The divisional secretary of Serunuwara in Trincomalee district has issued letters to more than 35 Tamil-speaking Muslim families to vacate their lands at Naavatkaadu (Selvanakar) village near Thoappoor. The Muslim families are residing in the lands with necessary papers for decades and they have engaged in agriculture in the lands since 1960. However, Colombo’s officials claim that 85 acres of lands were taken over by the SL State and declared as ‘Arachaeological Reserve’ already in 1962. Now the Muslims have been given instructed to vacate from their lands before August 30.
The divisional secretary, who is a Sinhalese, claims that he had issued the notice under a 1980 Act for 49 acres of ‘State lands’.
When Muslim representatives protested against the move, the divisional secretary was promising not to force those having houses, but was insisting that agricultural lands and other non-residential lands should be handed over.
The vihara at the vicinity is referred as ‘Chinna Vikaarai’ (the little vihara) by the residents. It is situated in a 4-acre land.
Colombo is trying to seize around 600 acres surrounding the largest vihara, known as Seruwawila Rajamaha Vihara, situated in Seruwila.
The Rajamaha vihara is claimed as one of the 16 holiest Buddhist Shrines in the island by the Sinhalese and the area surrounding it is to be transformed into a Sinhala township.
Sinhala Buddhist monks maintain that there were 3 viharas in the surroundings of the Rajamaha or Tissa vihara.
According to them, the Seruwila vihara was built in 2nd Century BC enshrining the forehead relic of Gautama Buddha.
Ramzan Anwar, a Muslim Congress councillor in the opposition of the Eastern Provincial Council told TamilNet this week that the move was another step in making the Trincomalee district a Sinhala-majority district.