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Sri Lanka's archaeological department and Buddhist monks attempts another land grab in Mullaitivu

The Sri Lankan archaeological department has initiated an attempt to seize another 400 acres of land in the Thannimurippu area around Kurunthoormalai in the Mullaitivu district, as local Tamils continue to face threats from Sinhala Buddhist monks.

The department instructed the provincial secretary of Karaithuraipatru in a letter to cede 400 acres of land surrounding Kurunthoormalai that belongs to native Tamils. 

This move is seen as an attempt to erase the Tamil identity of the area and further the ‘Buddhisation’ of the traditional Tamil homeland. 

The concerns of Sinhala-Buddhist colonisation are particularly heightened in Kurunthoormalai because Vidura Wickramanayaka, the Sri Lanka minister for “national heritage”, led the consecration of a Buddha statue at the site of a Tamil temple in the area earlier this year. 

According to an agreement signed in 1932, an archaeological map assigned 78 acres of land in the site for religious worship. A fresh commission was employed to resurvey the land following which officials from Colombo arrived and designated the 78 acres as “Kurandhava Vihara” archaeological site in late 2020.

This gave way to the beginning of archaeological activities in Kurunthoormalai in January 2021 by the department with aid from the military. 

Just over two months after that, the department has instructed that another 400 acres surrounding Kurunthoormalai be handed over to it for archaeological purposes. About 150 acres of land belong to native Tamils in Thannimurippu and the remainder falls under the Nagancholai forest area. 

Buddhist monks had been threatening and intimidating Tamil farmers from Thannimurippu who tried to return to their land in February. Viewed in this context, the letter by the archaeological department to the provincial secretary raises serious suspicions of further colonisation. 

Locals have expressed fears over whether the seizure of 400 acres of land will be followed by Sinhalese settlements in the area. 

The governor of the Northern Province and the secretary of Karaithuraipatru have been continuously subjected to intense pressure to give up the land to the archaeological department. 

The matter is scheduled to be discussed in the upcoming Mullaitivu district coordination committee on April 1.  


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