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Activists Meet DG of National Commission for UNESCO in Colombo over Buddhist monuments in the North

A group of national activists in Sri Lanka recently had a meeting with Ms. Dhammika Wijesinghe, the Director General of National Commission for UNESCO on the issue of archaeological monuments of the Northern province Sri Lanka. The group was consisting of Ven. Akmeemana Dayarathana Thero, Ven, Iththekande Saddhathissa Thero, Ven, Medille Pagngnaloka thero, Ven. Angulugalle Siri Jinananda thero, Dr. Chamila Liyanage, Mr. Matugama Seneviruan and few other activists. They explained the present political landscape in which these monuments have faced numerous threats. They also requested to take necessary actions immediately to save these historical places, as UNESCO is the right international organization to fulfill that. The comprehensive report submitted to the Director General also states; “We are writing to bring to the attention of the UN and UNESCO the dangers and threats to the ancient Buddhist architecture, artifacts and archaeological sites in the Northern Province as a result of racist and separatist ideology. There has been a surge in the number of attacks upon Buddhist temples, threats to Buddhist priests living in the Northern Province instigated by racist and separatist chants of the Northern Province Chief Minister, Tamil politicians and other external parties aiming to destroy the Buddhist heritage in the North. These racist calls have even led to some ancient Buddha statues being vandalized and broken thus erasing artifacts that cannot ever be replaced. The separatists have come coined a new slogan ‘stop Buddhisization’ of the North claiming a bogus ‘Tamil homeland’ vocalized through the Northern Province Chief Minister.

The calculated nature of these calls has been timed with the release of a book on 24th October 2016 in the UK by an organization who had been banned as an LTTE front in 2014 incorporating the UNSC Resolution 1373 but had the ban lifted in the spirit of reconciliation only. The Book titled ‘Proliferating of Buddhist Structures in Tamil Homeland: Sowing the seeds of disharmony was launched in the British Parliament. No one has raised the question of producing evidence to substantiate any homeland and proving that Tamils evolved in North Sri Lanka and not South India. Essentially, what needs to be said is that the same ethnic group cannot evolve in 2 different countries and use the same arguments to demand a homeland in 2 different countries. It is to build a false story that only Tamils lived in the North that efforts are afoot to destroy the Buddhist heritage that has prevailed since 5th century BC far before any Tamils arrived from South India.

Destroying cultural heritage and property is a war crime. We can produce ample historical data and evidence to showcase the Buddhist heritage that existed in North Sri Lanka and the Sinhala Buddhist civilization that prevailed in the North. These are corroborated with the accounts of Portuguese, Dutch and colonial British historians as well. There are gazette notifications by the state to also substantiate this.

Ms. Wijesinghe, the Director General , agreed to take relevant actions in coordination with line ministries and other international agencies to address this issue.