Colombo, December 27 (NIA): A recently erected statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Mullaitivu in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province has been destroyed apparently by politically-inspired miscreants.
The ostensible reason for the destruction is the breach of an administrative requirement to get the sanction of the concerned local body. But the real reason appears to be a difference of opinion between two local leaders of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on the issue of Gandhi’s relevance for the Sri Lankan Tamils’ on-going struggle for rights and justice.
The destruction of the statue of the Indian apostle of peace, non-violence and freedom is believed to have stemmed from a quarrel between Member of Parliament Dr.Sivamohan who put it up, and T.Ravikaran, a member of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC), who opposed it. Both belong to the same party, the TNA.
Dr.Sivamohan told The New Indian Express on Tuesday that he had erected the statue with the money given to him by the government for carrying out social and development work in his constituency, the Wanni electoral district.
“The erection of the statue was part of his project to honor heroes, and that he had put up statues of Mother Teresa, poet Subramania Bharathi, and the local hero, Pandara Vanniyan, in various places. These were done with the explicit consent of the local authorities,” the MP said.
However, he was shocked to find that Gandhi’s statue in Mullaitivu town had been pulled down.
“Miscreants encouraged by a local politician had done it. I have asked the police to investigate,” the MP said.
While declining to name the local politician, Sivamohan said that the politician had been encouraging a social media campaign against the installation of the Gandhi statue on the grounds that Gandhi had done nothing for the people of Mullaitivu.
An official who this reporter spoke to said that the politician in question had argued that in a place like Mullaitivu where a massacre had taken place during Eelam War IV, there should be no place for a statue of a person like Gandhi who preached non-violence.
Asked to comment on the charge that he had put up the statue without official sanction, Sivamohan said that he had it cleared by the District Coordination Committee (DCC).
“The DCC meeting was attended by the Northern Province Chief Minister. In addition to getting the sanction of the DCC, I had written to the Central Resettlement Minister D.M.Swaminathan and he had approved of it in writing,” Sivamohan explained.
Asked to comment on this, T.Ravikaran, a TNA member of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) who has been against Sivamohan’s project, said that he has nothing against Gandhi or the installation of a statue for him in Mullaitivu. His opposition stemmed from the unauthorized way in which it had been put up.
“The statue does not have the authorization of the local Pradheshiya Sabha,” Ravikaran contended.
“The installation was done in secrecy on a holiday and in the dead of night,” he said.
Ravikaran pointed out that it is a customary requirement that any civic issue like this is discussed at the local government level and with the stakeholders including the public. This was not done in the case of the Gandhi statue, he said.
“In the case of the erection of a statue of Pandara Vanniyan in Mullaitivu, consultations had gone on for a month and a half and it was all done openly and transparently,” he recalled.
Ravikaran said that forces wanting to put up Buddha statues in the Tamil areas might be encouraged by the surreptitious way in which the Gandhi statue was put up.
“When the Tamils are protesting against the unauthorized installation of Buddha statues in areas in the North where there are no Buddhists, how can we allow the unauthorized putting up of a Gandhi statue?” he asked.
Ravikaran refuted the charge that the Gandhi statue had been pulled down deliberately.
“It may have fallen on its own, toppled by the wind. At any rate, the CCTV cameras would show if someone had deliberately pulled it down,” he said.
He further said that about four “innocent” local boys have been taken in by the police for questioning.