Chief Incumbent of Nelligala International Buddhist Centre (NIBC) Wathurakumbure Dhammaratana Thera had received death threats from the National Thawheed Jama'ath (NTJ) on May 14, 2019, after the coordinated terror attacks on April 21, 2019, the PCoI probing Easter Sunday attacks, was informed.
Testifying before the Commission, Dhammaratana Thera said that on the following day, he had received an anonymous letter on a NTJ letter head, that he would be assassinated.
The Thera further said that on February 4, 2014, a group of Muslims who had come along with a local businessman to the current NIBC location, had started building a religious shrine without any permission.
"During that time, this was a bare land owned by the government and the villagers informed me about the building of an unauthorized religious shrine. I visited the place and took measures to demolished it," he informed the Commission.
Continuing, the Thera revealed that in August 2014, the particular area of land had been obtained by him on a 30-year-lease and the construction of the NIBC had commenced with approval of Department of Buddhist Affairs and other relevant institutions.
Responding to a question raised by the representative from the Attorney General's Department regarding a particular incident which happened in June 2016, witness said that a group of five persons including Zahran Hashim, visited the NIBC to purchase another plot of land nearby.
"Zahran asked me whether I had any objection on their purchasing another land, close to NIBC. He said they wanted to construct a sort of 'Centre' not a Mosque. However, I didn't want them to construct such a thing, so I raised my objections," he said.
Witness said that in 2017 also, Zahran had arrived to the NIBC with a group of nearly 50 youths, who were dressed in some sort of uniform. "It looked like they were undergoing a training at some institution. Zahran asked for some tea saying that he and his team had come from far away. I, then offered them some tea," he said.
Continuing, witness said that Zahran was highly critical about ordinary Muslims and he even blamed the Muslims for the riots which occurred at Digana in 2018.
The Thera said he had last received a call from Zahran on February 23, 2019. "On that day, he spoke in a very aggressive manner and told me that I had no right to comment on matters such as Arabisation," the witness added.(Yoshitha Perera)