The people of the island of Mannaar and the mainland constituting a fine balance of Tamil Catholics, Tamil-speaking Muslims and Tamil Saivites, have been living in harmony with each other. They have been more or less oriented towards an inclusive and secular Tamil nationalism. But, all sections of them are now sensing a systematic and multi-frontal assault coming from the Colombo-centric Sinhala establishment on their culture and collective Tamil orientation, activists across various communities in Mannaar say. The recent trend is witnessed in the attitudinal change among the Sinhala tourists being witness in the recent weeks. The visitors from South, unlike earlier are pre-occupied with renovating the Buddhist statues that have been left behind by the Sinhala military and in promoting the Buddhist temples in the Tamil-speaking district.
The so-called Sinhala cultural tourism, targeting Sinhala-Buddhicisation of Mannaar is being systematically promoted at ministerial level of the so-called Yahapalanaya regime.
From Thalai-mannaar pier to the Dutch Fort at the entry to the Mannaar island, there are Buddhist temples and statues beneath every Bo tree.
Thirukkeatheesvaram, facing the Palk Bay, is one of the two Tamil-Saiva temples in the island that was consecrated by the Theavaaram canon of the 7th century AD Tamil devotional movement. Since 2009, this area has been targeted by Sinhala Buddhists with the installation of a controversial Buddhist temple.
The Jaffna – Mannaar Road is particularly exposed to targeted religious vandalism, Tamil saivites from Thirukkeatheesvaram said. The statues of Saiva Tamil deities and Catholic deities along the main road have been subjected to destruction during the night time. This trend has been witnessed during the last 18 months with at least 10 incidents. None of the Buddha statues have been destroyed. The occupying Sinhala Army soldiers and Navy sailors are behind the targeted vandalism, they said.
Sinhalicisation of Mannaar is being systematically promoted through ‘Archaeology and Army’ in Mannaar, Muslim activists in Mannaar said.
The Sinhala Government Agent of predominant Tamil-speaking district of Mannaar, M.Y.S.Deshapriya, despite being a good administrator, is a die-hard Sinhala nationalist, Muslim civil officials in Mannaar said.
The Muslim officials blamed the SL Navy, SL Arachaelogy department, the SL Ministry of Buddha Sasana as having a well-coordinated plan of Sinhala-Buddhicisation of Mannaar district.
In the meantime, the latest installation of Rt Rev Fidelis Lionel Emmanuel Fernando as Bishop of Mannaar by the Vatican is also interpreted as a move sabotaging the Tamil orientation as Bishop Fernando seen as close confidante of Sinhala Archbishop and a cardinal of Vatican, His Eminence Malcolm Ranjith, who has been advocating preferential status to Buddhism in the SL 'constitution'.
The former Bishop of Mannaar, Rt Rev Rayappu Joseph, has always been a religious leader reflecting the sentiments of the grassroots and had earned the ire of the Colombo Establishment for boldly voicing for the number of people who went unaccounted in the Vanni war. Due to ill health Bishop Rayappu Joseph resigned from the pastoral care of the Catholic Tamil Diocese of Mannaar on 14 January 2016.
Meanwhile, Tamil politicians, who have fallen prey to the divide-and-conquer tactics of the Sinhala agent state and its foreign masters, are pre-occupied with the rat race of the local elections and have no ability to confront the dangerous trend of Sinhala Buddhisication targeting Mannaar, parish priests in Mannaar told TamilNet this week.