Thursday, June 19, 2008

Country’s sacred relics belong to the clergy — JHU Leader

This was the title of an article which appeared in yesterdays Morning Leader - see the original here.

I will quote the full text of the report because I think its important enough:

"JHU Leader Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero has said the Buddhist clergy and the authorities were at loggerheads due to the Archaeology Act.

"Buddhist monks and the Archaeological Department are at odds due to the Archaeology Act that was introduced by foreigners after their invasion," he had told a media workshop on the protection of artifacts held in Sigiriya.

Speaking further he had said, "This country has sacred relics, not artifacts. Officials of the Archaeological Department are unaware of the situation. These belong to the Buddhist clergy."

Ven. Medhananda Thero said that the Act "was sending monks to jail while officials were going to hell."

He urged authorities not to start any more trouble with the clergy who had cared for the country’s artifacts for more than 2,000 years.

The matter has been brought to the attention of the President as well as the subject minister, the monk had added."


To my mind, this is a rather curious claim. The archaeological sites and artifacts are vested with the state and administered by the Archeology department. The Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero now seems to want to throw over the law of the land on the basis that it was introduced by foreigners. If this logic is followed to its conclusion we need to throw the entire legal system and much else, democracy included, out.

The claim that "the clergy who had cared for the country’s artifacts for more than 2,000 years" is dubious as well. The ruined cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and elsewhere had been abandoned and taken by the jungle. They lay forgotten and undisturbed for centuries until British explorers stumbled upon them in the 19th century. No one even knew of the artifacts, much less cared for them until the British period.

Of course there is a profitable trade in artefacts, although how small or large I do not know, and the Archaeology department has been fighting this with its limited means. This move seems designed to weaken the department even further.

6 comments:

Sam said...

I’m delightful to give all that artifacts or so call scared relics to monks (monks seems to want more and more stuff every day now). But only with one condition, do not ask my tax money to protect those once you own it. I don’t know how Ellawala Medhananda planning to do that. Maybe he is planning to issue tickets. But it is not my business afterword. So why not! it is call privatization.

kalusudda said...

I am waiting for the day these morons say they own the country! They have done enough damages to the country already. Sam, they will use the tax and then they will tax you to see it. The underlying truth is they want to collect what ever the income from these national treasures.
I have some good relics in mind for these people.

Jack Point said...

My fear is that the stuff will be looted.

Gini Appu said...

For Lanka's future, lets leave our glorious past behind. Lets give these relics away to those who want it so badly. Let these relics be looted, stolen, trashed and painted over in gaudy colours. Let them sell tickets, fight over 'em and flog whats left to unscupulous collectors. Please let each card carrying JHU member, monk or layman, walk away with a relic each so that he may cuddle it and go to sleep with it.

The more energy these fruit-loops spend on securing these relics of the past, the less energy is available to destroy our future.

The less we are reminded of our glorious past, the greater the chance of having a future.

Jayawewa!

Agni said...

..and the government at one time increased tax on foreigners when they wanted to buy land in the Galle / Matara fort: someone had to have money to look after those old sites, but they wanted to prevent foreigners - who actually had the money and who would have looked after them.

By the way, after I heard his speech when Rev Soma passed away, I dropped the title Rev / Ven when referring to MP Ellawala Medhananda

Jack Point said...

Gini Appu,

The past is always a useful-it can put things in perspective and it can help us learn lessons from past mistakes. However we must never lose sight of the fact that if solutions to present day problems are to be found we must focus on the present and the future; the past is not relevant and to that extent I agree with you.

However, we should not support the destruction of history. We should separate politics from archeology and history; not attempt to destroy the latter in order to iron out problems in the former.

In fact the problems are not really with history itself but the imagined and fanciful notions of the past that have been created by politicians to support particular agendas.