Prayers for soldiers planned

[TamilNet, Monday, 02 November 1998, 23:32 GMT]
The Presidential secretariat in Colombo said today that special prayers will be offered in Buddhist and Hindu temples and churches tomorrow at 7 p.m. simultaneously in the evening to invoke blessings upon soldiers of the Sri Lankan army who are fighting the Liberation Tigers in the north and east of the island.

Tomorrow is Poya, which is a special religious day for the Buddhists of Sri Lanka, observed on full moon day every month.

It is also a monthly national holiday. (foreign investors and local entrepreneurs have often protested that all this adds to an extraordinarily large number of holidays in Sri Lanka)

The Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka observe all their important religious ceremonies on Poya days.

According to the Presidential secretariat, blessings would be invoked for the families of the soldiers as well.

The war dead of the SLA will also be remembered at the special prayers said a secretariat spokesman.

The Buddhist clergy is closely associated with the ceremonial affairs of the Sri Lankan army.

It is customary for the army, Navy and Airforce commanders to visit the Dalada Maaligawa (the temple of the tooth) to obtain the blessings of the chief prelate of the Siyam Nikkaya, the highest order of the Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka soon after they assume duties.

Even Lt.Gen.Gerard (Gerry) Hector de Silva, a Catholic who was made commander of the SLA in January 1994, observed military and political custom in Sri Lankan by visiting the Dalada Maaligawa soon after he took the job.

The army holds special Buddhist ceremonies, such as all night chanting of Paali scriptures (pirith) to invoke upon itself the blessings of the Triple Gem.

Many officers of the SLA have also been associated with leading Buddhist monks living in or close to the war torn northern and eastern parts of the island.

Gen.(posthumous) Kobbekaduwa, one of the Sri Lankan army's ablest officers who was killed in a land mine blast in 1992, strong relations with the chief priest of the Tantrimalai Buddhist temple which lies on the Anuradhapura - Mannar border.

The army has worked closely with the Buddhist clergy in establishing and sustaining new Sinhala colonies in the north and east of island, particularly in the Trincomalee district and the Weliya Oya project in the southern part of the Mullaithivu district.

The present SLA commander of Trincomalee has drawn plaudits from the Buddhist clergy for assisting it to strengthen several Sinhala villages in the district. (Tamil parties have, however, accuse him of trying to forcibly evict Tamils from Linganagar, a suburb of Trincomalee town)

Observer's of the Sri Lankan military said that it remains to be seen whether Maj.Gen. C. Srilal Weerasuriya who is expected to take over as army commander in December will go along custom by paying his respects to the Buddhist prelates of Kandy. (Weerasuriya is a devout Protestant. He is also a lay preacher.)

Tamil parliamentarians have protested over the years that the Sri Lankan military and the government have alienated the Tamils and others in the island by investing the army with a strong Sinhala Buddhist identity.


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