The Buddha statue installed in Kachchativu which created a furore among the Tamil people from across the Palk straits has been removed from there, Jaffna Diocese Vicar General has said.
A statue of Buddha was installed in the small islet of Kachchativu this year which irked the catholic community mostly fishermen from Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu where they meet usually during the St. Antony’s festival every year normally in the first quarter.
The islet so far had only one devotional place-St. Antony’s church which is more than a century old built by a devout catholic from Tamil Nadu.
Suddenly this year, a statue of Buddha was installed in the islet allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy. It was said that the statue was installed for the convenience of the Sri Lankan security forces who are staying put in Kachchativu and needed a shrine to pray.
The Catholic church in Jaffna under whose control the church presently at Kachchativu exists wrote to the Sri Lankan authorities about their apprehension of the Buddha statue being installed there. This issue even echoed in the Indian Parliament.
Now, the Vicar General of the Jaffna diocese has written to the Jaffna Divisional Secretary saying the Sri Lankan Navy has informed the bishop’s house that the statue has been removed from there.
“This matter has been informed to the bishop’s house by senior Naval officers. They have also informed us that the Buddha statue installed there has been taken out of Kachchativu”, Rev. Fr. P. Josephdas Jebaratnam said in the letter to the DS-Jaffna.
Recalling the letter written by the Jaffna Diocese to the Sri Lankan Navy on the 27th of March this year, Rev. Fr. Jebaratnam said that they had “requested them to take due action taking into consideration the heritage of Kachchativu and maintaining its individuality”.
Several political parties, religious leaders, and civil society members expressed their concern and condemned the action of the Sri Lankan Navy in installing the Buddha statue. They said it would pave the way for Sinhala colonization and destroy the cultural identity of the islet. They also feared that any such unwarranted act would destabilize the demography of the Northern region and create communal tensions.
This year, the Bishop of Jaffna Most. Rev. Justin Gnanapragasam did not attend the annual St.Antony’s feast allegedly against the installation of the Buddha statue there.