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Buddhist monks conduct worship at Kurunthurmalai during Mullaitivu Magistrate Court judge's field visit

File photograph

Sinhala Buddhist monks continued their worship at the illegally constructed Buddhist shrine at Kurunthurmalai while Mullaitivu Magistrate Court Judge, Hon. T. Saravanarajah conducted a field visit following the second court hearing regarding the ongoing illegal construction. 

The suit AR/673/18 was filed by a team of lawyers representing the Athi Sivan Aiyanar Kovil on March 2nd, 2023. The suit was filed following a field visit conducted by a group of residents from the Mullaitivu, Thannimurippu area and former member of the Northern Provincial Council T. Ravikaran on February 23rd 2023. Ravikaran, is one of many local Tamils that have continuously protested against ongoing attempts by Sinhala Buddhists to occupy the ancient Tamil site. 

The former Provincial Council member lodged a complaint at the Mullaitivu Police station on the same day, alleging that there had been significant progress in construction, in direct contradiction to the court order issued on June 12th, 2022 to stop all ongoing construction of the Buddhist temple at its existing stage. 

The second hearing of the suit AR/673/18 was held on July 4th, 2023, where the court ordered the Department of Archeology and the Police department to submit a report regarding the issue at hand. Following the court hearing, the Magistrate Court Judge conducted a field visit to the site. 

During the field visit, 7 Buddhist monks along with MP Sarath Weerasekara entered the temple with flowers and other offerings and conducted worship at the Buddhist temple.  The judge ordered the police in the premises to immediately stop the worship as it contravenes against multiple existing court orderds.

Additionally MP Sarath Weerasekara attempted to introduce himself and voice his opinions regarding the suit and investigation. The judge refused to accept his opinions and asked to remove himself during the ongoing investigation as Members of Parliament or politicians cannot intervene into investigations being conducted by a court of law.

The team of lawyers representing the temple administration are confident that they have been able to prove that construction of the Buddhist temple had progressed, with adequate photographic evidence. 

Following the judge's visit, Tamil National People's Front (TNPF) MP Selvarajah Kajendren said that the Buddhist monks continued to contravene the court order even in the presence of the judge, highlighting that they do not accept the terms of the courts in the North-East. 

Last year, advocacy organsation, People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) highlighted in a report  that since the end of the armed conflict in 2009, Sri Lanka's Director General of Archaeology "has ordered excavations and instructed district authorities to put up Buddhist structures on pre-existing Tamil worship sites and private Tamil lands, regardless of any opposition to it." 

PEARL also notes how the state have justified Buddhisisation across the North-East by destroying and appropriating Tamil and Muslim places of worship to erect Buddhist shrines which in turn has provided "space and authority for Buddhist monks to influence the agenda" of the Sri Lankan government. 

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