Feature Article

Militarisation of Jaffna Fort dashes hope of establishing Tamil antiquity: Saiva Pontiff

[TamilNet, Sunday, 12 August 2018, 23:17 GMT]
“Since Buddhism has been accorded with the foremost place as a religion patronised by the State, we are unable to claim our rightful stakes [in the island],” said Sreelasree Somasunthara Parmaachchaariya Chuvaamika'l, the pontiff of Nallai Aatheenam in Jaffna. “We have no means of asserting our distinction; We have no State of our own; Unfortunately, our people are also yet to emancipate themselves,” he said. Commenting on SL Military claiming the Jaffna Fort as its property, the Guru Maha Sannithaanam of Nallai Aaatheenam noted such militarisation would be detrimental to the Tamils establishing their ancient heritage in Jaffna. In his view, the SL military was more preoccupied with the security aspect than claiming ownership to the Fort. However, the military presence there would be a hindrance for Tamil heritage related affairs, he said.

The SL military is also preoccupied with preserving its symbolism related to the war, he said.

“The symbols from our war are nowhere to find in the island. However, the symbols of Portuguese and Dutch times of war exist.”

Facing a question on his stand as a religious leader vis-à-vis Sinhala Buddhicisation being advanced through ‘Army and Archaeology’ of the SL State, he said: “It is wrong. However, we cannot [openly] say it is right or wrong.”

“Since Buddhism prevails over the other religions, we are neither able to defend our interests nor block their agenda,” he added.

Somasunthara Chuvaamika'l used the term “villangkamaana nikazhchchi” (schemed dispute) to describe the erection of Buddhist stupas and the Sinhala colonisation schemes in the North-East.

The Hindus, Muslims and Christians are facing dismissal from the sections of Sinhala Buddhists, who are infused with the thinking that there were the original inhabitants of this island, he further said.

The commanders of the occupying Sinhala military in Jaffna and various religious dignitaries visiting North also used to visit Nallai Aatheenam. During their interactions, they have been telling him that Gautama Buddha also hailed from the Hindu traditions and that Buddhism and Hinduism share a lot in common.

“However, there are also crucial differences in the rituals such as the observance of ‘theeddu’, which I used to explain them.”

In that sense, it is very difficult to imagine their version of “co-existence”, Somasunthara Chuvaamika'l observed: “Searnthu poavathu enpathu mikavum kadinamaanathu.”

To a question on the role of UNESCO, he said global organisations should come forward to preserve the Tamil heritage in the island. It was crucial to demystify the antiquity of the Tamil civilisation in the island and the Saiva heritage, he said.

“It is important to establish the fact that Tamils are not late comers [vanthea'ru kudika'l],” he stated.

Stating that all religions should contribute to peace and harmony, Somasunthara Chuvaamika'l said he had no objection to Buddhist temples being built side by side to Hindu temples if they were to coexist without hegemonic intentions, and such construction takes place in a conducive situation without complaints from the native people of the villages in the North-East.

On the Sinhala tourism to North, he noted that the average Sinhala tourists, except the Sinhala politicians, were only visiting the Buddhist shrines in the North-East and the myth that the entire island belonged to Sinhala Buddhist gets reinforced in their minds.



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