Won`t rest till justice is meted out
Dambulla priest insists:
THERE WAS NO MOSQUE
By Jayantha Sri Nissanka and Jatila Karavita
Chief Incumbent of the Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara, the Most Venerable Inamaluve Sumangala Thera speaking to LAKBIMAnEWS said:
I am trying to safeguard the 2300-year-old Buddhist heritage of Dambulla while those who criticize me are speaking to destroy that very heritage. It must be stated at the outset that this issue does not concern any Muslim mosque in Dambulla.
This land is in the plan drawn for the Sacred City development project and it belongs to the Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara. The mosque is situated within a distance of 150 metres from the temple premises and in the direction of the Kandalama Hotel.
This is clearly a move towards creating religious discord and hatred among Buddhists and Muslims in the country. All knowledgeable persons and experts have condemned the construction of a mosque at the said premises, but only those who seek to accomplish their personal agendas condone such acts.
I categorically state that I will not rest until justice is meted out to the Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara in this instance. I intend to ensure that the Buddhist heritage is 10-2safeguarded for the future, whatever the outcome.
What is at the crux of this problem is the failure of successive governments and politicians to implement the Sacred City development project in Dambulla in the past three decades, which has led to the current problem among many others that have arisen over a period of time.
Block No. 51
From the time this Sacred City development project in Dambulla was gazetted in 1981 there was no mosque situated there. As per that Gazette notification, certain limits and boundaries were demarcated stating as to which areas covering the Raja Maha Vihara should be developed. Certain lands within the earmarked Sacred City that were needed were acquired by the then government.
The Gazette notice concerning the Dambulla Sacred City area was issued in 1992. As per that Gazette notification the block bearing No. 51 refers to the area where the present mosque is situated. As such, the present issues pertain to block No. 51. The Gazette notification also states the exact position of the land in which the mosque is situated but it does not refer to a mosque or any place of religious worship.
Our concern is that if there was a mosque on the said land prior to the Gazette notice, how is it that this has not been mentioned in the Gazette notice issued in 1992? The Gazette notification also refers to a Buddhist shrine because there had been such a place when that notification was released.
That is one of the burning issues that we have strived to resolve but with no success so far. This is why we say that there are persons with vested interests who are spreading rumours saying that there had been a mosque situated in the Sacred City area in the past 200 to 400 years.
No concrete proof
We reject outright such suggestions as there is no concrete proof to underscore these claims, and we also state that there was no other religious place of worship in this area for the Muslim population.
It must also be stated without any inhibitions that when the area where the mosque is situated was subjected to a survey initially, it had not been designated as an area where a mosque could be built.
Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon was lying when he said that there had been a mosque in that particular area even before he was born. Any person can give his own version but our arguments are based on the Gazette notification. If our arguments could be proved wrong then the Gazette notification is also wrong. This cannot be the case. There was no place of religious worship for the Islamic faith or a mosque when the original plan for the Sacred City was drawn up.
I have been a resident monk at the Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara since the 1950s. But I don`t know where Minister Tennakoon was at the time. It`s ludicrous for the minister to talk about issues concerning Dambulla before he was born, as he became a Member of Parliament for the area only in the recent past. He is also a resident of Kandy and Colombo and as such how can he be aware of the history of Dambulla? He is making false statements to suit his personal agenda.
However, the people of Dambulla cannot be hoodwinked that easily and they say in one voice that Janaka Bandara Tennakoon has been bought over or bribed by the Muslims to speak on their behalf.
It must also be mentioned that there are only seven Muslim families living in Dambulla and they are scattered in the area, and not concentrated in one locality.
There appears to be a move by the Catholic Church as well to build churches in the Sacred City area, and there are religious fundamentalists who are using the issue of the Muslims to create discord between different faiths. In my view, this is a conspiracy by certain religious groups and the current issue is the result of 10-1such moves., says Sumangala Thera. (See main story.)
Before this incident, religious co-existence was at its peak in Dambulla. There are many communities in the area that practice their respective religions. But there have been no issues. It is therefore clear to me that this present problem has been created by a Muslim fundamentalist group to achieve their vested interests.
There are various groups who have alleged that I have been responsible for the religious disharmony. I categorically reject such charges.
Keep traditions going
The Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara has a history that dates back to some 2300 years and it`s clear to us that the Sacred City area encompasses this age-old temple premises. Even the monks who have resided at this temple in the past centuries have ensured the temple premises have been protected and therefore no other religious denomination could lay claim to this particular site. My duty as the head of this temple is to keep those traditions going and protect it for the future generations, as otherwise future monks will criticize me saying that I had failed in my duty to save the temple premises for veneration.
The prime minister has issued a statement that the location where the mosque is being built is not suitable and that the government will take necessary measures to relocate it elsewhere. He has also said that the mosque should not be built in the Sacred City area and that it will be relocated at a suitable location.