22 September, 2018

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WikiLeaks: JVP, Sirisena And Sampanthan On Trinco Buddha Statue

“Religious and ethnic tensions continue to percolate in Trincomalee over the May 16 erection of a large Buddha statue on public land in the city center. A May 18 decision by a local judge ordering the removal of the statue has not yet been implemented, and the statue remains, behind barbed wire and guarded by local police, in its controversial location. A Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) front organization, which launched a four-day strike that crippled businesses and transportation in the city from May 17-2005, has decided to give authorities until June 2 to remove the statue before contemplating resumed strikes. The ethnically polarizing machinations by government coalition partner Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which instigated the placement of the statue, and the LTTE, which instigated the strike and the demand for  the statue’s removal, seem calculated to ensure even greater violence and instability in this troubled district.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

buddha statue trincoThe Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The “Confidential” cable is signed by the US Ambassador to Colombo Jeffrey J. Lunstead on May 26, 2005.

The ambassador wrote; “The Tamil People’s Forum, a heretofore-unknown group widely assumed to be a front for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), decided late May 25 to give Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) authorities until June 2 to implement the  Trincomalee magistrate’s May 18 order to remove a large Buddha statue from municipal council land in Trincomalee (Ref A) before resuming protests. The Forum had called a four-day strike, or ‘hartal,’ that shut down businesses and vehicular traffic in Trincomalee town May 17-20 to protest the statue’s placement on public property in the ethnically diverse area.  The Forum’s decision followed a four-hour meeting May 25 between Forum representatives and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs and Government-appointed mediators. The meeting, chaired by Governor of the North-East Tyronne Fernando, included two Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) heavyweights, River Basin Development Minister Maithripala Sirisena and Deputy Minister of Ports and Aviation Dilan Perera, considered especially ‘tough’ on the Sinhalese nationalist coalition partner, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which instigated the placement of the statue on public land leased to one of its unions. Participants in the meeting also decided to seek the assistance of the Attorney General in implementing the magistrate’s order to remove the statue. Prior to that meeting, President Chandrika Kumaratunga reportedly met R. Sampanthan, TNA MP for Trincomalee, and urged him to find an amicable solution to the confrontation.

“In a May 20 conversation with poloff, TNA MP Sampanthan acknowledged that there appeared no immediate, practicable resolution to the confrontation that would be mutually satisfactory to all parties. Complicating matters, he alleged, is the ‘mono-ethnic’ (i.e., Sinhalese) composition of GSL security forces in the ethnically diverse district. Moreover, the ‘unauthorized’ Hindu structures cited by the JVP in response to the magistrate’s ruling are largely located in predominantly Hindu neighborhoods, he averred; in contrast, the Buddha statue was deliberately placed in a prominent public location frequented by all three ethnic groups. (Note: A total of 33 ‘unauthorized’ religious structures of various kinds–but most of them small Hindu shrines–reportedly have been identified on public land in Trincomalee.) Nonetheless, he emphasized, he was working hard to try to defuse the situation, including pressing hard for a suspension of the hartal during Buddhist holidays May 21-24.” the ambassador further said.

Placing a comment the ambassador said; “Now that the Buddha statue is up, it will be very difficult to get it down, court order or not, without further violence and confrontation. The stakes are high for both the LTTE and JVP, which are each manipulating the face-off to prove their claims to influence and popularity in this ethnically diverse district. The decision to give the GSL a week of breathing space to implement the court order is a welcome sign of flexibility–and probably no small tribute to Sampanthan’s hard work and personal commitment to trying to defuse the crisis. That said, the GSL’s typically risk-averse approach to other contentious issues, including its apparent reluctance to prosecute perpetrators of attacks on Christian churches (Ref B), gives us little hope of a resolution soon.”

We publish below the cable in full;

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000955

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR SA/INS
USPACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PTER PHUM KIRF CE LTTE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: COMMUNAL TENSION CONTINUES OVER
“UNAUTHORIZED” BUDDHA STATUE

REF: A. COLOMBO 0916

¶B. COLOMBO 921

¶1. (SBU) Summary: Religious and ethnic tensions continue
to percolate in Trincomalee over the May 16 erection of a
large Buddha statue on public land in the city center. A May
18 decision by a local judge ordering the removal of the
statue has not yet been implemented, and the statue remains,
behind barbed wire and guarded by local police, in its
controversial location. A Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) front organization, which launched a four-day strike
that crippled businesses and transportation in the city from
May 17-20, has decided to give authorities until June 2 to
remove the statue before contemplating resumed strikes. The
ethnically polarizing machinations by government coalition
partner Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which instigated the
placement of the statue, and the LTTE, which instigated the
strike and the demand for the statue’s removal, seem
calculated to ensure even greater violence and instability in
this troubled district. End summary.

¶2. (U) The Tamil People’s Forum, a heretofore-unknown group
widely assumed to be a front for the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE), decided late May 25 to give Government of
Sri Lanka (GSL) authorities until June 2 to implement the
Trincomalee magistrate’s May 18 order to remove a large
Buddha statue from municipal council land in Trincomalee (Ref
A) before resuming protests. The Forum had called a four-day
strike, or “hartal,” that shut down businesses and vehicular
traffic in Trincomalee town May 17-20 to protest the statue’s
placement on public property in the ethnically diverse area.
The Forum’s decision followed a four-hour meeting May 25
between Forum representatives and Tamil National Alliance
(TNA) MPs and Government-appointed mediators. The meeting,
chaired by Governor of the North-East Tyronne Fernando,
included two Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) heavyweights,
River Basin Development Minister Maithripala Sirisena and
Deputy Minister of Ports and Aviation Dilan Perera,
considered especially “tough” on the Sinhalese nationalist
coalition partner, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which
instigated the placement of the statue on public land leased
to one of its unions. Participants in the meeting also
decided to seek the assistance of the Attorney General in
implementing the magistrate’s order to remove the statue.
Prior to that meeting, President Chandrika Kumaratunga
reportedly met R. Sampanthan, TNA MP for Trincomalee, and
urged him to find an amicable solution to the confrontation.

¶3. (U) The statue–now surrounded by barbed wire, sand bags
and armed guards–remains in its contested location, despite
the magistrate’s May 18 ruling. On May 25 the magistrate
reaffirmed that order, again directing police and the Urban
Council to remove the statue, as well as any other
“unauthorized” religious structures found elsewhere in the
city on public land. (Note: Neither order imposes a
specific deadline for the removal of the statue. End note.)
Further heightening tensions on May 25, a former Tamil
Chairman of the Trincomalee Urban Council, who had been shot
in the sporadic violence accompanying the hartal on May 18,
died of his injuries.

¶4. (SBU) In a May 20 conversation with poloff, TNA MP
Sampanthan acknowledged that there appeared no immediate,
practicable resolution to the confrontation that would be
mutually satisfactory to all parties. Complicating matters,
he alleged, is the “mono-ethnic” (i.e., Sinhalese)
composition of GSL security forces in the ethnically diverse
district. Moreover, the “unauthorized” Hindu structures
cited by the JVP in response to the magistrate’s ruling are
largely located in predominantly Hindu neighborhoods, he
averred; in contrast, the Buddha statue was deliberately
placed in a prominent public location frequented by all three
ethnic groups. (Note: A total of 33 “unauthorized”
religious structures of various kinds–but most of them small
Hindu shrines–reportedly have been identified on public land
in Trincomalee.) Nonetheless, he emphasized, he was working
hard to try to defuse the situation, including pressing hard
for a suspension of the hartal during Buddhist holidays May
21-24.

¶5. (SBU) Comment: Now that the Buddha statue is up, it
will be very difficult to get it down, court order or not,
without further violence and confrontation. The stakes are
high for both the LTTE and JVP, which are each manipulating
the face-off to prove their claims to influence and
popularity in this ethnically diverse district. The decision
to give the GSL a week of breathing space to implement the
court order is a welcome sign of flexibility–and probably no
small tribute to Sampanthan’s hard work and personal
commitment to trying to defuse the crisis. That said, the
GSL’s typically risk-averse approach to other contentious
issues, including its apparent reluctance to prosecute
perpetrators of attacks on Christian churches (Ref B), gives
us little hope of a resolution soon.
LUNSTEAD

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Latest comments

  • 18
    13

    Buddha statues are now common, especially in the north in areas with no Buddhists living in them, and even in deserted landscapes, with none to maintain them, even to prevent defilement by birds.
    Elsewhere, monks parcel off private lands to build viharas and sanghavasas even when not enough Buddhists live in the areas, to even feed them.
    I dread the day when a statue is placed on top of a common convenience.

    • 3
      8

      The Sri Lankan Govt. should pass a Law in Parliament that every village in Sri Lanka should erect a Buddha Statue in each village in the country. Buddhist is the state religion of Sri Lanka.

  • 6
    14

    No sweat folks…even if Buddha is there !!!…

    Now Anura Kumara, Sirisena,JVP,Hakeem and even Venerable , Rathne, Champika and Sobitha report directly or indirectly to the to the US, UK and Canadian consulates.

    Wonder what happened to that LTTE proxy Prabakaran front, which took Lord Buddha to court in his own land?.

    Has it being adsorbed to the TNA?.

    BTW Is Buddha still there ?….

  • 12
    7

    Lord Buddha is much respected by hindus and consider Buddha as an avatar of Vshnu deva. Many Hindus including myself prey whenever we see a Buddha shrine passerby. it’s known that in Srilanka hindus and buddhist used to errect either Buddha or Ganapathi shrines when there is a Bo tree. But problem develops when these constructions are in a common public area with political motivation .In that case it was purposefully made by the that time JVP. infact the areas surrounding trinco market place are legaly (with deeds) owned by tamils and Most of the Hindu kovils.But after and after since so called indepenance tamils were looted ,their properties burnt and forcible colonizations were done by repeated sinhalese governments (All riots 1956, 1978 ,1981, 1983 ,1987,1990, 1996)
    to remove tamils from the face of Trinco (All riots were backed by srilankan armed forces in civil).the central road, and ehamparam street from clock tower to HNB are now totaly occupied by down south sinheles people by force, but no action can be taken legaly because there will be no justice but danger of life only the result .
    the beach area where the Kali kovil water cut festivel happens is owned by the kovil ,but forcibly occupied by southern fishermen (Korea colony)which are violent society and caused for the most of the murders during riots(it’s not riot but ethnic cleansing pograms which were well planned and supported by the authorities)
    Even the famous Mavil aru incidence also was in fact instigated by Srilankan government machinary and army as for a causes to start to start the war. Infact if you ask that time Seruwila Budddhist priest he will tell what realy happened. I heared that the LTTE demanded water facilities for tamil areas(Eechilmpattu ) in that vicinity which were dry and as to persuade they blocked the sluice.But when the problems intensified they contacted and told the priest that their wish to open .But awaitting an oppotunity the war was started by the side of GOSL.if with little patience ,so much of bloodshed could have been avoided in both sides.

    • 2
      7

      Coll story bro :D

      • 3
        2

        Wee Thamihz Senior Journalist D: Siva Sankaran Sarma Menon

        “Coll story bro :D”

        Is it the acronyms for collateral damage?

        Brilliant, how cool you are.

    • 7
      3

      See how muslims have built mosques every where and how Christians build churches. they simply don’t think about other religions.

    • 0
      1

      Dear Sagara,

      Re “the beach area where the Kali kovil water cut festivel happens is owned by the kovil ,but forcibly occupied by southern fishermen (Korea colony)”

      The Beach and Coast is PUBLIC property. It is so in many countries including Australia, some states of the USA (not sure whether all states have such legislation), Canada, India etc

      The Law in Sri Lanka is as follows

      Coast Conservation Act No. 57 of 1981

      2.The administration, control, custody and management of the Coastal Zone are hereby vested in the Republic

      “Coastal Zone” means that area lying within a limit of three hundred metres landwards of the Mean High Water line and a limit of two kilometres seawards of the Mean Low Water line and in the case of rivers, streams, lagoons, or any other body of water connected to the sea either permanently or periodically, the landward boundary shall extend to a limit of two kilometres measured perpendicular to the straight base line drawn between the natural entrance points thereof and shall include the waters of such rivers, streams and lagoons or any other body of water so connected to the
      sea;

      Fishermen of any ethnicity need not occupy the beach by FORCE they have the rights to use it.

      Re “……..which are violent society and caused for the most of the murders during riots(it’s not riot but ethnic cleansing pograms which were well planned and supported by the authorities)”

      Ethnic cleansing happened ONLY in the North. It was very successful and created the ONLY MONO ETHNIC region in SL by cleansing the North of ALL ethnicities other than Tamil.

      The IDEA that has been drummed into your heads by racist Tamil politicians that the East and North are Tamil areas is the cause for ethnic riots. The East and North is 40% (approx) of Lanka. The Tamils living in that area is less than 8% of the population. ALL other Tamils consisting of 7.37% of the population lives outside it.

      ROBBING the rest of the population of their Land rights will obviously be resisted and is a prescription for strife.

      If you can, please JUSTIFY the claim to Land.

      Re “Even the famous Mavil aru incidence also was in fact instigated by Srilankan government machinary and army as for a causes to start to start the war”

      That statement of yours clearly establishes you as a LTTE’r or a LTTE sympathiser.

      Please explain how the govt instigated the LTTE to cut off water to the people by closing the Mavil Aru sluice gates which was under LTTE control.

      Kind Regards,
      OTC

  • 6
    5

    King Ravana worshipper of Shiva not Buddha.

  • 3
    2

    Are Sri Lankans this stupid creating problems where there aren’t any? Buddhism than religion is a way of life but I don’t think even Buddha foresaw it to turn this way.
    Trinco is one area that has a good balance of the three communities and they have managed to live in relative harmony it is a disgrace if that is challenged in the name of Buddha.
    This is why I think JVP Or any of the Buddhist Monk led parties should never become a dominating political force in Sri Lanka. I will ruin the country overnight MR will look like a saint.

  • 1
    3

    Sri Lanka is the only country that has “imprisoned” Budha behind barbed wire fence with guards on duty 254 hours a day!!! What a way to spread Budhism!!
    Don’t you think that this should go on Guiness book of records!!

  • 6
    2

    Finally, First Citizens are waking up to reclaim their destroyed heritage in North and East…… Impressed!

  • 3
    2

    But it is quite in order for Colombo to have more mosques than temples and for evangelical christians to plant churches in every village.

  • 1
    0

    I visited this place along with a group of Buddhist Monks from South in 2005.The Monks were prevented by the Armed forces from go close and warship the statue. Govt at that time used this issue for political advantage and use Sinhala Buddhist against other communities in the city.Number of Tamils were killed who played key roles in the protests.In fact this place was not really suitable to place a Buddha statue who taught non-violence path.There were meat and fish stalls nearby.The Court order was still not implemented. A Monk who joined the visit suggested to place statues of other faiths in the same premisses without removing the Buddha’s one in order to give recognition and respect to other religions and communities but there was no one to listen but the chance is still remains.

  • 0
    0

    Seems every one has forgotten the saga of Father Le.Gog memorial erected at the Former Mc.callum Road .Maradana Deans Road junction in the 1950s usurped in similar manner?

    Sri Lankans are keen on keeping to traditions of all sorts.

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