Feature Article
2ND LEAD (Correction)

Tamils, Muslims need strategic alliance to protect heritage rights in North-East

[TamilNet, Friday, 07 June 2019, 17:16 GMT]
The Tamil Saiva Priest of Then-Kayilai Aatheenam, Thavath-Thiru Akaththiyar Adika’ laar, has urged legal activists to find ways to contain the hostile acts of the Sinhala Buddhist monk from the Velgam Vihara, who has dismantled the foundation of Hindu Pi’l’ laiyaar temple at the heritage site of Kanniyaa hot springs in Trincomalee. The Saiva priest said it was not merely a religious dispute, but rather a cause of preserving the heritage rights. The best option, in his opinion, was to address the issue through the courts. In the meantime, TNA Leader R. Sampanthan was taking up the burning question with the SL President and the Prime Minister. However, both the legal avenue and the political appeals made with collaborative orientation only have minimal impact in the unitary system of genocidal Sri Lanka, especially under the Emergency Regulations, commented legal activists in Trincomalee.

Kanniyaa: Buddhicisation
In 2012, the then SL Government Agent of Trincomalee, Major General (retired) Ranjith de Silva, who was a former SL military commander, stopped the Trincomalee Town and Gravets Piratheasa Chapai (Divisional Council) from maintaining the hot wells stating that the site belonged to the Sri Lankan Department of Archaeology. Ranjith de Silva directed his men to remove the name board that had been put up by the civic body. The name board at the site was removed in the presence of the then GA. Furthermore, Ranjith de Silva instructed the Trincomalee Town and Gravets PS to stop collecting money from the public for maintaining the hot wells and the surrounding area.
Kanniyaa: Buddhicisation
The name board of the Vihara makes claim to the locality since second century
Buddha statue
Buddha statue of ‘Unudiya Lin Rajamaha Viharaya’ has become a dominating feature to the visitors of Kanniyaa Hot Wells
Kanniyaa, Gazette notification
Gazette notification from September 2011 in English, states the locality as ‘chaithya mound’
The Eezham Tamils and the Tamil-speaking Muslims should forge a common platform to counter the unabated heritage genocide taking place in the North-East. The entrenched clause in the unitary constitution of giving foremost place to Buddhism is the prescription for heritage genocide. The institutions and politicians subscribing to the unitary paradigm cannot change the inherent workings of the system, they said.

All the attempts of Eezham Tamils in Karai-thu’raip-pattu division of Mullaiththeevu district and those of the Tamil-speaking Muslims in the Kuchchave’ li division of Trincomalee district are doomed to failure unless they conceive a joint programme to contain the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinist project across the lagoon of Kokku’laay, which is the border between the Northern and the Eastern provinces.

The TNA leader was referring to the extremist Sinhala Theravada Buddhist monk based in Arisimalai as the leading personality advancing the chauvinistic project of seizing “3,725 acres of the lands of Tamil-speaking people”.

“The activities of this Monk are a severe impediment to ethnic and religious reconciliation. It is necessary that these activities should be curbed and terminated,” Sampanthan noted in his letter to SL President and SL Prime Minister in May.

He has also gone on record openly naming the SL departments collaborating in the project.

Sampanthan identified six places, Thennai-maravadi, Pulmoaddai, Yan-Oya, Chempi-malai, Kuchchave’ li, Ilak-kanthaik-ku’lam and Cha’lappai-aa’ru, all within Kuchchave’ li division which is bordering with Mullaiththeevu district in the North.

“Such a situation prevails not only in the Trincomalee District. There have been several complaints of such activities in the Vavuniya and Mullaitivu Districts. The activities of the Forest Department, the Wildlife Department, Mahaweli Authority pertaining to Land have been a severe impediment to displaced refugees returning to their Lands, and putting them to proper use and to also landless Tamil people receiving lands,” Mr Sampanthan’s letter states further.

Sampanthan didn’t name the leading monk but referred to the monk as the one residing in Arisimalai in Pulmoaddai.

Tamil-speaking Muslim grassroots activists in Pulmoaddai are not reluctant to identify the controversial monk as Ven Panamure Thilakawansa Thero.

It was the late Cyril Mathew, an outright racist UNP politician who promoted Sinhala-Buddhicisation of Tamil Buddhist heritage sites, who conceived the chauvinistic project while he was the SL Minister of Industry under the regime of the late JR Jayawardene.

The Chief Incumbent of the Arisimalai temple Ven Panamure Thilakawansa Thero has gone on record praising the work of Cyril Mathew and the work of his chief monk, the late Ven Dodanduwe Kassapa Thera, who launched the project in Pulmoaddai.

Meanwhile, in Trincomalee Town and Gravets division, another hardline monk, the chief incumbent of Velgam Vihara, was the one causing havoc, according to the Saiva priest of Then-Kayilai Aatheenam.

The intruding monk, with the active collusion from the SL ‘Army and Archaeology’, has already put up the so-called ‘Unudiya lin Rajamaha Vihara,’ just 50 meters south of the hot springs dominating the view from the hot springs.

Now, they want to also seize the closest ground to the north of the seven hot wells.

In 2002, on the orders of the then Trincomalee Government Agent NHK Nelumdeniya, a Sinhalese, the renovation work of the centuries old Hindu temple at Kanniyaa were suspended on representations made by some Buddhist priests, who claimed that the bricks found at the site belonged to ‘Anuradhapura period’.

Also at that time, Mr Sampanthan lodged a strong protest with the then Government Agent and with the Prime Minister’s Secretary and the Peace Secretariat in Colombo that the Hindu community will not tolerate any interference in their legitimate rights which they have had for generations and centuries.

Location of Kanniyaa
Aerial view of Trincomalee Harbour. Kanniyaa is located 7 km northwest of the city [Satellite Image: Google Earth]

The local Saiva myths associate Kanniyaa with pre-Buddhist times of the King Ravana of the Ramayana epic. For centuries, the Hindu population of the region used to come to this site to perform rituals to the deceased and ancestors like the Hindus in India go to Gaya and Varanasi.

Kanniya is located about 7 km northwest of Trincomalee city, Arisimalai is situated 50 km north of Trincomalee city and Velgam Vihara could be reached at a distance of 11 km from the city in the same direction.

Unudiya Lin ‘Rajamaha’ Vihara
Unudiya Lin ‘Rajamaha’ Vihara is schemed just 50 m south of the Hot Wells [Satellite image: Google Earth, Legend by TamilNet]

* * *

In a video interview to TamilNet in July 2017, former Village Officer (GS) Abdul Salam narrated how the land grab in Pulmoaddai has been systematically stepped up and jointly waged by SL ministries, departments, Sinhala Army, Navy, STF commandos, Buddhist monks, ‘home guards’ paramilitary and the encroachers from bordering divisions of Trincomalee and Anurahapura since 2010. The interview is reproduced below:

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