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Recalling brutalities of the war is harmful - EDITORIAL

4 June 2021 02:18 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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June 2 marked 35 years after the brutal Aranthalawa bikku massacre. It’s a pity that the media has to highlight such a bloody incident that took place in 1987. And the reason for that is that Buddhist monks organise annual events to commemorate those who perished during that terrorist attack. Since 2019 Buddhist monks have organised commemoration events in the name of the dead while following health guidelines set to combat the present pandemic. 


Several years after the war concluded in 2009 the Government of Sri Lanka still comes under global criticism because scores of innocent Tamil civilians were killed during the final stages of the civil war. But incidents like the Aranthalawa massacre are little known to the outside world. 


Sometimes commemoration events like these serve a purpose in attempts to show that the cruel civil war snuffed the life out of not only those who carried weapons, but also of innocent civilians like these Buddhist monks. 
On that fateful day on June 2, 1987 a bus carrying four laymen and over 41 monks were travelling from a temple in Ampara on a Buddhist pilgrimage. They were heading towards Mahiyangana to have breakfast when the bus was stopped at the 28th mile post in Aranthalawa. The terrorists ordered the driver to take the bus to a nearby jungle and the passengers were looted of their money and wristwatches before the rebels started hacking the passengers on the bus and then shooting at them. 


All four laymen and 31 monks breathed their last at the scene of crime. At present there are just three monks who can be located and are willing to relate that brutal story. 
Buddhist teachings affirm that the killing of saffron robed monks fall into one of the highest categories of sins. The purpose of the massacre was to incite communal tension between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamils. But that never transpired. 


Going down memory lane the incident which sparked off real tension between the communities was the LTTE killing 13 Army personnel in an ambush attack in the north in 1983. That incident led to the July riots where Tamil civilians were killed and their properties damaged.
 Politicians from both sides captitalised on this divided community. One political family claims to have done much of the work in finishing off the war. A stature was built in latter years using the bus the monks were travelling in memory of the Aranthalawa massacre. 


Annually much money is spent by the government to celebrate ‘Heroes Day’ from the perspective of government security forces. What this country needs is not to celebrate the brutalities associated with the war, but forgive, forget and move on. 


Thirty five years after the Aranthalawa massacre one of the surviving monks of that ordeal Andaulpatha Buddhasara Thera moves about on a wheelchair. The monk filed a human rights petition in Supreme Court in 2020 demanding the terrorists involved in the attack be prosecuted. In the petition he also demands 20 million for being severely injured in the attack. 
Local tourists who travel to Aranthalawa visit the monument constructed in memory of the 31 monks who died. Aranthalawa comes under the spotlight on June 2 annually when crew members of television stations visit the place.


 On the other days of the year monks in the area get little attention and live with severe hardships because there is a severe shortage of food and water in the area. 
We need to put all memories of such brutalities aside because there is a generation which was born after the war concluded and their minds must not be spoiled.


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  Comments - 2

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  • David Friday, 04 June 2021 06:12 AM

    In every analysis done on various aspects of the 25 year war in Sri Lanka, the unspeakable crimes committed by one hundred thousand strong Indian Army in the North and East is never mentioned. This is called the CANCEL culture .

    Martin Milton Saturday, 05 June 2021 07:02 PM

    AGREED- ABSOLUTELY!! MM


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