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Sri Lankan army allows access to temples within High Security Zone after 34 years

30 Tamils were allowed access to temples located within a High Security Zone (HSZ) in Jaffna after 34 years but under close watch by Sri Lanka’s military. 

Devotees were escorted in buses by Sri Lanka’s army to Sri Muthumariyamman temple and Manampirai Pillaiyar temple over the weekend. The soldiers conducted checks before the Tamils entered the bus and dropped them back at a checkpoint at the border of the security zone.

One of the devotees said that they last worshipped at the temple on Deepavali in 1990 after which the military occupied the area declaring it a HSZ and obstructed people from accessing the area. 

When the Tamils returned to the temples, they saw the state the temples had been left in following the years fighting during the armed conflict. 

The devotees have requested that they be granted unconditional permission to visit these traditionally Tamil sites as soon as possible.

Earlier this month, the army announced it has granted conditional access to seven temples out of 21 located within the HSZ in Jaffna, mandating worshippers must use army transportation and provide their home address to reach the temples. 

Accordingly, anyone intending to visit any of these Hindu temples must provide their names, addresses, identification card numbers, and telephone numbers to the management of the temple, which will share it with the district and divisional secretariat before they can even be allowed to visit. Among the list of temples included, is the Amman Temple - Palaly Raja Rajeswari Amman Kovil. 

In addition to this, those wishing to visit cannot travel alone and must seek transportation from the army to enter the HSZ. 

The North-East remains militarised even though this year will mark 15 years since the end of the armed conflict. The military continue to occupy vast swathes of land and are heavily involved in civilian activities, such as running restaurants, hotels and farms. Sri Lankan soldiers are also involved in distributing supplies to school children in an attempt to normalise their presence in the region. 




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