Legality of SLA's Buddhist shrines in NE questioned

[TamilNet, Friday, 22 March 2002, 22:26 GMT]
Lt. Col. V. R. L Anthoniz, the commanding officer of the SLA's 23-3 Brigade in Batticaloa, addressing the press in the eastern town Friday to explain his position on the Annai Poopathy memorial said that he had advised the Government Agent of the district that the structure should be legal, with due permission from the Urban Development Authority (UDA). Mr. Paramasamy Wijendran, a journalist from the 'Thinakkathir', the Tamil daily published in Batticaloa, told Lt. Col

. Anthoniz that the SLA has built Buddhist shrines by its camps without permission from the UDA or any of the relevant authorities whereas the construction of the memorial was begun in according to due rules and regulations.

anthoniz.jpgThe Sri Lanka army is dominated by Sinhala Buddhists. The army's ceremonies are officiated by Buddhist clergy. Tamil politicians charge that the SLA promotes Sinhala interests by building and supporting Buddhist shrines in Tamil areas. One of the biggest Buddhist shrines for the army was built in the Elephant Pass garrison on the gateway to Jaffna.

However, the Brigade commander insisted that his objection to the memorial was valid as it violated article 2.2 of the cease-fire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers.

The editor of Thinakkathir pointed out to him that article 2.2 of the agreement had no bearing at all to the memorial and that even if it did then the commanding officer should complain to the Cease-fire monitoring committee.

"On the other hand if the construction is in violation of any local government statute or UDA regulation then the military cannot have a say as it would be a matter for civil authorities. The PTA which provides the sole legal basis in Sri Lanka for the army to intervene or decide such civil issues has been temporarily suspended under the cease-fire agreement", Mr. Kodeeswaran Rushangan, the editor of the daily, told the SLA brigade commander.

Lt. Col. Anthoniz said that he is the co-ordinating officer for the district and as such he has authority to intervene in civil matters.

buddhist_arch_e-pass_220302.jpg
The arch of the Buddhist temple in the SLA's Elephant Pass garrison near the Iyakkachchi junction. The garrison was overrun and destroyed by the LTTE in April 2000.
But Mr. Rushangan drew his attention again to the fact that the question of a construction work's legality was solely within the province of the Police and the government agent under the normal law of the land.

Under the PTA and earlier the Emergency Regulations, SLA officers were also the chief civil authorities for each Tamil district under them.

In conclusion, Lt. Col. Anthoniz, said that personally, he is not opposed to the Annai Poopathy memorial. The officer told the Batticaloa press that he is committed to the peace process and that he has asked the Military Police to make inquiries regarding those who pulled down pandols for the Annai Poopathy commemoration in Kiran.

The correspondents for the Virakesari, Thinakkural, Shakthi radio and TV, the Lake House news papers, IBC etc., and the Batticaloa delegates of the ICRC and UNICEF were also present at the SLA press briefing and discussion.


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