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Sinhala nationalist MP Sarath Weerasekara conducts visit to Athi Lingeswaran Temple following vandalisation

Ultra Nationalist Sarath Weerasekara and his team visited the Athi Lingeswaran Temple on the Vedukkunaari Malai on May 6th to examine the site following the recent vandalism of the Siva Lingam and other idols at the temple. The temple administration has alleged that the vandalism was carried out by the archaeological department. The temple has become yet another victim of ongoing land grabbing for the construction of Buddhist temples in the North-East of Sri Lanka.

Previously, the Archaeological Department had obstructed worshippers and priests from entering the temple and filed a case claiming that the temple fell within their jurisdiction. In response to the recent case of vandalism, the temple administration filed a case at the Vavuniya Magistrate court, Vedukkunaari Police, and Human Rights Commission. The district court has now issued an order giving permission to the temple administration to reconstruct the temple, replace the idols, and provide security for ongoing poojas.

Sarath Weerasekara an ardent supporter of the Rajapaksas and has previously called for Tamil politicians to be arrested and attacked Tamil parties warning them not to "test the patience of Buddhists".

Previously, Weerasekara has said NGOs and civil society activists should be charged with treason and sentenced to death, called for the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to be banned and rallied against the Sri Lankan national anthem being sung in Tamil. 

 The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) released a dossier on Weerasekara, highlighting his alarming comments on devolution, his anti-TNA stance and how he has advocated violence to those he opposes. 

Anti TNA 

In 2013, Weerasekara called on the Sri Lankan government to ban the TNA, the dossier noted. 

"We have done a foolish thing by not banning the TNA, which we should have done soon after defeating the LTTE. In the second world war, after Hitler was defeated, his Nazi party was banned...But we, after defeating the LTTE, foolishly failed to ban the TNA. What we should have done is bring formal charges against them for aiding and abetting terrorism and put them in prison," Weersekara said addressing parliament. 

Anti-NGO and human rights activists 

"If someone is trying to divide the country and take the war heroes who defended the country to a war crimes tribunal on false charges, they should be treated as traitors...If we come to power again and form a government, we will take them to courts on charges of treason and hang them like any other ocuntry would do."

Weerasekara has also attended the United Nations Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva where he has "openly condemned and issued thinly veiled threats" against activists for "committing treason". 

Threats against journalists 

In 2010, Wasantha Chandrapala, a correspondent for mainstream media institutions was threatened by Weerasekara over the phone.

"You better know that I am good for good people and worst for worst people, I do whatever I say. You journalists better remember that...I tell you one thing Chandrapala, I am not like other buggers. Keep that in your mind...Don't come to play your games with me. Be careful."

According to the dossier, that same evening, Chandrapala's house came under attack. 

Read the full dossier here

Weerasekara and his team examined the temple. The temple administration has accused the archaeological department of carrying out the vandalism, however, and the department has denied any involvement. The incident highlights the ongoing tensions between the Buddhist and Hindu communities in Sri Lanka and the issues surrounding land grabbing for religious purposes.

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