SLA restores Anagarika’s propaganda vehicle

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 17 September 2002, 15:02 GMT]
The Sri Lanka army said Tuesday that soldiers of its Electrical and Mechanical Engineer Regiment (SLEME) restored the propaganda vehicle used by the Sinhala Buddhist revivalist and nationalist, Anagarika Dharmapala, to “its pristine glory” upon a request by Buddhist clergy. Many Sri Lankan social historians say that Anagarika Dharmapala was the main architect of militant Sinhala Buddhism in Sri Lanka, of the idea that the Singhalese are the only rightful owners of the whole island.

Leading Sri Lankan academics such as Kumari Jayawardena, Prof. H. L Senivaratna, Prof. Gananath Obeyasekera, Richard Gombrich etc., have documented Anagarika’s Sinhala Buddhist nationalism and its impact on the evolution of modern Sri Lankan culture and politics.

The SLA is closely associated with the Sinhala Buddhist clergy in its rituals and outlook The Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka sees the SLA as the champion of protector of Sinhala Buddhism in the island, the upholder of the Dhamma, the primacy of which is entrenched in the country’s constitution.

An official statement by the SLA Tuesday said: “Commander of the Army Lt. Gen. L. P Balagalle had approved the project and extended Army’s fullest support for vehicle’s repairs and its restoration. This vehicle of Anagarika Dharmapala, “Sobana Maligawa” which was used to travel throughout the country on his renowned mission to rekindle interest in Buddhism and its heritage was found in a dilapidated state, though the vehicle possessed facilities such as sleeping quarters, a writing table and a chamber from which he used to address the public.

“Anagarika Dharmapala who rose against imperial attempts to undermine Buddhism and its values under colonial Ceylon spearheaded a campaign of Buddhist re-awakening across the country. Masses in their thousands followed his campaign of Buddhist revival resulting in the establishment of a few Buddhist schools for the first time in then Ceylon. His vehicle of historic value while remained idling in the possession of a businessman at Bandaragama was re-taken by Ven. Banagala Upatissa Thera, Chairman, Maha Bodhi Society and Ven.Thiniyawala Palitha Thera, Incumbent, Nalandaramaya, Nugegoda assuring restoration of the same, considering its national importance.

“Soldiers at Katubedda-based SLEME under the patronage of Colonel Tissa Jayasuriya, Commanding Officer at this work site volunteered to work day and night and it took almost ten months for all parties to bring the vehicle to its former glory. The restored vehicle, now at display at Ananda College, will be officially handed over to the Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka on Tuesday (17) to coincide with Anagarika Dharmapala’s 138th Birth anniversary celebrations”.

Tamils charge that the SLA champions the cause of Sinhala Buddhism also by building Buddhist shrines in Tamil holy sites it occupies in the northeast.

The Sri Lankan military was encamped in hundreds of Tamil temples and churches in the island’s northeast for more than a decade amidst charges that soldiers were damaging and desecrating the holy precincts.

The matter was addressed only after the Liberation Tigers insisted that the SLA should leave the temples and churches as part of the ceasefire deal they negotiated with Colombo in February this year.

However, Tamil religious organisations complain that the SLA is still in occupation of the environs of many important temples and churches despite the stipulation in the Cease-fire agreement.


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