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Sri Lanka Archaeology Dept denies authorising Buddha statue in Mullaitivu

The director of Sri Lanka’s archaeology department has denied in court that the department granted permission for a Buddhist shrine to be built in Mullaitivu, despite a Buddhist monk previously submitting documents purporting to show approval from the department.

The trial regarding the construction of a Buddha statue encroaching on the Neeraviyadi Pillaiyar Temple in Semmalai continued at the Mullaitivu magistrates court on Tuesday, when P B Mandawala, the Director General of the Archaeology Department had been summoned.

Previously: Mullaitivu court places injunction on construction of Buddha statue

Mandawala said in court that the disputed area had been declared as archeological premises by the department but that it had no jurisdiction to grant permission to build a Buddhist shrine in the particular area, and that he could only give a recommendation if needed.

However Mandawala made claims that an ancient Buddhist vihara existed in Nayaru 2000 years ago and that the Hindu temple at the site was illegal as it is illegal to construct a Hindu temple at the site of a Buddhist shrine. 

He said that permission should be obtained from local authorities to build a new Buddhist shrine there. However information previously made public by the local authority Karaithuraipatru (Maritimepattu) divisional council confirmed that the council had not granted permission for a shrine nor even received any application for its construction.

Read more: More tensions as opening of illegal Buddha statue in Mullaitivu rushed through

Lawyers representing the Tamil temple said the Director General’s statement contradicted documentation submitted as evidence to the court previously, and said that the illegal shrine had been built with the support of the Archaeology Department as part of the project of furthering Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.

The judge adjourned the case until February 26 and extended an injunction forbidding construction at the Buddhist shrine. However he said that prayers could take place at both temples.