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Mannar civil society slam Sri Lankan President's plan to attend opening of illegally constructed Buddhist vihara in Thiruketheeswaram

Members of Mannar civil society have written to the Sri Lankan president, criticising his planned participation in the opening ceremony of a Buddhist vihara constructed illegally in the environs of the historic Thiruketheeswaram Kovil.

President Sirisena is due to participate in the opening ceremony of the vihara, constructed illegally in around 10 acres of private Tamil-owned land on September 29.

A Buddhist shrine was initially built to serve the Sri Lankan army when it occupied the area in 1991. However since the end of the war, the main army camp has been removed but a smaller one was kept in place to guard the vihara and Buddhist monks.

In 2012, the Department of Buddhist Affairs cancelled the vihara’s registration and halted construction, however construction was restarted recently.

“Is this good governance?” V. S. Sivakaran, chair of the Mannar civil society union, questioned in a letter to the president.

The civil society leader criticised the endorsement of the vihara by the army and the president, despite its illegal construction on appropriated land.

Mr Sivakaran also questioned the president’s commitment to reconciliation, suggesting instead that like previous presidents, Maithripala Sirisena is invested in Sinhalisation of the Tamil homeland through the erasure of Tamil history and culture.