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Public opposition thwarts illegal unveiling of Buddhist statue in Jaffna

An attempt by a Sri Lankan government body to install a statue of a Buddhist historical figure in Jaffna town failed after local residents and council members opposed the unveiling.

Authorities at Jaffna Prison had prepared to put up a statue of Sanghamitra, one of the historical figures credited with bringing Buddhism to the island, outside its complex. The erection of the statue was planned to coincide with the visit of Sri Lanka’s prisons commissioner to Jaffna, but the prison department had not sought permission from the local authority to construct it.

Local journalists exposed the plan on Friday night, leading local residents and politicians as well as several members and staff of the Jaffna Municipal Council to turn up outside the prison on Saturday morning to oppose the statue being unveiled. The prison staff were forced to take the statue back into the prison complex.

The prison is located on the coastal Jaffna-Ponnalai-Point Pedro Road, a short distance away from the popular hotspots of the Jaffna Fort and Pannai park. It's outer wall already features a mural of Sanghamitra arriving to the island by boat.

Tamils across the North-East have become increasingly vocal in opposing the construction of Buddhist statues and temples across the North-East, without consultation or permission from local authorities.

People all over the Tamil homeland mobilised earlier this year to protest against the Sinhala colonisation of Neeraviyadi in Mullaitivu, where a massive Buddha statue was built encroaching on the land of a Hindu temple, and later the monk responsible for the statue was cremated in the Hindu temple's grounds, in direct contravention of a court order.

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