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Monks and the military in Jaffna

The Sri Lankan army reportedly “extended their maximum support” to yet another Buddhist festival in Jaffna last week, as the military continued its occupation of the peninsula.

Soldiers shed their guns, boots and uniform for white shirts, as they marked a ceremony in which new robes for monks were brought from the army’s occupying 512 Brigade headquarters in Jaffna to the controversial Sri Naga Vihara in the city centre.

Due to its imposing structure and its prime location in Jaffna Town, a Tamil cultural centre with a negligible Buddhist population, locals have viewed the monastery as a symbol of Sinhala-Buddhist colonisation since its post-war expansion.

The monastery also came under fire in 2018 when its former chief monk was cremated, with the backing of Sri Lankan military forces, in the vicinity of a Tamil massacre memorial and Hindu temple, despite fierce opposition from locals.

“The annual event was organized by the 51 Division upon instructions and patronage of the Commander Security Forces – Jaffna (SF-J) Major General Jagath Kodithuwakku,” declared a military website.

The event marked yet another occasion in which the Sri Lankan military was directly involved in Sinhala Buddhist events in the North-East, a regular occurrence across the Tamil homeland under the Sri Lankan occupation.

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