By Saman Indrajith
Neeraavi Pillaiyar Temple at Chemmalai in the Mulaitivu District was a site of controversy as the Sinhalese in the area tried to take over a Saivite temple, said TNA leader R Sampanthan in parliament, yesterday.
Making a special statement Sampanthan said that the Buddhist temple Gurukande Viharaya had been forcibly constructed between 2004 and 2009 when no civilian was permitted to visit the area.
MP Sampanthan said: “More recently an attempt was made to restore that temple. This led to unrest in that area between the people who are all non-Buddhists and the monks who had come there. Upon this matter being reported to the relevant Magistrate, an order was made prohibiting the reconstruction of the temple. The Chief incumbent of the temple filed an application in the Provincial High Court of the Northern Province district of Vavuniya and the matter is still pending.”
Stating the events that had taken place at the disputed location which recently led to a clash between the two groups, the TNA leader said, “In the meantime, on or about 21st September, 2019 the Chief Priest of the Gurukanda Raja Maha Viharaya passed away in Colombo after taking ill. The Mulaithivu Police filed intimation in the Magistrate’s Court in Mulaithivu stating inter alia that
(a) A police complaint had been filed by the administrative body of the Neeraavi Pillaiyar Temple stating that the chief monk of the Gurukanda Raja Maha Viharaya at that time had passed away, stating that if the body of the priest is brought to the premises in dispute, where the Hindu and Buddhist temples exist, it could result in a breach of the peace in the area. The magistrate thereupon made an order on September 21st that the above stated complainants and the present chief monk of the Gurukanda Viharaya be present in court on September 23rd 2019
(b) That the body of the deceased priest should not be cremated or buried in the said premises until a final order was granted in the said matter. When the matter was taken up in court on September 23rd 2019 counsel for the Maritimepattu Predeshiya Sabha stated that steps had been taken for the cremation of the said body without obtaining necessary permission in terms of the cemeteries and burial grounds ordinance.”
Sampanthan said that the Counsel appearing for the Buddhist vihara had notified court that they were willing to conduct the cremation ceremony at another location and the administrative body of the above mentioned Hindu temple was agreeable to that.
Accordingly, court made order of consent that the said cremation not be conducted at the premises in dispute and instead be conducted in the alternate location.
“After the order was made a group of monks led by Ven. Galagodatte Gnanasara Thera took the body of the deceased chief priest to the very place that the court order was issued prohibiting the cremation being done there and proceeded to cremate the body there despite protests by a large number of people of the area being gathered there. A clash occurred and the priest of the Hindu temple was severely injured. A lawyer appearing for the administrative body of the Hindu Temple was also assaulted. The police were present during the entire incident led by the SSP but they did nothing to prevent the monks and others violating the court order, but only prevented the members of the Hindu community who were present from entering the premises in dispute.”
Ven Gnanasara Thera was sentenced for a six year incarceration for contempt of court and was pardoned by the President.
Sampanthan said that he had written a letter to the President on 27th Sept detailing all these facts and he tabled this letter to be included in the Hansard.
“Some Buddhist monks have violated an order of court, they have entered a Hindu temple and premises desecrated the temple an act or sacrilege and behaved in an unworthy manner in violation of the teachings of the Buddha,” Sampanthan said. What was most astounding and unacceptable was that the police had remained silent and failed to take any action in that regard whatsoever despite an SSP being there when the incident occurred, he added, urging the government to take immediate action to bring the offenders to book for violating the court order and for not preventing the incident from happening.