Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR

Centre Tamoul Pour les Droits de l'Homme - CTDH

(Established in 1990)

www.tchr.net

Ref : BU059/PR/2005 15 June 2005

Justice delayed, justice denied

All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions.  Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else. – Lord Buddha

Gautama Buddha, known as Lord Buddha, was born in the year 563 B.C. in the village (Kingdom) of Lumbini near Kapila Vastu, within the present borders of Nepal.  He was born a Hindu known as Siddharthar until he gave up his Royal life and renounced everything in search of wisdom that can overcome suffering and misery, giving birth to Buddhism.

Because the Buddhist philosophy was founded on the rejection of certain orthodox philosophical concepts, some consider Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion.  In Sri Lanka it is practiced as a religion.  Sri Lanka's Constitution of 1978 - Chapter II Buddhism , Article 9, says "The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana,…….."

However, events in Sri Lanka consistently show evidence that non-violence and compassion, so important in the Buddha's teaching, are not respected at all.  A country which has given Buddhism the foremost place in their constitution is abusing the same.  Power-hungry politicians and Buddhist monks are misleading Buddhist followers in Sri Lanka.

To everyone's surprise, on 15 May 2005, a statue of Buddha was erected overnight in Trincomalee, close to the bus stand by Buddhist monks and Buddhist followers.  This was done with the support of the government.  The unauthorized erection of the statue on land belonging to the Trincomalee Urban Council was immediately challenged in the courts by the Special Commissioner of the Urban Council and the President of the Trincomalee District Tamil Peoples' Forum (TDTPF).

Representatives of the Tamil Centre for Human Rights – TCHR who made a study mission to Trincomalee in August 2004 stated in the report that more statues of Buddha are appearing everywhere in Trincomalee.  Below we give the excerpt from the TCHR report of November 2004. (http://www.tchr.net/reports_visite_2004.htm)

The politically motivated overnight erection of the statue of Buddha has created tension between the Tamil and Singhalese people in Trincomalee.  Several violent incidents have been reported all over the District.

The lawyers who appeared on behalf of the Special Commissioner of the Urban Council and the President of the TDTPF told the court that they "revered Lord Buddha and are not against the Buddhist religion.  But they said they suspected political motives behind the overnight erection of the statue and only a court order for temporary removal of the statute will lead to the restoration of peace in the town."

On 18 May, the Trincomalee Magistrate and Additional District Judge instructed the Police to take all possible steps to temporarily remove the controversial statue and pronounced that a long-term solution to the matter could be found by the Urban Council taking legal action.

While this issue was in process another statue of Buddha was erected in Trincomalee close to the Hindu cemetery on Eehamparam Road in Vijithapura on May 23, 2005.

Now a month has passed since the court order was given to remove the statue, yet it still remains.  It is guarded by the Sri Lanka Army, Police and Buddhist followers.  Buddhist legal experts motivated by the government have been advised to take this matter to the high courts in Colombo.  In the meantime, those who erected this Buddha statue wanted to have a permanent building constructed around it.  This idea was put on hold on the orders of the Attorney General's department.  This case was postponed until 3rd August as the respondent of this case has not appeared in the courts.

In Sri Lanka, the culture of impunity prevails in all affairs concerned with the grievances of Tamils.  Perpetrators of violence against Tamils are not brought to book.  However, any judgement against a Tamil is implemented within a few minutes of the judgement.  The President, who enjoys executive powers, has turned a blind eye to the controversial statue of Buddha.  With the court's order, being Commander in Chief of the Sri Lankan security forces, the President could have easily removed the Buddha statue, if she were genuinely for equality and justice.

The Sri Lanka Constitution of 1978 - Chapter VII - Article 33 grants the President of the Republic executive powers to even; (e) declare war and peace; and (f) to do all such acts and things, not being inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution or written law, as by international law, custom or usage he is required or authorised to do.

In Sri Lanka the extreme Buddhist political party the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), made up of Buddhist monks, tabled an "anti-conversions bill" in July 2004.  The intention of this bill appeared to be to prevent Buddhists being converted to Christianity.  This "Prohibition of Forced Conversions Bill" went to Parliament for a second reading on Friday 6 May 2005.  The Parliament approved the draft and the bill was then referred to a Standing Committee.  According to this bill "no person shall convert or attempt to convert…any person from one religion to another by the use of force or…by any fraudulent means."  Anyone who breaches this law would be subject to up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to SL rupees 150,000 / US $ 1,508.  The penalty amounts to as much as seven years imprisonment and a fine of SL rupees 500,000 / US $ 5,027.

Buddhism and Buddhist monks are the key players in Sri Lankan politics.  They are the "king-makers" in Sri Lanka.  Therefore, the court orders on the illegally erected statue of Buddha are rendered null and void.  Generally, the judicial system in Sri Lanka has different standards for the Singhalese and the Tamils.  Justice for the Tamils is always measured with a different yardstick.

The Daily Mirror published in Sri Lanka, 17 September 2003 wrote that, " …Unlike in pre-colonial times, when Buddhism was used to legitimise the rule of the kings, in post-independence Sri Lanka politicians used the Buddhist clergy to capture or retain power". (Excerpt)

TCHR, along with many fellow organisations, condemns the illegal erection of this statue of Buddha in Trincomalee.  The objective of this statue of Buddha is to antagonise the Tamil people and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – LTTE, which is a party to the cease-fire and MoU also signed by the government of Sri Lanka on 22 February 2002.

As the legal judgement within the national law has been deliberately ignored by the state, we urgently request the Secretary General of the United Nations, Director General of UNESCO, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom or Belief to intervene immediately to remove the statue of Buddha which was erected with political motivation.  The court order issued twice by the district courts in Trincomalee to temporarily remove the controversial statue must be implemented without further delay.

The national security doctrine has failed to consider the serious signs of violence and bloodshed which could trigger the beginning of another bloody war due to this illegal erection of a statue of Buddha in Trincomalee.

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Trincomalee Buddha statue was predicted by TCHR in November 2004

( http://www.tchr.net/reports_visite_2004.htm )

In July-August 2004, four representatives of TCHR from France, United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Switzerland with many other local representatives of TCHR participated in a six-week study mission to Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Vavuniya, Vanni, Jaffna, Kandy, Hatton, Nuwara Eliya and Colombo.

Below we give some excerpts from our (TCHR) report of 2 November 2004.

Visit to Trincomalee

We arrived in Trincomalee at night.  The people at the bus stand and three wheeler (auto) drivers were waiting for hire speaking only in Sinhala.  It surprised us because we have travelled through many Sinhalese towns and villages and we have seen people speak in Sinhala and in English.

When we asked a school teacher about this, he explained how Trincomalee has been "Sinhalised" within a short period.  The reason for this, he said, is that the Tamils in the NorthEast have always claimed Trincomalee as their historical capital.  He further said that the famous Saiva (Hindu) temple Thiru Konneswaram inside the Fort Frederick, is the historical witness to this claim.

About fifteen years ago, the Tamils in Trincomalee appealed to the government to make the Konneswaram Temple in Fort Fredrick as a "Holy Site."  There is ample Saiva (Hindu) archaeological, scriptural and inspirational evidence for the Tamils to claim Thiru Konneswaram as a Holy Site.  But the government has not only ignored this request, but also encouraged the Sinhalese to build a Buddhist temple in the same site covering the view and importance of the Saiva temple in Fort Fredrick.

Internally Displaced People

According to government sources out of 57,563 displaced families in the Trincomalee district, 51,282 have been able to re-settle in their villages.  But an NGO worker claimed that only the Sinhala settlers were able to re-settle in the villages, where in fact, they had been colonised before.  The Tamils remain displaced.  Several Tamil families chased away from the East have gone and settled in the North.

According to an unconfirmed NGO report, nearly forty thousand Tamil houses have been damaged in the Trincomalee district.

Defunct Saiva (Hindu) temples in Trincomalee

The Chariot of the Sivan temple in Trincomalee town was completely burned down in an arson attack in 1985.

In Trincomalee there are many Saiva (Hindu) temples which are defunct due to the military presence in Trincomalee.  People say they have been systematically prevented from praying in these temples.  Not far from Trincomalee town, we passed a Krishna temple, no longer in use.  Now the areas surrounding this Krishna temple and two other temples are exclusively inhabited by Sinhalese, part of the colonisation process.

The historical Thiru Konneswaram Temple is inside Fort Fredrick in Trincomalee town.  To the surprise of all, a big Buddhist temple has been constructed at the entrance of Fort Frederick.  The devotees of this temple told us that - in another ten years this temple would end up as a Buddhist temple fully dominated by Sinhalese, like Kataragama Murugan temple in the South.

"Since Colonisation is in progress, wherever there is a Saiva (Hindu) Temple, a Buddhist shrine has been built next to it and in many places there are large army camps.  Wherever there is a Bo tree (Peepul-tree), a Buddhist temple has been built up.  Wherever there are no Bo-trees and Buddha statues, they are planting Bo saplings" said a Saiva priest in Trincomalee.

A Buddhist Temple is also being constructed next to Tampalakamam Koneswary Temple.

Colonisation in Trincomalee

Encroachment on paddy fields by the Sinhalese

Hundreds of acres of paddy lands belonging to the Tamils in Thillaimadhu Velli and Nallathanneer Ootru Pulavu at Thennamaravadi in Trincomalee district have been forcibly confiscated by Sinhalese from the Siripura and Padavi Siripura areas.

Thennamaravai village was attacked several times by Sinhalese thugs and the army in 1984 and more than 200 Tamil families were displaced.

Since the Ceasefire Agreement was signed, these families have been anxiously waiting to return to their lands, but the Sinhalese who forcibly confiscated the lands are refusing to give it back to the owners.

Many appeals have been made by the owners of these lands and by parliamentarians requesting the government to help the lawful owners to take possession of their lands.  The government has turned a blind eye on this matter.

In the same manner, acres of land owned by Tamils have been confiscated forcibly by the Sinhalese in many other border villages of Trincomalee.

Trincomalee District

Since 1827 - Tamil and Sinhala populations

(Table is shown on language basis)

Tamil Sinhala

Year Speaking Speaking

1827 98.45% 1.53%

1881 90.72% 4.21%

1891 91.44% 4.3%

1901 89.04% 4.22%

1911 90.54% 3.82%

1921 92.13% 4.38%

1946 75.09% 20.68%

1953 78.8% 18.22%

1963 79.25% 19.9%

1971 70.2% 28.8%

1981 65.38% 33.62%

(After 1981 no census taken in the NorthEast)

(For further information, please refer to our report on colonisation -

(http://www.tchr.net/colanization.htm)

Geysers in Kanniya

At a distance from Trincomalee in Kanniya, the famous geysers are found.  These are historically connected to Tamils and Saivaism (Hinduism).

There are seven small wells issuing water at differing temperatures and visitors bathe there using buckets to pour water over themselves.  It would be refreshing in the relative cool of dawn.  The water is believed to have healing effects.

Near the geysers is the ruins of a rest house, "Pilgrim’s Rest" which is in total ruins, pockmarked with bullet holes - yet another civilian building ravaged by war.  A small shrine, under a tree welcomes the visitor to the geysers.

In the same location, there is a small Saiva (Hindu) temple.  Since the cease-fire, the people in this area wanted to renovate this temple.  But the Buddhist monks in Trincomalee have objected to this and have filed a case in the courts.

In fact, Kanniya and the geysers are in the traditional Tamil area where Sinhalese and Buddhist do not have any claim on the land.

A young man in the area where the geysers are located showed us a growing Bo tree and told us that, when we come back after another ten years, we may be able to see a Buddhist temple.

Concluding Comments

Around Trincomalee town and many other villages in the East, there has also been mass settlement of Sinhalese.  Buddhist Viharas (Temples) are being built all over the NorthEast, except in the LTTE-administrated areas. (Excerpt)

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Posted June 18, 2005