President Ranil Wickremesinghe has assured the majority Sinhala people that areas around archaeological sites would be protected.

Responding to a letter written to him by a popular Sinhala Nationalist monk, Ellawala Medhananda Thero, accused of being racist and anti-Tamil, the president said the lands around the Kurunthur Malai Buddhist Vihara would not be handed over to ‘others’ and no such plans are being contemplated.

Vast tracts of land which the Tamils have been using for generations were taken over by the Sri Lankan security forces which have built a Buddhist Shrine, in spite of an order by the Mullaitivu court.

The archaeology site, which the president’s office had identified as ‘Kurundi Vihara’, has a Sivan Kovil locally known as Adhi Sivan Ayyanar Kovil, that is being worshiped by the Tamils for generations.

Recently a new Buddhist Vihara atop the ruins of an apparent Buddhist monastery has deprived the Tamils of the right of passage to the forest area where the ancient Sivan Kovil is located.

The Mullaitivu Magistrate’s court has ordered to maintain a ‘status quo’ on the construction and nothing further shall be carried out without its permission.

On Tuesday (13), the Sinhala nationalist monk Ellawala Medhananda Thero had urged the president in a handwritten letter not to hand over land that does not belong to the disputed site to others. "Ruins of many Buddhist Viharas are strewn around the Kurundi Vihara in many places and hence distributing the lands there is unacceptable. Also, granting lands around that place to those who fan ethnic protests is not correct. This will lead to racist people migrating to the place where the ruins are. Even if the Government grants the land or not now, it is understood that forced occupation of lands is taking place."

The far-right Sinhala Nationalist monk in his letter also warned the president that any such move of granting lands there would lead to grave dangers and hence not to transfer land rights.

The President’s office has now responded to him that no such decision is taken.

“We have not taken any decision to distribute state lands surrounding the Kurundi Vihara to others,” said the president’s secretary in a letter on Thursday (15).

Ellawala Mehadananda thero made the request following a video that went viral showing the president in a discussion with Tamil politicians and archaeology authorities.

In that video, the president can be heard ordering the director general of archaeology – who resigned days later – to release land including agricultural areas in Thannimurippu, Mullaitivu district, grabbed by the archaeology department.

President's Secretary Saman Ekanayake blames the media for ‘mixing up’ what was discussed in the meeting a week before.

“In the meeting on 08.06.2023, (we) discussed ruins in Kurundi Viharaya as well as the Thiriyaya area and it seems that the media had mixed up these facts when reporting.  The Mullaitivu district secretary and the director general of archaeology have been instructed to find out about the problem regarding a few paddy lands around Kurundi Vihara and submit a report.”

The president’s office said that “it plans to identify sites with archaeological importance and hand its custody over to the district secretary”.

However, the president’s office which was quick to respond to a Buddhist monk known for his anti-Tamil politics, is yet to provide the media with an unedited version of the discussion held on June 8.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leadership that attended the meeting too had not commented.


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