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Buddhist Temple And

Residents Fight Over Land

By Waruni Karunarathne-Monday, May 26, 2014

Muslims in Arisamale, Pulmuddai is still in a state of flux as the Arisamale temple has claimed
500 acres of land surrounding the temple as temple property. As the surey department !ent to
demarcate the land for the temple at the end of last year people campaigned against the moe
and put the !or" on hold # yet people expressed fear that they !ill hae to acate their houses
!hen re$uired %y the temple or the &ay !ho allegedly !or" in colla%oration !ith the temple
to ac$uire their property.
'hief incum%ent of the Arisimale temple (en. Panamure )hila"a!ansa )hera told
the *unday +eader that the site has important historical and archeological alue. According to
the thera and some Buddhist %eliefs, )apassu and Bhallu"a traders carrying a loc" of +ord
Buddha,s hair had entered the country through the Arisimale port and deposited the sacred relic
of +ord Buddha in -irigaduseya stupa in )hiriyaya.
)he )hera added that there are so many ancient ruins %elong to early Anuradhapura era that
scattered around this area and !e hae made re$uests to releant authorities to get the land
%ac" to the temple # ho!eer sureys are not yet %eing done to demarcate the land that %elongs
to the temple. .e added that the extent of land %elongs to the temple could %e either 500 acres
or /000 acres %ut that is to %e decided after locating all the ruins scattered across the land after
a proper surey.
According to the )hera, his chief mon" at the time (en. 0odandu!e Kassapa )hera had come
to reside in that area in /122 and *inhala community lied around the area during that time.
34n early /150,s !hen late 'yril Mathe! !as the minister of 4ndustry, he deeloped /00
temples in &orth and 6ast and the Arisimale temple came under that deelopment pro7ect.8 .e
added that due to the conflict they had to moe to the *outh and he !as traelling %ac" and
forth to see the temple till the conflict ended. .e added, 3My chief mon" handed oer the
temple to me !ith proper legal documents.
)he %uilding complex of the temple !as damaged during the !ar and it is no! %eing repaired
%y the &ay.8 .e also said that the ancient ruins in the area proe that the inha%itant of the area
!ere a Buddhist community since ancient times. According to the sources, the 'yril Mathe!
had plans to allocate 500 acres of land to the temple and to call it a sacred to!n.
.o!eer, according to the residents of the area, !hen they moed in during late /150,s there
!as hardly any sign of a temple. )here hae %een around 50 families !ho lied and engaged in
agricultural actiities in the area een during the conflict, residents claimed. According to the
residents, the Muslim community in the area has %een liing there for nearly 90 years !ith land
permits produced %y the 0iisional *ecretariat # !hen the area !as affected %y tsunami, under
the &orth 6astern .ousing 0eelopment Pro7ect :&6.0; houses !ere %uilt for the permit
holders to the land.
A female Muslim resident of Arisimale added, 3My family came to lie in Arisimale area in
/151. When there !ere conflicts in the area, !e !ere moing %ac" and forth to Pulpuddai
to!n. <ften during day time !e came to loo" after and tend the land in Arisimale and at night
!e stayed in Pulpuddai !ith friends or relaties.8
Another resident added, 3)hese areas !ere affected %y tsunami and under the &6.0 pro7ect
they %uilt us houses.8 .o!eer he noted that four houses %uilt under the &6.0 pro7ect are
no! inside the /00 acres !hich is already ac$uired %y the temple !ith the support of the *ri
+an"an &ay. =esidents complained that those families !ho hae %een remoed from the /00
acres ta"en %y the temple are not yet %eing resettled.
According to the residents, the 'hief 4ncum%ent of Arisimale temple has claimed 500 acres of
land in total as the property of the temple and residents !ere as"ed to acate !hen re$uired.
According to &ay *po"esman Kosala Warna"ulasooriya, the *ri +an"an &ay has only
re$uested the goernment to demarcate certain areas in Arisimale close to the northern
%oundary of the har%our to %e gien to the &ay. .e added, 3We hae only made a re$uest.
Besides the land !e re$uested is state land and do not %elong to any priate party. 8
.e added that it is important for the &ay to hae the coastal stripe close to the )rincomalee
har%our as it is crucial to strengthen naal po!er and security of the country. .e said that if
anyone is ma"ing !rong complains saying that the &ay has ac$uired any land illegally they
can go to courts as the &ay has follo!ed the correct procedures.
Mr. )hila"a!ardena of the 0epartment of Archeology added that the 0epartment of
Archeology has located ancient ruins dating %ac" to early Anuradhapura era in the surrounding
area of the Arisimale temple and they hae listed the ruins.
Accordingly in a ga>ette issued in ?0/9 August /@ under no /5?9A29, those ruins !ere
identified and ta"en under the 0epartment of Archeology to %e presered. .o!eer, according
to )hila"a!ardena, the area !as not claimed as an archeological site. When he directed
the *unday +eader to an officer !ho had !or"ed in the Arisimale site, he added that the
0epartment of Archeology has put their demarcations in the identified area !hich spreads up to
at least 500 acres.
.e added that they hae aoided the existing houses # %esides the site does not spread up to the
residential area and it is only along the coast and includes a 7ungle area. .e said, 3We hae
mar"ed that area as a property of the temple. But the legal surey has not yet %een done. We
hae only identified the area !ith ancient ruins %ut the legal surey has to %e done %y the
*urey 0epartment.8
According to *urey -eneral &ihal -una!ardena, the 0epartment of *urey accepts contracts
upon re$uests made %y goernment organi>ations. .e added, 3*ometimes %ac" there !as a
re$uest from the Kuchcha!eli 0iisional *ecretariat to carry out a land surey in Arisimale
area to demarcate 500 acres of land for the Arisimale temple. We are not a!are of !ho had
ta"en the decision # !e only acted upon the re$uest made %y the 0iisional *ecretariat.
At the end of last year !hen our team !ent to carry out the surey people of the area had
campaigned against it. *o !e had to stop the !or" and !e informed the releant authorities that
once they remoe all those o%stacles !e !ould continue our !or". We hae not heard from
them since then.8
When in$uired the Acting 0istrict *ecretary of the Kuchch!eli 0iision '. Krishnendran a%out
the legal aspect of the land permit gien to the residents in the area he added that some
residents hae claimed that they hae permits. .e added, 3Bnfortunately, due to a fire that
%ro"e in /110 most of the documents !ere %urnt and !e could not ascertain !ho hae receied
proper permits.8 .e added that since he !as appointed recently he !as not !ell a!are of the
Arisimale issue and therefore could not proide accurate ans!ers to many of the $uestions.
.o!eer from !hat he gathered he added that there had %een a re$uest to allocate 500 acres of
land to the temple in Arisimale area last year %ut they could not finali>e it # !hen the
0epartment of *urey tried to carry out the surey, residents in the area hae interrupted them
and no! the !or" is on hold. According to him, the case is no! %eing processed in court and
since then the 0iisional *ecretariat had not gien any orders to any authorities or indiiduals
related to the case.