by Azra Ameen
A committee comprising the Maha Sangha (Buddhist priests), Divisional Secretary, the District Secretary and several other officials yesterday decided to remove all illegal constructions where a controversial mosque is located in the Dambulla area within the next six months, sources said.
“There are around 72 illegal constructions around the Dambulla temple. A decision was made to remove all constructions around the temple including the mosque and the kovil within a period of six months,” Punyaaloka Thera said.
He also said permission has been granted to construct any religious structures outside the boundaries of the Rangiriya Temple.
The mosque was earlier termed by local monks as an ‘illegal construction.’
The decision was taken at a meeting organized yesterday evening, following a Prime Ministerial order on Sunday which stated that the mosque, Masjidul Khaira, be demolished.
No Muslim parliamentarians or representatives took part in yesterday’s meeting, sources said.
The move by the Premier’s office to demolish the mosque was heavily criticized by the Muslim community.
A large crowd had gathered outside the government offices yesterday in Dambulla, and left following the announcement, sources from the area said.
Meanwhile, the Inamaluwe Sumangala Thera said the protest on 20 April was not to only remove mosques and kovills, but all illegal constructions.
The Thera said if the government fails to meet the deadline they would once again take to the streets.
The most Ven. Udugama Sri Budharakitha, Prelate of the Asgiriya Chapter also participated in the discussions.
Deputy Minister M.L.M. Hizbullah visited the Rangiri Dambulla Viharaya last evening and spoke to the priests and thanked them for amicably settling the matter.
Governor of the Western Province, Alavi Mowlana, said yesterday he will strongly consider vacating his position if the government goes ahead with the plan to demolish the mosque.
Muslim parliamentarians and others from the Muslim community appealed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to discontinue the private radio channel that encouraged the religious hatred carried on in the Dambulla area, which was managed by Inamaluwe Sumangala Thera. They also requested the President to hold a meeting with a top level delegation in Colombo and to find a discreet solution to the problem.
Sumangala Thera was at the forefront of protests that took place last Friday at the mosque, and a video uploaded to the radio station’s website shows him preaching about ‘Islamic invasion’ in the country.
They also requested the President to hold a full and impartial inquiry, and to punish the offenders according to the law, and to ensure safety of the residents of the village and to continue their religious observances at the mosque.
Governor of Western Province, Alavi Mowlana condemned the collective decision made at the meeting yesterday. He said a few people together cannot come to a conclusion like this. “How can the District Secretary or any other official take such a decision without a single Muslim member participating at the meeting?”
Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowzie said he was aware of the meeting, but added no invitation was extended to him or any other Muslim politician to participate in the discussions.
In the meantime, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) said they are concerned about the incident of the attempted destruction of a mosque and disruption to the Muslims’ obligatory Friday (Jummah) prayers last Friday (20).
In a press release, the MCSL stated it considers the involvement of certain sections of the Buddhists clergy and their participation in the unruly mob behaviour which attempted to destroy the mosque, was unfortunate.
“The Muslims of Dambulla had a very cordial relationship with the majority Buddhist Community and had the freedom to practice their religion unhindered for decades. This mosque in particular, was in existence for over 50 years and lawfully registered, and was not a threat to any religion or individual. This is the only mosque for the Muslim community within a radius of 15 kilometres of Dambulla.”
The MSCL pointed out the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (council of Muslim theologians) represented by its senior leadership lobbied the Muslim countries to support Sri Lanka even at the recently concluded UN Human Rights Commission sessions in Geneva as the Muslims in Sri Lanka have always stood up for a sovereign nation. courtesy: CeylonToday