Top brass in Yahapalanaya and previous regime seeks the influence of divine powers

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2017-08-27

BY GAGANI WEERAKOON

King Dutugemunu, according to the legend, after an all-defining victory in the battle against King Elara and the Chola troops, was believed to have had an encounter with Lord Kataragama and asked for the strength to overpower his enemies. With his boon being granted, the Kataragama Devalaya was subsequently built in fulfilment of the vow that as long as the sun and moon remains, the people of the land he united after victory shall pay their respects to the Kataragama Deviyo.

It is not only Tamils (Hindus) or Sinhalese (Buddhists) that take Kataragama seriously, but a place of coexistence and inter-communal unity entrapped in its hallowed soil, especially during the festive season in July-August.

The beginning of the festival is marked by the hoisting of flags at the Kataragama Mosque – a simple yet powerful shrine – housing the tombs of two Islamic saints. The Chief Incumbent of the Kirivehera Raja Maha Viharaya, the Chief Incumbent of the Kataragama Abinavarama Viharaya along with the Basnayake Nilame and chief Kapumahaththaya visit the mosque during this ceremony.

No one, probably, commits themselves to obtain the blessings of the Kataragama Deviyo than the pilgrims who engage in annual foot pilgrimage to Kataragama. An ancient tradition, the PadaYatra was initiated by the Vedda tribes of the North who embraced their ancestral jungle princess Valli Amma, God Skandha's sweetheart.

They start the journey from the North, weaving their way through the East Coast through dense jungles and arid land, carrying only the most basic of necessities in a little sack over their heads.

Ever since, Kataragama has been synonymous with rituals and godly belief and a place of worship that every Sri Lankan pledges to visit at least once in their lifetime. The pilgrimage has a tinge of mysterious touch to it where the devotees who are hoping to visit the 'sacred land' are expected to guard their tongue, stick to a vegetarian diet and not touch alcohol until the journey was over.

Such were the practices in the past – one may think – as corrupt politics and greed for money that are engulfed amongst the rulers have evidently taken over the minds of the custodians and caretakers of historic Ruhunu Kataragama Maha Devalaya, as they fight over the keys to the sacred devalaya with thousands of devotees impatiently waiting to pay homage.

A tense situation prevailed in the early hours on Tuesday (22) at the Kataragama Devalaya premises, when Basnayake Nilame (custodian) D.P. Kumarage and his son had reportedly taken away the keys of the devalaya, when the Chief Kapumahaththaya (caretaker) was preparing to begin the daily Pooja.

The daily Poojas begin with the 4:00 a.m. offering except on Saturdays at the Devalaya and a large number of devotees had arrived at the premises to take part in the offering. A son of the Chief Kapurala, who is also another Kapurala of the devalaya, had gone to the house of the Basnayake Nilame with a group of angered devotees.

Residents and the devotees had broken down the gate of the house and snatched the keys from the Basnayake Nilame forcibly. The offering was later held at 6:30 a.m. The Police had to intervene and prevent a clash when the key was returned to the Basnayake Nilame as he was being assaulted by devotees and residents.

Somipala Rathnayaka who was inducted to his duties at 16 and officially undertook his position as chief Kapumahaththaya back in 1975, after the demise of his father, said his month of duty was to be completed with mid-day pooja and was planning to hand over the keys to the Basnayake Nilame, who would then hand it over to the other Kapurala who'd lead the pooja for another month.
The clash - many say - was a result of many hundreds of millions rupees that come in daily to the Devalaya.

Seeking divine powers

The presence and influence of astrologers and witchdoctors in Sri Lankan politics is not an alien thing, yet came under severe attack in 2015 with President's chief astrologer Sumanadasa Abeygunasekara being blamed for the defeat of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Thereafter, it was witnessed that many ridiculed astrologers and politicians who go after them. Yet, seeking the blessings of divine powers seems to have no end. Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe flew to the Bengaluru state in India Friday evening to visit Kollur Mookambika Temple where he would participate in Chandika Homa (Durgapooja). After performing the ritual, he was expected in Colombo last evening.

While the Prime Minister seeks divine blessings of Goddess Durga, another place famous for mostly soothsaying in Anuradhapura is stormed by VVIPs. According to sources, quite a few members hailing from Hambantota had posted themselves in the house of this soothsayer popularly known as 'Anuradhapura Meniyo' seeking salvage from pending cases.

Talk in the political arena was that former Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe too was a victim of this soothsayer who happened to have embedded the idea that Rajapakshe has the 'luck' to become a powerful ruler in the country in the near future.

According to reliable sources, many powerful individuals in the last regime were seen performing poojas to pay homage to goddess Durga and Kali.

This sudden panic seems to have cropped up as a top authoritative official revealed to Ceylon Politics that three powerful individuals are bound to face prosecutions by next week for abusing power.

"Relevant investigation files have been forwarded to the Attorney General's Department several months ago. Investigation of these cases were conducted by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption, Abuse of Power, State Resources, and Privileges (PRECIFAC), The Financial Crimes Division (FCID) and the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption," official sources said.

A dedicated Court to expedite cases against the offences of a grave nature that allegedly took place during the regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa will come into effect before the end of this year.

"This will be done as per the provisions of the Judicature Act. President Maithripala Sirisena will seek advice from the relevant authorities in this regard very soon. The Attorney General and the Chief Justice would then decide and make relevant allocations (space and staff) for setting up such dedicated Court," he added.

13 to be independent

Meanwhile, 13 Sri Lanka Freedom Party ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers and MPs who are now in the government are mulling to be independent in Parliament.

A closed-door meeting in this regard had taken place last week at the residence of a top minister. According to political sources, they would take a decision within this week whether to remain in the Cabinet as independent Members of Parliament or to give up ministerial portfolios.

They, according to sources have not contemplated the idea of crossing over or joining the Joint Opposition.

According to sources, this group includes Ministers Susil Premajayantha, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, W.D.J. Seneviratne and Deputy Ministers Indika Bandaranayake, Nimal Lanza and Dulip Wijesekara and Tharanath Basnayake.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on President Maithripala Sirisena with UNP backbenchers who met him at the Presidential Secretariat demanding the President to take tough action against several Cabinet Ministers who had openly criticised government decisions.

These include Ministers Susil Premajayantha, Dilan Perera, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena who have openly voiced concerns about Hambantota Harbour lease, SAITM takeover and Treasury Bonds scam.

Meanwhile, Minister of Labour and Labour relations, W.D.J. Seneviratne on Friday (25) took an independent decision to abstain from voting although Government members voted against an amendment presented by the Joint Opposition to allow public servants to contest elections.

Ravi K in action

Former minister Ravi Karunanayake who was forced to step down from his ministerial portfolio owing to acts committed in his capacity as the Minister of Finance that amounts to conflict of interest, seems to be back in action with the blessings of PM Wickremesinghe.
According to reliable sources, he is given an office and staff facilities at room 105 at the Temple Trees as the Head of Special Rural Infrastructure Development Programme (SRIDP) - 2017.

Unlike many other parliamentarians, he is circulating memos in government letterheads. Such a letter was circulated among United National Party (UNP) ministers, deputy ministers, state ministers, MPs and electoral organizers with copies to the Prime Minister, Ministers Kabir Hashim, Sagala Ratnayaka, Malik Samarawickreme and six other ministers.

The letter dated 22 August 2017 states that considering the immediate important socio economic needs of the rural people, the government has decided to allocate a special development fund amounting to Rs 20 million for each electorate.

This many see as a move taken by the UNP to face the upcoming local and provincial polls.

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