ECONOMYNEXT – President Ranil Wickremesinghe was critical of state-run Department of Archeology after it said it had obtained money from monks to carry out archeological work.
The president’s comment at a meeting comes amid rising concerns as officials of Archeological Department had heightened activities related to archeology in the former war zone of Tamil-majority North and East of Sri Lanka.
Ethnic minority Tamils have been protesting against the move, citing that the Archeological Department is attempting to construct Buddhist temples in their religious sites.
Resolving land issue in the North and East is one of the key demands by minority Tamils in the national reconciliation move. The President has promised to ensure reconciliation by end of this year and Tamil parties have agreed to discuss the issues with Wickremesinghe.
The Director General of Archeological Department told the President that the priority has been given to the for north and east, because it was neglected for 30 years and mostly they do not get government money, but from different funding agencies. The official said sometimes the Archeological Department is given funds by monks.
“You can’t do that because this is a national policy. We can’t do if somebody asks us to look into somewhere in Jaffna or Colombo, we can’t do that,” Wickremesinghe told the meeting held to discuss about issues related to lands.
“You only spend the money given by the government External Resource Department. You can’t do anything from others. You are not a private firm.”
He asked the Archeological Department officials to submit a plan on their activities for approval.
“If something is found, nobody can construct a house or Buddhist temple there. It is owned by the country. I spoke to northern people and they said they will look after (archeological sites). If they don’t, let’s send the police. The government can look after that. If somebody is trying to break it, let’s deploy military and police.”