Appeal to the Director General of UNESCO

28 June 2005

Dear Sir / Madam,

Controversial statue of Buddha in Trincomalee

As the recent legal judgement, under Sri Lankan law, is partial and the Sri Lankan state has deliberately ignored the court order issued twice by the district courts in Trincomalee on the illegally erected statue of Buddha, we kindly request the Tamil diaspora and all concerned groups, including members of Civil Society and individuals to send this appeal - or your own appeal - to the Director General of UNESCO - requesting him to intervene immediately to remove this statue of Buddha from Trincomalee.

(photo courtesy TamilNet)

This appeal could be send by fax or post. (Fax n°. + 33 – 1 – 45685555 OR + 33 – 1 – 45685591). Please send this at your earliest.

Thank you.

S. V. Kirubaharan, General Secretary

Tamil Centre for Human Rights – TCHR

France

* * * * * * * *

(your address)

(date)

Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, Director General

UNESCO
7, Place de Fontenoy
75352 PARIS 07 SP

Dear Sir,

Appeal to remove the politically motivated statue of Buddha

On 15 May 2005, a statue of Buddha was illegally erected overnight in the center of the eastern town of Trincomalee in Sri Lanka by so-called Buddhists.  The unauthorised erection of the statue on land belonging to the Trincomalee Urban Council (UC) 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).  This matter has created tension between the Tamil and Singhalese people in Trincomalee.  Several violent incidents have been reported throughout the Trincomalee District.

The lawyers who appeared on behalf of the Special Commissioner of the UC and the President of the TDTPF told the court that they "revered Lord Buddha and are not against the Buddhist religion."  However, 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.  On 25 May, the Judge reaffirmed his earlier judgement regarding the temporary removal of this statue.  Meanwhile another statue of Buddha was erected in Trincomalee close to the Hindu cemetery in Ehamparam Road in Vijithapura on May 23, 2005.

The court order was ignored by the law enforcement agencies and the statue in the center of town has remained in the same location for one month, guarded by the Sri Lanka Army, Police and Buddhist followers.

In the meantime, those who erected this Buddha statue wanted to have a permanent building constructed around it.  On 13 June, this idea was put on hold on the orders of the Attorney General's department . 

This legal case was postponed until 3rd August as the respondent of this case has not appeared in court.

This respondent, however, filed another case (became a petitioner) in the Colombo Court of Appeals, challenging the order given by the Trincomalee Magistrate on 18 May for the temporary removal of the statue of Buddha.  The petitioner pleaded in his appeal to nullify the order of the Trincomalee Magistrate.  On 17 June, his appeal was accepted by a Buddhist Judge in the Court of Appeals, who issued a restraining order on the Trincomalee Police and Trincomalee Urban Council preventing them from temporarily removing the controversial statue of Buddha.  The decision of the Court of Appeals on 17 June was a discriminatory decision rather than based on the rule of law.

In Sri Lanka, a 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 immediately after the judgement. 

The Sri Lankan President, who enjoys powerful executive powers, has turned a blind eye on 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 on 18 May, if she were genuinely for equality and justice.

As the legal judgement, within the National law, is partial and the state has deliberately ignored the court order of the Trincomalee Magistrate, we kindly and urgently request the Director General of UNESCO to intervene immediately to remove the statue of Buddha, which was erected with the political motivation of creating tension among communities.  The court order issued twice by the district courts in Trincomalee should be respected without further delay.

We kindly request you to intervene immediately to prevent bloodshed and war in Sri Lanka.

Thank you

Yours sincerely

(your name & signature)

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Posted June 28, 2005