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Sri Lanka ruling party in a dilemma over the destruction of Kurunegala heritage site

ECONOMYNEXT – The Expert Committee that studied the destruction of a historical building in the city of Kurunegala wants the perpetrators punished under the law, the Prime Minister’s office said.

That ruling has put the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) in a spot as the Mayor of the City, Thushara Sanjeewa, says he ordered the bulldozing of the building saying it is in the way of road development.

Sanjeewa, who is a member of the SLPP, is a key figure in the electoral campaign of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is contesting the upcoming Parliamentary General Election from the Kurunegala district.

The partial destruction of the building created an uproar in the city as historians, conservationists and a number of Buddhist Monks staged protests at the site.

The protestors included the fiery Right-Wing Monk Galagodaththe Gnanasara who held a press conference at the site saying “we are fighting to protect the historical sites in the East from Muslim extremists, but here in Kurunegala our sites are being destroyed.”

The Prime Minister appointed the committee immediately after the destruction was reported on July 20.

In a statement issued this afternoon the committee headed by Director-General of Archeology Dr Senarath Dissanayake said in addition to legal action against those who destroyed the building, compensation for the reconstruction of the premises must be obtained from them.

PUNISH THE PERPETRATORS – Expert Committee hands over report to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa over the destruction of Buveneka building in Kurunegala.
Committee Members – Director-General Archeology Dr Senarath Dissanayake, Professor T G Kulatunge, Kurunegala Additional District Secretary G A Kithsiri, Central Cultural Fund head Sumedha Matota and Archeologist Prasad Ranasinghe.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General Dappula de Livera has instructed the acting Inspector General of Police to immediately conduct an investigation into the incident and record a statement from Mayor Sanjeewa, his spokesperson Nishara Jayaratne was quoted by media as saying.

She said the AG has called for a report from the IGP by July 31 and advised the police to obtain a court order to secure the site.

The building is said to have been built in the 13th century during the reign of Buveneka Bahu and may have served as a Royal Court.

The ancient building has been listed as an archaeological site, and anyone damaging it can be punished under the law.

In recent times a newer building has grown around the original building.

Mayor Sanjeewa took reporters to the site and showed a tile made in 1993, plastic electric conduits and steel bars in the rubble as proof that the building is not an ancient one.

“We know that this building had an unsavoury reputation, it was a brothel,” he told reporters.

The Prime Minister at a campaign event in Kurunegala said yesterday “a building has been broken and they are making a big fuss. Some say it is an ancient building, others say no it is a modern one.”

Director-General Dissanayake told reporters that there is nothing in the history books about this building, however, he pointed out that any building that can be proved to have been built before 1815 is considered a heritage site that is protected under the law.

In the report released today, Dissanayake said that the damage done to the older parts of the building can be restored.

The interim report will be followed by a full report, he added. (Colombo July 22, 2020)