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DateLine Sunday, 20 May 2007

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Government Gazette

Assassination of Hadungamuwe Nandaratne Thera

The tragedy befell Hadungamuwe Nandaratne Thera, the Chief Priest of Sri Pabbatharamaya in Mahadivulweva in Moraweva when he was about to leave the temple last Sunday. When the high priest emerged from the rear entrance of the temple accompanied by a young man he was confronted by a gunman.

The gunman had come to the Pabbatharamaya on the pillion of a motor cycle. The high priest under the impression that some visitors had arrived at the temple had greeted them.

Just then a gunman who alighted from a pillion of the motor cycle lunged forward and fired four shots at the monk with a 9 mm pistol. The assassin hadn't spoken a word to Nandaratne Thera but had fired incessantly at him.

It was obvious the mission of the assassin was to kill the priest. The shooting took place around 9 a.m. when nobody else was present at the temple. Soon after the shooting the assassin escaped on the pillion of a motor cycle, accompanied by another motor cyclist.

The Chief Priest was hit on his neck, chest and the ear, fatally wounding him. He slumped to the ground after being hit and passes away within a few minutes. All this happened in a flash and the person who witnessed the shooting was the young man who was alongside the Chief Priest.

He had come that day to meet the priest to offer him a ride on his motor cycle. The high priest usually travelled about in the village on the pillion of his motor cycle.

The assassin along with two persons had arrived at the Pabbatharamaya that day on two motor cycles. They had waited patiently outside the temple until the chief priest emerged out of the temple. When the Chief Priest finally came out of the temple from its rear entrance, the men on their motor bikes rode into the temple premises.

After their mission was accomplished the three men rode away without a hassle. There weren't any body to obstruct them. They knew the geography of the area well enough to avoid the two police posts located a few distance away from Pabbatharamaya.

The killers probably took a circuitous route knowing well that they might otherwise confront the police. According to Morawewa police, three police teams have been detailed to investigate the high profile assassination of the High Priest.

However the police are yet to establish the identity of the killers. The young man alongside the priest when the shooting occurred had not identified the killer and the two men. They were strangers to the temple. Moraweva police were still investigating the murder. The motive for killing the priest has not yet been established.

The Villagers were aghast when they heard the news of Nandaratne Thera being assassinated. On that fatal day the priest was making elaborate arrangements to commemorate the Poson festival by placing a Buddha statue atop a 60 foot stone.

He needed a crane for this purpose to lift the statue and was making arrangements with armed forces to obtain a crane for this purpose. Nandaratne thera was ordained as a monk about four years ago.

He was affectionately known as the Staff Sadu by the people in the village. This was because Nandaratne Thera had served in the army as a Staff Sergeant prior to becoming a buddhist monk. He even preached sermons in the Tamil language. In a short spell the thera won the hearts and minds of different ethnic communities in the village.

He became well known in the country when he ordained a Tamil as a Buddhist monk, at the beginning of this year.

Although there aren't any evidence to vindicate the LTTE in the assassination suspicion seems to be growing among the villages of an LTTE involvement. This probably could be due to massacres that happened in the early years.

Recalling the past what comes to our mind is the massacre of 33 young Buddhist monks at Aranthalawa by LTTE cadres on 2 June 1987. The incident is still fresh in the minds of the people.

A group of young Buddhist monks travelling in a bus bound to Keleniya temple was ambushed by LTTE cadres at Nuwerathanne dressed in military fatigues. They ordered the driver, to take the bus to Aranthalawa jungle and massacred the 33 monks by chopping them with knives and shooting some of them. The Chief Priest Hegoda Sri Indrasara thera was also shot dead by them.

Eight years later on 26th May 1995, LTTE cadres assassinated the high priest of Dimbulagala temple, Kitulagama Seelalankara Nayaka thera who gave moral support to people living in boarder villages to fight LTTE intrusions, into their villages.

The Jatika Bikkhu Peremuna in a strongly worded statement to the media had condemned the assassination of Hadungamuwe Nandaratne Thera. They had accused the LTTE for the senseless murder by stating the monk had acted against racial hatred built up by the LTTE over the years.

jj@sundayobserver.lk

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