Two Kilinochchi Buddha statues desecrated

Buddhist society suspects Jaffna monument retaliation

IUSF suspects act ‘organised’ to fuel racial tension

Four police teams to probe

Two Buddha statues at the Kilinochchi Campus of the University of Jaffna were damaged by unknown persons on the night of 13 January, The Morning learnt.

A Buddhist vihara in Jaffna University’s Kilinochchi Campus on Ariviyal Nagar

Police Media Spokesperson Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Ajith Rohana told The Morning on 17 January that the incident was being investigated.

“It was reported that two Buddha statues in the Kilinochchi Campus were damaged five days ago. Four police teams are investigating the incident.”

The damaged statues were in the Buddhist temple located within the multi-religious centre of the campus, where an acre of land each has been allocated for the university’s Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Islamic students to construct their own places of worship. The campus houses the Faculties of Engineering, Technology, and Agriculture.

Speaking to The Morning on 17 January, Jaffna University Faculty of Engineering Senior Lecturer and University Buddhist Society Lecturer-In-Charge Saliya Samapath said that the damage caused to the two Buddha statues was discovered on the morning of 14 January.

“In the two Buddha statues, the areas depicting the face have been damaged by intruders who have entered the premises by cutting open a fence. This could not have been done by students. We suspect that this is the doing of extremists in retaliation to the demolition of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LLTE) commemoration monument at the University of Jaffna,” Sampath claimed.

The Mullivaikkal monument in the University of Jaffna which commemorated those who died in the final stages of the war, was demolished by university authorities following classified directives they received, as first reported by The Morning on 12 January.

The demolition sparked controversy and raised widespread concerns both locally and internationally. While certain parties viewed the war monument as a threat to peace and reconciliation inside the university, other parties viewed the demolition as a violation of the right to commemoration, which could lead to inter-ethnic tensions.

Responding to queries about the incident, University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunge told The Morning yesterday (18) that the act was done by an unknown entity, in order to disturb the peace within the university.

“We don’t know if it was done by Sinhalese or Tamils, but somebody has done this to create problems.”

Speaking to The Morning on 17 January, Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) Convener Ven. Rathkarawwe Jinarathana Thera claimed that the IUSF suspects that the damage was caused by organised entities in order to fuel racism.

“We saw what happened in Mawanella where Buddha statues were damaged. It was later revealed that an individual was paid to do this. The Government is looking for ways to respond to the country’s current problems, and racism is chosen as an answer.”

A glass enclosure of the Buddha statue in Mawanella was damaged on 28 December 2020. The damage was reported to have been caused by the pelting of stones. Though it was an initial suspicion, extremism was ruled out as a cause as the suspect had told the Police that the attack was an attempt to break the glass and steal money from the till installed inside.

However, damage to Buddha statues in Mawanella in 2018 were reported to have been caused by an Islamist extremist group with the involvement of National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) Leader Zaharan Hashim, who was responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks of 2019, which made the December 2020 incident sensitive to both the Sinhala and Muslim communities of the area.

By Hiranyada Dewasiri

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