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Archaeology department abused power by allowing Buddhist monks to carry out 'research' - Mullaitivu court

Granting permission for Buddhist monks to carry out ‘research’ on a Mullaitivu mountain was an abuse of power by the Sri Lankan archaeology department, the Mullaitivu court has warned. The court also said that devotees were free to access the mountain to worship at the existing Hindu temple.

The warning was in relation to an incident on September 4 when a group of Sinhalese people, including two Buddhist monks, arrived in Kurunthurmalai in Mullaitivu with a Buddha statue and installation equipment, angering locals who believed they had come to erect a Buddhist shrine. The group were apprehended by locals and handed over to Oddusuddan police.

Lawyers acting for the archaeology department told the Mullaitivu court on Monday that the department had sent the group, including the monks. Previously, the monks had argued that the mountain was the location of an ancient Buddhist site and that they should be given permission to carry out research.

Tamil lawyers acting for the locals said that the Tamil Siva and Ayyanar temples had been at Kurunthurmalai for centuries and that residents had land deeds dating back to 1892, although the archaeology department had gradually appropriated several properties.

The lawyers questioned under what capacity Buddhist monks were sent to carry out archaeological research, stating that the actions of the archaeology department constituted an abuse of power.

When asked by the court as to how it came about that Buddhist monks were sent to do the research, the lawyers said that the research had been handed over to monks as the department was lacking in funds to carry out the research itself.

The court agreed that the archaeology department had abused its power and called on department officials to explain exactly how and why Buddhist monks had been invested with departmental permissions.

An archaeology department official is expected to make a statement at the next hearing on October 22.