Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan has written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa alleging that a Buddhist monk, who is a member of the Presidential Task Force for Archaeological Heritage Management in the Eastern Province, had threatened a group of farmers in the Thiriyai area in the Kuchchaveli Divisional Secretary’s Division in the Trincomalee District.
Sampanthan said that the reverend monk, residing in the Arisimalai Buddhist temple, has threatened a group of farmers and prohibited them from farming on their private lands and other lands, for which they hold a Government permit.
Sampanthan said that the lands are privately owned by various p abdersons, on private deeds of Government permits or possessed for cultivation by them for several decades and generations, and they had cultivated these lands prior to being displaced by the war.
He said most of the people returned after the war and commenced cultivation several years ago, while others are preparing to commence cultivation this year.
The tract of paddy fields in Thiriyai in question are Aththikkadu, Neeravikandal, Pallapavagal, Pattanipathi, Kandapanavayal, and Paavallankandal.
All these lands are to an extent of around 1000 acres with around 300 acres of private lands owned on deeds, 300 on Government permits, and the balance four hundred acres long-possessed land used for cultivation for many decades.
On 20 August, a reverend monk residing in Arisimalai Buddhist Temple had allegedly complained to the Police, and on his intervention, the driver of a tractor who was working on the field had been arrested and remanded.
On 23 August, when a large number of people had gathered at the Pillayar-Ganapathi Temple for an important religious festival, the monk had gone there with the Police, warned the farmers against going to the fields, and threatened them with arrest.
Since then, none of the farmers had gone to the field even though they must cultivate before 15 September.
Sampanthan said that the high-handed action by the monk is linked to the Presidential Task Force of which he is a member.
He requested the President to take immediate action to ensure that neither the reverend monk nor the Police are able to interfere with the cultivation rights of the farmers of Thiriyai, and that they are allowed to proceed with their cultivation as they have done for years.
Sampanthan also said he had written to the President on 15 June regarding the Task Force, but is yet to receive a response to his letter.
A copy of the letter was released to the media.