Feature Article

Occupying Colombo schemes Sinhala Buddhist settlement in Chemmalai-East, Vanni

[TamilNet, Monday, 10 June 2019, 21:30 GMT]
The controversial erection of the giant Buddha statue at Neeraaviyadi in Chemmalai-East of Mullaiththeevu district is to be further expanded into a Buddhist enclave encapsulating 33,376 hectares of land area to the southeast of Naayaa'ru lagoon, reveals a poster put up by Ven Kolamba Medhalankara Thero, the ‘chief incumbent’ of the so-called Gurukanda Purana Rajamaha Vihara at the disputed heritage site. The monk is groomed by the occupying Sinhala Army's 593 Brigade, which is having its headquarter-base at Naayaa'aru. Scheming a large hermitage under the name of Gurukanda Purana Raja Maha Vihara (Gurukanda PRMV), the SL Archaeology Department, the SL Ministry of Buddha Sasana and the SL Ministry of Mahaweli ‘Development and Environment’ are backing the scheme, informed sources in Mullaiththeevu said.

Kolamba Medhalankara Thero
Kolamba Medhalankara Thero is the ‘chief incumbent’ of the so-called Gurukanda Purana Rajamaha Vihara at Neeraaviyadi in Naayaa'ru. He has been staying with the SL military for the past 8 years. SL Police is also providing security to him at the locality [File Photo]
Neeraaviyadi expansion
The ‘plan of Gurukanda Ancient Temple’ lists 23 installations from the name board to ‘unexcavated’ stupas. Gurukanda PRMV has been registered with the SL Buddhist Commissioner Registration number: /24/15/004.

After renaming the temple of Eezham Tamils and erecting a Buddha statue in a hostile manner, Kolamba Medhalankara Thero also wants to change the name of Naayaa'ru.

The Tamil name means narrow backwaters or lagoon of beavers/otters (Neer-naay or Meen-naay).

“The name is unrespectful as it contains a reference to a dog (naay). It is a natural shelter and should be named differently,” the monk told a journalist visiting the place recently.

There are more than 48 places identified as ‘Sinhala’ Buddhist heritage sites in Mullaiththeevu district alone.

The monk wants to expand his Sinhala Buddhicisation work to all those places. “Tamils came to this area only in the 13th century,” Kolamba has claimed.

In the meantime, Islamophobic monk Ven Santhabodhi thero visited the locality on 05 June to stage a protest against the Tamils who braved SL Police harassment to reinstate the name of their Hindu temple at the site.

The poster put-up at the vicinity claims that there was an ancient Buddhist temple, which was founded at the locality in the Buddhist Era (Sri Buddha Varsha) of 244.

Neeraaviyadi expansion

  1. නාම පුවරුව (Name board)
  2. විශ්ණු / කතරගම දේවාලය (Vishnu / Katharagama Temple)
  3. බුදු කුටිය (Shrine room)
  4. බෝධි මළුව (Bo tree compound)
  5. බුද්ධ ප්‍රතිමාව (Buddha statue)
  6. ආවාස ගෙය (Bhikku residence)
  7. කාර්යාල ගොඩනැගිල්ල (Office building)
  8. වැසිකිලි කැසිකිලි පද්ධතිය (Toilets)
  9. ළිඳ (Well)
  10. මුළුතැන්ගෙය (Kitchen)
  11. ජල පොම්පාගාරය (Water pumphouse)
  12. නළ ළිඳ (Tube well)
  13. නාග පොකුණ (වැව) (Nāga Pond or Pond of Cobra)
  14. යෝජිත විශ්‍රාම ශාලාව (Proposed pilgrims' rest)
  15. පැරණි චෛත්‍ය නටබුන් (Ruins of ancient stūpa)
  16. පුරාවිද්‍යා කෞතුකාගාරය (Archaeological museum)
  17. භික්ෂු දාන ශාලාව (Bhikku dining hall)
  18. භාවනා කුටි (Meditation rooms)
  19. භික්ෂු ගිමන් කුටි (Bhikku rest rooms)
  20. භාවනා කුටි (Meditation rooms)
  21. චෛත්‍යය (Stūpa)
  22. ළිඳ (Well)
  23. පුරා විද්‍යා කැණීම් නොකළ දාගැබ් තිබෙන ස්ථාන (Unexcavated archaeological locations of stūpas)

* * *

Neeraaviyadi in June 2015
Neeraaviyadi in June 2015 [Screenshot from Google street view]

[TamilNet Library photo of the locality showing the state as of November 05, 2018]

Big Buddha statue erected at Neeraaviyadi
The SL military is preparing for a grand opening of the Buddha statue at the heritage site of Tamils at Neeraaviyadi in Mullaith-theevu. Tamil residents say that the Sinhala military and the extremist Theravada Buddhist monks have openly violated interim order by the SL court using the current turmoil in Colombo to their favour. Photo taken on 12 December 2018.

Gurukanda PRMV
The Buddha statue at Neeraaviyadi photographed by a visitor from South on 19 April 2019

Neeraviyadi RTI response
The response to an RTI-based request from the Divisional Secretariat in September 2018. It confirms that there was only Neeraaviyadi Pi'l'laiyaar temple at the locality. There was no Buddhist vihara previously at the site and no Buddhists living in the area. There was no permission given by the Divisional Secretariat to the construction, the RTI response states.
Neeraviyadi RTI response
Furthermore, the monk constructing the vihara at the site had not obtained the lands through the DS office and he has not made any application before constructing the Buddhist vihara. The monk was also staying in the public lands without securing any permission from the Divisional Secretariat, the RTI response states.

* * *

Sinhalicisation and Theravada Buddhicisation targets Kokku'laay
Sinhalicisation and Theravada Buddhicisation targets Kokku'laay and the border between the North and East. The intention is to wedge the territorial contiguity of the homeland of Eezham Tamils [Satellite image courtesy: Google Earth, Legend by TamilNet]

* * *

In an interview to TamilNet in September 2018, one of the villagers from Karunaadduk-kea'ni, Mr Rasenthiram, said that a statue, worshipped by all travellers who attribute it to Pi'l'liaayaar, has always been there. It is part of the old heritage, he said.

The locality was the real and old Chem-malai (Pazhaiya Chemmalai) village since the ancient times. It was one of the early sites of human habitation in Naayaa'ru, Rasenthiram said.

The video interview is reproduced below:

According to Mr Rasenthiram, the locality received the name Chem-malai as the hilltop is reddish. The original village of Chem-malai was located at Neeraaviyadi until the times of Ceylon's independence.

The people moved out of the area sometime in the past after an epidemic. They crossed the river to the other side and established today's Chemmalai village.

The Tamil villagers, who had moved into new Chem-malai village, were uprooted after 1982 as the Sinhala colonists started to encroach into Naayaa'ru with the backing of the SL military and the SL authorities.

Comparing the traditional Pi'l'laiyaar worship with that of Mu'ri-ka'ndi on Ki'linochchi - Jaffna A9 Highway, Rajenthiram said the people, particularly travellers on Naayaa'ru Road, believed that their vehicle would break down if they failed to stop by the Pi'l'laiyaar temple. The locality is also known as Neeraaviyadi-eattam.

* * *

Génocidaire SL commander Maj Gen Jegath Dias and the late Seruwila Saranakiththi Thera worked closely to brand the ancient remains at Naayaa'ru, possibly the traces of Mahayana Tamil Buddhist heritage, as traces of Sinhala Theravada Buddhism at Naayaa'ru.

Jegath Dias played a leading role in the onslaught on Vanni with command responsibility for Divisions 53, 57, and 59, and Task Force IV initiated the vihara project after May 2009.

The late Seruwila Saranakiththi Thera, who was the Anunayake of the Seruwila Saranakiththi Kalyani Sect and Chief Incumbent of the Mangala Raja Maha Viharaya in Seruwila at that time, was closely working with Jegath Dias.

Earlier, in 2006, the SL military intelligence deployed the same racist monk to manage the Maavil-aa'ru controversy towards scuttling the Ceasefire Agreement.

The incumbent monk at Gurukanda RMV is also groomed by the occupying Sinhala military, mainly by the troops of the 19 Gemunu Watch (GW), which is placed under the 593rd Brigade of the 59th Division.

Colonel Lanka Amarapala is the current Brigade Commander of the 593rd Brigade, which is advancing the plans.

Kolamba Medhalankara Thero is engaged with expanding the Gurukanda RMV.

The Sinhala monk, claiming the establishment as Gurukanda, has also been collecting the belongings of uprooted Tamils and claiming these as heritage artefacts belonging to an ancient Sinhala Buddhist settlement, the uprooted Tamil villagers say.

Another extremist monk, Sri Thissapura Gunarathna Thero, who is based in Kokku'laay, south of Naayaa'ru is also proceeding without heeding to the demands of the local civil authorities, the NPC and even the interim order of the SL justice system. He is putting up a Sinhala Buddhist vihara at Kokku'laay, occupying the lands of a Saiva temple and the lands belonging to a Tamil family. The SL Navy fully backs him.

In the meantime, the SL Mahaweli ‘Development’ Authority has also been targeting to seize the lands and convert them into a Sinhala colony in the long run through the so-called L Scheme.

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