Photographs: Shalin for Tamil Guardian
The building and expansion of two Buddhist shrines in close proximity to Hindu temples in Point Pedro has left locals fearing further Sinhalisation of their area.
In 2010, a small Buddha statue was placed, without any prior information to locals, under a bodhi tree next to the Vairavar Kovil in the Point Pedro Harbour area.
In the last month, soldiers have expanded the statue’s space and built up the surroundings to resemble a Buddhist shrine.
With an army camp close by, soldiers monitor the premises from a newly erected sentry point.
Local users of the Vairavar Kovil, a decades-old local landmark and community space, have complained that the shrine encroaches upon the temple’s land, severely reducing the temple’s capacity for large scale events such as poojas and pongal.
An army-run ‘welfare canteen’ has also been erected in the vicinity.
Also in the years following the end of the war a Buddha statue was illegally erected in land belonging to a local doctor near Point Pedro Munai. The doctor said that while the statue has been there for a few years now, he fears that it is being gradually expanded into a Buddhist shrine.
According to Sri Lankan law, permission must be sought from local authorities before constructing religious landmarks. However Point Pedro local authorities have said that in their area, as is the case for Buddhist statues and shrines erected all over the North-East, this process was never followed.
The northernmost point of the island, Point Pedro, or Paruthithurai, is known among other things for its fishing trade, historical landmarks, Hindu temples and Catholic churches, and prestigious schools. However much of the coast, including the harbour and historic lighthouse remain occupied by Sri Lankan military forces.
Tamils in the North-East are well acquainted with Sri Lankan state projects to crowd out Tamil heritage in culturally significant sites, prominent examples being the Kanniya hot wells in Trincomalee and the reconstruction of a Buddhist vihara to rival the ancient Tamil temple in Nainathivu. Now for the people of Point Pedro too, the Sinhalisation of the town is a growing fear.