Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) MP for the Vanni district, Charles Nirmalanathan visited the Thiruketheeswaram temple in Mannar last week, after concerns were raised from the landowners that a Buddhist monk had occupied their land.
The land, which extends to an area of 5 acres in Manthai, was granted to the Shaivite Trust on a 99-year lease and has long-been under the maintenance of the Thiruketheeswaram temple administration.
Following the internal migration and displacement of Tamils across the North-East due to the civil war, the army occupied the area and gave itself temporary possession of the land. However, the rights of the land were subsequently returned to the Ketheeswaran Temple administration.
Recently, a Buddhist shrine was erected by a monk on land belonging partly to the temple administration and partly to private ownership. The monk has now undertaken efforts to expand into the remaining areas in possession of the temple administration.
Amidst growing concerns of the land occupation, the Thiruketheeswaram temple administration brought the issue to MP Charles Nirmalanathan’s attention and stated the monk’s efforts to occupy their land.
Visiting the spot on Tuesday, Nirmalanathan said that expeditious efforts would be taken to combat the land occupation. Mannar Police, office-bearers and the chief priest of the Thiruketheeswaram temple went to visit the parliamentarian to notify and investigate the situation.
“The Sri Lankan military has aided this [Buddhist] vihara to be erected. They have secretly taken down the fences on the temple administration’s land and allowed it to be cleared for their occupation to take place. Normally, the Archaeology Department would intervene in such situations but they have not done so. We urge the Sri Lankan government to get involved and immediately stop such actions occurring across the North-East,” said Nirmalanathan.
The land occupation extends with the growing environment of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism across the North-East. A growing climate of authoritarianism has been marked by sustained efforts to suppress the culture and values of the minorities in the country, most notably those of Tamils and Muslims. Tamil locals in Mullaitivu and Jaffna protested against land grab efforts, with Tamil politicians also voicing concerns. Recently, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) promised they will pursue filing a lawsuit against Sinhala land grabbers in Batticaloa as Sinhala settlers threaten Tamil farmers and continue to kill their cows as a result of their ongoing land dispute.