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‘Sinhala only’ flags raised in Kandy ahead of Sri Lankan swearing in ceremony

'Sinhala only' lion flags were pictured flying alongside Buddhist flags in Kandy today, as the town prepares for the swearing-in of Sri Lanka’s newly appointed ministers at the ‘Temple of the Tooth’, in what looks set to be another Sinhala Buddhist ceremony.

The flags, Sri Lankan lion flags which have had the token representation stripes for Tamils and Muslims removed, have long been associated with racist Sinhalese movements. 

Their hoisting, alongside Buddhist flags, was captured by Yazh News, as the town prepares for the ceremony at the Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic. Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited the temple last week, where he spoke of the tooth relic as ”a symbol of status denoting the right to ascend the throne” and claimed, “99% of [Sri Lanka’s] relics are of Buddhist heritage”.

In recent years the flags have been flown several times by extremist Sinhala groups, including those behind the ‘Sinha Le’ or ‘Lion’s Blood’ movement and other organisations accused of hate speech.

Sri Lanka's national flag, is dominated by a lion, the Sinhala national symbol, holding a sword facing two small strips, which were added to represent the Tamil and Muslim communities. In 1972, the government added four leaves of the Bo tree, a holy Buddhist tree, to the flag. Tamils have long rejected Sri Lanka’s flag and other national symbols, with many raising black flags as a sign of protest instead on Sri Lankan Independence Day.

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