12 June, 2024


Kandy Closure

By Arjuna Ranawana

Arjuna Ranawana

Arjuna Ranawana

If you ever visited my verdant and beautiful home town, the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka in the last 17 years or so and went to see it’s more revered landmark, the Temple of the Tooth, you should have noticed that the road going past the building on the side of the Lake is closed.

The closure runs from the point at which a little road down to the Lake on the Buwelikada side beyond the temple to Dalada Veediya.

Now the reason why the road is closed is to ostensibly prevent terrorist attacks against the hallowed Temple which we locals simply call the Maligawa or Palace.

Yes, despite its universally recognised place in the hearts of Buddhists worldwide, and an iconic international heritage site, this place was attacked twice by terrorist groups. The first attack was by the Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya – a now defunct nationalist military arm of the JVP in 1989. The second, quite devastating attack was by the LTTE in 1998. The DJV was apparently trying to steal arms from a military detachment at the temple. The LTTE strike was typically a pure terror attack aimed at killing civilians at a non-military target and also hit at the sentiments of the majority community by attacking a place which has iconic, historic and cultural importance to them.

In the face of such strikes it is reasonable that the road leading up to the temple be closed to better police the historic sites.

But it is perplexing to me why the road still remains closed as the threat of an attack on the Maligawa has changed dramatically.

The LTTE’s military capability to make a strike at a target such as the Maligawa was destroyed more than five years ago.  The DJV as a military force does not exist anymore. Also the men responsible for both those attacks are now ensconced safely on that island in the Diyawanna, and lord it over us, mere mortals!

But what does that little road closure mean really to the people of Kandy?  And does it matter?

It does matter to many people of Kandy because of the daily ordeal a lot of residents are put through. Anyone wanting to go into Kandy town from the Buwelikada end has to go all around the Kandy Lake, four kilometers of torturous traffic. The affected residents include those from the burgeoning residential regions around Digana.

During the morning school hour this round the lake trip can be particularly nightmarish. There are several major schools around the lake and the traffic around them at the best of times is bad. Add to that the traffic trying to get downtown and you have a truly hellish Asian traffic jam. This means an additional hour of the trip to school for a child attending Girl’s High School or Kingswood for instance from Buwelikada.

The end of the war has brought much relief to traffic in Colombo and many other towns and cities across Sri Lanka. The barricades have disappeared along with the previously ubiquitous parapet walls making the city of Colombo in particular more accessible.

But in Kandy and this particular place there is no change. The Kandyans I am told reliably have protested behind the scenes. They have petitioned their politicians and even the President to no avail.

Iin Toronto, Canada for instance City Council would have spent several million dollars debating it for months and perhaps found a solution, or postponed it for the next election. If it happened in India or Bangladesh there would have been a screaming, stone throwing mob looking for a joust with the police.

But in Kandy there seems to be no such thing.

These Kandyans, as we all know, are capable of great deeds and much bravery. Remember for centuries they kept the marauding mercantile powers of the age, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British at bay? So what’s hold them back now, why don’t they take on a few piddling local politicians and have their road opened?

I think I know why.

Like most Sri Lankans, the Kandyans are also apathetic about much of what is going on around them and have mostly lost their will to resist authority. While we may have been very brave fighting invaders or secessionists, successive governments of Sri Lanka, almost from the time of independence have ruled with the knowledge that our people are prone to revolution. And therefore every time there has been an uprising, even sometimes legitimate protests, they have been put down with increasing brutality.

These days the world may be focussed on the horrific carnage at the end of the Eelam War, but those of us who lived through the two JVP insurrections will remember the bodies that littered the land at the time. In all these periods there was no respect for human rights, or natural justice at all. All sides in the political spectrum are responsible for those violations.

And what all that has done is make a majority of the people very afraid and accepting of the corrupt and abusive tactics …………………

And with that mentality, the residents of Kandy will have no hope of that road being opened any time soon.

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Latest comments

  • 7

    Overzealous “religious” personalities,care two hoots about inconveniencing daily lives of fellow citizens,just to show the world that they are ‘devout’ Buddhists.
    None dare protest, for fear of being labelled anti-Buddhist or of ‘disrespect’ to Buddhism.
    This may be called “religious idiocy”.
    There is no remedy until we begin to live in a secular state.

  • 8

    No one cares two hoots for the people of Kandy. The chaotic situation increases when the head of state visits Kandy which happens on a regular basis. Kandy has become the forgotten city where grand plans for its development is published prior to each election and forgotten immediately after. Politicians have taken the people of Kandy for granted.

    • 0

      “””No one cares two hoots for the people of Kandy.””” says it all. Kandy is a Sacred City and a World Heritage Site; it deserves better. 1 An area of peace and tranquillity should be the setting for the Maligawa – a radius of at least one mile around the Maligawa should be pedestrianized and free of vehicular traffic, commercial enterprises and heavy industries. 2 Traffic streamlining, including practical one-way systems should be put in place 3 The closing of Bogambara Prison was a step in the right direction. Further reviews should be undertaken to enhance the use of land in keeping with the city’s sacred and historic status. No one can doubt the sincerity of this article by Arjuna Ranawana; I hope he accepts that there is in fact a bigger picture and, if anything, his article should trigger a far reaching addressing of the many problems that has beset this once undoubtedly most beautiful of cities. Though I visit this magical city often, I do not live in Kandy, and I would just add that all of the proposed enhancements must take place with the engagement of every citizen and custodian of this special city who I would implore to be mindful of the city’s special international status in their deliberations.

  • 4

    Under the rule of the MoD, such a change will not be permitted now, as
    this will provide evidence for de-listing the LTTE in Foreign countries!

    With 40 Notices at Interpol, Gota will insist on placing more road-blocks
    as he is the guardian angel of all patriotic Sri Lankans!

  • 4

    There is lot of sincerity to the voice in getting the road, going past the Maligawa on the side of the Lake, re-opened for the public.

    Kandy befits the phrase, ‘a verdant and beautiful town’, more than any other in the country. It is sad that the residents of the town, particularly on the Buwelikada side beyond the temple, do not get to enjoy their privilege of being the neighbours of such a historical site.

    I have friends in close proximity to the Temple, and have had the pleasure of visiting them driving past the Temple, along the said road. It is in a marvellous setting.

    However, the appeal for the re-opening of the street could be made without having to hurt the feelings of others.

    The LTTE strike was purely a terror attack. I for one cannot condone it. Was the aim of LTTE to kill civilians. Was it aimed at hitting at the sentiments of the majority community.

    If one cannot see for himself/herself the ‘thinking’ of LTTE, – although it was the wrong approach to air their grievances -, no amount of rationale from me will be convincing enough.

  • 3

    Arjuna Ranawana, you seem to have been misinformed or like some foolish Sri Lankans have become complacent in the assumption that LTTE or any other terrorist threats are no more in Sri Lanka.

    The threat to Sri Lanka’s peace will always be there as long as the so called Eelam pipe dreamers are there. The present government not losing its popularity among the people of Sri Lanka as well as the fact that unlike the UNP led governments in the past, there are leaders with backbones ruling Lanka causes hate and anger among the diaspora LTTE supporters as well as majority of the TNA. In fact it seems that TNA has become the mouth piece for most of the LTTE sympathizing do-gooders.

    Whether you are a Buddhist, Moslem, Hindu or a Christian like me, it is every Sri Lankans duty to safeguard the Temple of Tooth of Sri Lanka. This is the holiest and the most important of all Buddhist places of worship in the entire world. Like Mecca is for Moslems and Vatican is for the Christians, The Temple of the Tooth is – The Most Sacred place for Buddhists all over the world. In fact the Temple of Tooth is more sacred than Mecca or Vatican. We Sri Lankan should be very proud that it is in our land.

    Not only the road in front of the Dalada Maligawa but the entire City of Kandy should be made into a sacred city and every non-Buddhist should be banned from ever entering this sacred city. All the shops and other places of business including schools, hopitals, clinics, hotels and restaurants should be moved to another newly created location at least ten miles away from the city.

    Now that a new Expressway is planned from Colombo to Kandy it is high time the President and the planners take this into serious consideration.

    As far as Arjuna and his write up is concerned, forget about opening the stretch of road he writes about. It has nothing to do about the majority living in fear. Arjuna may be lazy like the rest of quick fix thinking Kandyans. In fact Kandyans fought among themselves and did not stand together at any time during the occupation of Sri Lanka by the Portugese, Dutch or the British. The light skinned Kandyans spell how well they may have fought the light skinned white man. If any Sri Lankan fought the foreigners it was most the heroes from the south of Sri Lanka who fought the foreigners. It was the southerners who produced the most educated as well as the traders who could challenge the Moors and Tamil traders.


  • 2


    My Good niighbor from a time past . I think to imagine that the LTTE threat is of the past would be to be extremly foolish . Id personally say it is better to be safe rather than sorry wrt such an important site , but then again I dont have to do the drive during rush hour every day :)

    but I agree that the city of Kandy has suffered neglect but in reality it is extremely over crowded and there are no space to even enlarge the roads partly due to the hilly countryside and unclotrolled building in the past .

    They should move the city center to somewhere far away and provide for maore parking . also all cars parked on the side of the road should be towed after proper parking facilities are provided .

  • 2

    It is disgusting how old terror attack is still used by Diyawadane Nilame and politicians to keep this road closed. They use that for their prestige and innocent Kandy people suffer.

  • 2

    Congratulations to Arjuna Ranawana on a well wriiten article on a timely topic and he is quite correct that it is due to the lethargy of the citizens in Kandy. Kandy citizens have lazily watched as politicians have closed this stretch of road which is a major highway having a history of over a 100 years. Scientists have shown that air pollution in Kandy is much higher than that of Colombo and the major reason is traffic congestion arising from this closure. Lung diseases such as COPD, asthma, bronchitis etc are on the rise amongst school childrenin Kandy. When Ranil Wickremasinghe opened these roads when he was PM the air pollution levels came down according to these scientists.
    It is the curse of the people in Kandy that this troad is closed for traffic. The real reason is that the Diyawadana Nilame wants to keep this as his empire and has convinced the rulers of this country to close the road. If the rulers know how much people curse them (including their mothers) they will certainly open up this road.
    Reader Pathbay must be living in a fantasyland to suggest that the entire city be made a sacred city. He probably has not experienced any traffic problems in Kandy. Politicians talk about grandoise plans such as building a tunnel which carries excellent commissions due to the high cost of construction.

  • 0

    Citizen Perera,

    I bought a piece of land, built a house and moved to Kandy 23 years ago. I do not live among the present chaos but a little away near the Hyatt Regency Hotel. If you call Kandy a fantasyland, that certainly is and I live there. I repeat that the entire city must be made a sacred city and cleared of all the human garbage that has crowded near the sacred city.

    JP / USA

    • 0

      Jay Pathbey, Where is the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kandy?

  • 0

    Unfortunately as some tend to do Arjuna Ranawana has missed two important facts:
    Fact 1. Let me quote Dr. Colvin R De Silva : “It was a repetition of the old and tragic tale. The Kandyans turned with a too facile readiness to the idea to the idea of bringing in the foreigner to settle their domestic differences. The pitcher went once too often to the well. The convenient arbitrator became the permanent master. The Kandyans accomplished their own political doom.” (Ceylon under the British Occupation)
    Fact 2. Whether it was an inside job or not the LTTE terrorist mastermind Colonel Vinyagamoorthy Muralithara alias Karuna Amman has been in the Rajapaksa Government and his party since he was deported from UK to Sri lanka on 3rd July 2008, having served a nine months’ sentence in British Prison for passport fraud. The passport fraud which Karuna accused of was not an ordinary one. As he declared at the British Courts that the false Sri Lankan diplomatic passport he was travelling on was arranged for him by none other than the Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka. Amongst other things Karuna is accused of carrying out series of Crimes against humanity… above all recruiting child soldiers, masterminding a number of massacres including the massacre of Buddhists monks and novices at Aranthalawa and also the attack on the Dalada Maligawa , the sacred temple of the tooth relic. With the criminal track record of Karuna group, detailed at the following link to the Human Rights Watch of January 2007: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2007/01/23/complicit-crime . does anyone has to say anything about any “terrorist threats” … As for our national heroes there has been quite a many from all ethnicities, from North, South, East, West, from all cats and creeds… in fact the very last King of Kandy, the Mahanuwara Dynasty, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (1780 – 1832) was not a Kandyan but a Tamil with name Kannasamy Nayaka , whom in fact was the defender of the Kingdom until he was betrayed by none other than Kandyans.

    The Kandyan Convention was held and a treaty was signed On 2nd March 1815 and thus surrendering the Kingdom to British Crown. This unique treaty was not signed by the deposed King, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe but by members of his court, Kandyans, and other dignitaries of the Kandyan kingdom.

    The majority of the eleven signatories to the convention, were against the rule of Sri Vickrama Rajasinghe, the last king of the kingdom of Kandy. They covertly or openly conspired in the downfall and the subsequent capture of the monarch but they chose to subscribe their signatures in Tamil. There were a few who opted to sign both, in Tamil and Sinhalese. Only a few contended to sign only in Sinhalese.

    The fall of the Kandyan kingdom was thus facilitated none other than some Kandyans themselves. The betrayal also put an end to the last vestige of national sovereignty but also the end of a civilization which had endured enemy invasions throughout a history of nearly 2400 years.

    There were altogether 12 signatories to the Kandyan Convention of 2nd march 1815. The British Governor Brownrigg was first to sign and he signed in English.

    The others signed as follows:
    1. EHELEPOLA in Tamil
    2. MOLLIGODA,first Adigar and Dissawe of seven Korales in Sinhalese.
    3. PILIMATALAWE,second Adigar and Dissawe of Sabragamuwa in Tamil.
    4. PILIMATALAWE, Dissawe of four Korales in Tamil
    5. MONORAWILA, Dissawe of Uva in Sinhalese
    6. RATWATTE,Dissawe of Matale in Tamil
    7. MOLLIGODA, Dissawe of the three Korales in Sinhalese and Tamil
    8. DULL EWE, Dissawe of Walpane in Sinhalese and Tamil
    9. MILLEWE, Dissawe of Wellesse and Bintenne in Sinhalese and Tamil
    10. GALAGAMA,Dissawe of Tamankaduwa in Sinhalese
    11. GALAGODA,Dissawe of Nuwara-Kalawiya in Sinhalese`.

    So when we refer to heroism of our ancestors, it is a baseless ploy to indicate that Kandyans had an outstanding heroism … Sri Lanka’s heroes have come from all castes , creeds and ethno-religious backgrounds, but it remains an unfortunate fact that the last monumental betrayal that put an end to the Mahanuwara Dynasty lead to the beginning of British colonisation of Sri Lanka.

  • 0

    You are obviously not in touch with the current excuses being used to keep this part of the road shut.

    One of the most innovative being that opening this road will lead to animals that are destined for slaughter being transported past the Dalada Maligawa !

    Buy that and I will throw in some beach front property I have in Giradurukotte…free !

    • 0

      Don Quixote:
      Good to see you back!
      You missed the other part of the “reason” for keeping the road closed: “that kasippu will be transported by the holy Dalada Maligawa,” thus defiling it!
      As everybody knows, the REAL reason is that the Sabaragamuwa sycophant simply wants to show everybody how important he is by keeping this road closed so that no traffic will disturb his slumber! Of course, the Man Who Decides EVERYTHING in Sri Lanka will pander to this crook while he uses the Maligawa as a Cash Cow because that is the way allies are kept close to one’s bosom!

  • 0

    Good point to raise at this time. There is no security threat to the Temple and the closure of the road is a mere pretext to keep the surrounding area exclusive. During times of threat the tradition was to move the sacred tooth to other areas. I suggest Hambantota. We can get the Mayor there to ensure protection and in the event of even more serious threat the sacred tooth can be made sea or air borne in a jiffy.

  • 0

    Kandy is no longer the city I used to love 40 years ago.. It is dirty and overpopulated. The serenity that it exuded is long gone.

  • 0

    The day is not too far when the Temple of the Tooth will be turned into one of the largest mosques in South Asia. Today the real owners of the city of Kandy are the Muslims, who have build hundreds of mosques all over the city and suburbs. One day when they start taking the Jihadi terror to the city those mosques will be their bunkers.

    My advice to this guy Arjuna: if you have an ounce of courage, talk about the threat of Jihadi Muslim subjugation of Kandy and the Central Province in a “Kandystan” by these unscrupulous terrorists.

    Arjuna does not seem to see that danger, he has blinders on for all that, just concentrates on one thing. Kandy should immediately ban construction of all mosques, and make plans to remove those that have been built or converted from other buildings into mosques in the last 50 years.

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