamapanthan, who had established a Saiva Pi'l'laiyaar koayil at the location.

Ven. Gunarathna Thero has also seized portions of public lands that belong to the post office and the base hospital at the site, according to officials at the District Secretariat of Mullaiththeevu.

A public road has also been absorbed into the Buddhist establishment, Tamil villagers say.

The occupying Sri Lanka Army soldiers have been deployed on the construction work of the Stupa. They are working in a hurry, probably with a plan to complete the Stupa before the upcoming general elections, the Tamil villagers further said.

In the meantime, SL military intelligence operatives have been threatening the Tamil owners, who staged a peaceful fasting campaign on 05 June 2015 demanding their lands.

Gunarathana Thero imagines himself as a commander of the SL military in the area, a Tamil neighbour told TamilNet.

Three years ago, the Sinhala soldiers had put up a temporary hut for Thissapura Gunarathana Thero with the donations from Sampath Bank.

A private surveyor, Wilmot Silva, brought down from Maharagama in Colombo by the Thero with the ‘approval’ of the then Divisional Secretary C Dayananda, to surveyed more than three acres of the seized lands in 2012.

In the meantime, a tube well was dug at the premises and the locality became popular for fresh water.

The monk transformed the site of the tube well into a ‘Pinthalaya’, a term used for a holy site where Buddhist pilgrims were given potable water at no cost.

The Pinthalaya was also transformed into a memorial site of two fallen Sinhala military soldiers. The Tamil villagers were told to honour the Sinhala ‘war heroes’ each time they went to the Pinthalaya to tap potable water from the locality.

On 12 June 2015, Land Registry officials who held a mobile service meeting at Mullaiththeevu District Secretariat inspected the land deeds of the original owners of the lands and instructed the Divisional Secretary of Karai-thu’raip-pattu division to issue an interim ban on the construction activities at the Vihara.

The new Divisional Secretary Mr Thiruchelvam Sureshkumar, personally handed over the interim order to the Buddhist monk.

However, Sri Lankan soldiers were still continuing the construction work at the site of the Vihara, said Northern Provincial Councillor K. Ravikaran, who inspected the site three days ago.

There is also a court case pending verdict on the land dispute.

Kokku'laay Vihara
Temple to the East and ‘other activities’ to the West

Kokku'laay Vihara
Kokku'laay Vihara
Sketched vocational training centre
Kokku'laay Vihara
Sketched multi purpose building
Kokku'laay Vihara
Sketched model farm
Three Bo-trees, one Tamarind tree, 11 Neem (Veampu), one Banyan and two Palmyra trees are located in the lands seized by the Thero.

In addition to the buildings of Chamber (a tri-part structure with Buddha statue in the central chamber), bell tower, Stupa (shell dome) which will be 10 meter high to its crest and rested upon a 2-meter high round structure, Dhammasala (preaching hall) with eight peripheral columns, Pohoya Geya (Chapter house) with a lotus pond and a two-storied monastery (Sangharamaya), the temple establishment is to incorporate an area housing ‘other activities’ to the West of the Vihara buildings, separated by a north-South running internal road. This area is called ‘welfare area’, where the monk is planning to construct a multi-purpose building, a vocational training centre and a model farm.

100 perches of land plot have been seized for the model farm, which aims to introduce agriculture to fisheries-dependent settlers, who are set to grab more agricultural lands from Eezham Tamils in Kokku'laay.

The extremist monk, who seeks to convert the Sinhala Catholics into Buddhism and to raise the young generation of the Sinhala occupiers with the agenda of Sinhalicisation of the strategic Kokku'laay link, has perceived a five floor Multi-Purpose building for that purpose. This building will be consisting of a nursery, refectory, library and other facilities. Only three floors are to be constructed in the beginning according to the model.

The vocational training centre is to cater the adult women and men. It will be housing a sewing centre for the settling women, a dairy product unit (yoghurt production), Diveneguma-assisted carpenter and welding workshop and a fertilizer manufacturing plant.

The model farm also aims to ‘integrate’ both the children of Sinhala and Tamil schools into the future programme of Sinhalicisation with the assistance of Sri Lankan Agrarian Department.

Kokku'laay Vihara
SL soldiers deployed to work at the Vihara Establishment at Kokku'laay

Kokku'laay Government Mixed Tamil School is situated just 100 meters close to the occupied Sinhala Buddhist site. 89 Tamil students are enlisted at the school, which lacks teaching facilities.

A Sinhala school is situated at the occupied Mukaththuvaaram, which has been entirely Sinhalicised by the occupying SL military.

The location of Kokku'laay village and lagoon. [Satellite map courtesy: Google Earth]

Kokku'laay is a traditional Tamil fishing hamlet.

In 1970, two Sinhala fishing operators used to come with a 15-member workforce on season fishing. All of them were Catholics except two members who were Buddhists.

Since then the demography of the village has been changing slowly.

Migrant Sinhala fishermen from Negombo and other coastal villages of the Western Province were officially encouraged to engage in fishing in this eastern coastal lagoon of Kokku'laay, which is famous for prawn.

Tamil villagers were uprooted following the 1983 anti-Tamil pogroms. A small Buddha statue was placed after the Tamils were fully evicted from their village. All of the Tamil people had displaced by 1985.

However, Colombo was prevented from Sinhalicising the link during the 30-year-long armed struggle. During the times of the war, the area was occupied by the SL military and was declared as a military High Security Zone.

After the end of genocidal onslaught on Vanni in May 2009, Sinhalicisation was intensified through the land link from the neighbouring Sinhala colony of Padaviya in Anuradhapura district and Ma'nalaa'ru (Weli-oya) division in Vavuniyaa district.

Tamil villagers, who returned to Kokku'laay village in 2010, after 27 years, are still not provided with basic facilities.

Kokku'laay Vihara

Census map Mullaiththeevu
The Census Map of 2012 showing Weli-oya, a recently created and colonized division of the Mullaith-theevu district as an exclusive Sinhala division. The division has now wedged the contiguity between the Tamil districts Vavuniyaa in the Northern Province and Trincomalee in the Eastern Province, while it established contiguity with the Sinhala district Anuradhapura in the North Central Province.

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