Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s government and military are building Buddhist temples and monasteries in the northern districts of Mullathivu and Kokilai against the wishes of local residents.
The latter are mostly Hindu and Christian Tamils who accuse the authorities of trying the please the country’s Buddhist Sinhalese majority.
Last Friday, protests broke out in the area. Police arrested four organisers, who were later released following the intervention of local politicians, and a pledge to avoid similar action.
Local residents are mostly former internally displaced people (IDPs), who only recently began to reclaim the lands they had lost during the war.
"Even if they are backed by the military, they should not build permanent Buddhist places of worship, and removed those who own the land. That is really dishonest,” Tamil Catholic human rights activist Anthony Jesudasan told AsiaNews.
“Hindus and Christians live here. We could accept the building of Buddhist temples only if they decided to create a new, multi-ethnic village".
Even some Catholic and Anglican Tamil priests criticised the government's initiative.
“Thousands of people have not yet received land, but they are being used to build places of worship different from their own. What is the meaning of this?"
"We are not against Buddhists. We do not bother them,” said some local residents. “So why is the army doing this to us? When will we have some peace again?"
Sri Lanka’s civil war began as a fight defeat the separatist rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who wanted to create a Tamil state in the northeast of the country, but eventually morphed into an ethnic conflict.
A Buddhist group organises a silent protest in Sri Lanka’s capital. Top monks from five Colombo temples visit four mosques in Ratmalana and Mount Lavinia. They call for living together “as one community”, slam communalism aroused “by various interested parties”.
"We must overcome violence," said the Venerable Yatawatte Ganarama Thero. "We bless and appreciate the action taken by the Catholic Church to promote interfaith coexistence,” said Muslim representative Abdhul Rahuman. "The challenge for us today is to build a peaceful country," said Father Lawrence Ramanayake, director of Seth Sarana-Caritas Colombo.