Commissioner General of Buddhist Affairs, Nimal Kotawalagedara decided to immediately suspend Don Piyatissa Kumarage as the Basnayake Nilame of the Ruhunu Kataragama Devalaya on April 10.
The order for the suspension had come from Minister of Buddhist Affairs, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera which was revealed by the Minister himself to the media on April 9.
It must be recalled that the D.P Kumarage was also previously suspended by Kotawalagedara in August 2017. This was based on an allegation that Kumarage had forcefully kept a key of the devalaya.
Two more years to be in the post
However, it now appears that Kumarage is now at the risk of losing his position once more despite having two more years to be in the post of Basnayake Nilame.
According to the Minister, the recent suspension comes after serious financial allegation have been levelled against Kumarage while they have also been revealed in an investigation headed by a retired supreme court judge.
The Minister also said Kumarage was suspended as the Ministry intends to carry out an impartial audit of the financial management of the devalaya. The Minister said it will be conducted by the Auditor General's Department.
Minister also said that according to the audit report further action regarding the Basnayake Nilame.
If financial allegations have been made investigations and legal action should be taken while the due process under human law should be followed even in a situation to do with a belonging of a deity. The same rule would apply to the Buddha.
Likewise any establishment too should follow those rules and not work outside the process. If any activity is being conducted not according to book the assumption is that a wrong is being committed.
Candidate who lost election appointed as acting Basnayake Nilame
According to sources from the Minister Dilruwan Rajapakse has been appointed as the acting Basnayake Nilame after the suspension of Kumarage. They say Rajapakshe is a candidate who had contested to be appointed as the Basnayake Nilame previously but had lost out on the chance. Sources go on to claim that therefore this appointment is suspicious and is in fact a plan by Rajapakshe to gain the position by creating issues within the Devalaya. Another reason for the suspicion according to sources is that during in the previous instance an additional commissioner of the Ministry was appointed to look in to the matters of the Devalaya temporarily this time around how a former candidate for the post have been appointed.
Is a 15.1 investigation not needed?
It also must be noted that any issue to do with a Basnayake Nilame must be done according to the Section 15.1 of the Buddhist Temporalities Ordinance No. 19 of 1931. However action of the Ministry does not appear to conform with the law. If followed the law allows the Nilame to be sacked, take legal action against him and even be fined.
But however the real issue appears to be with several Kapu Rala’s and a group attempting to divide the revenue of the Devalaya amongst themselves to which the current Basnayake Nilame, D.P Kumarage was an obstruction.
Claims of a Ministry Official
Speaking to isis.lk a Ministry official claimed this issue is based purely on money. “As soon as he was appointed Basnayake Nilame got in to a tussle with a main Kapu Rala, Somipala Ratnayake and introduced a lot system to do the services in the Devalaya” he said.
According to the official the Devalaya has five kapu ralas who conducted services one month each for five months. They get the revenue for that month but also give the Devalaya Rs. 2 million. The rest of the 7 months the service schedule was given after casting lots.
The first issue cropped up when Ratnayake had attempted to carry out services other than the month he got through a lot forcefully. This is when the issue of the key cropped up the Official said. According to him this issue that keeps continuing.
Where is the retired Judge’s investigation report?
It also must be noted that the investigations had taken place in a suspicious manner. Firstly during the incident regarding the Key not only as the Minister present for the discussion but his son, top officials of the Ministry, Basnayake Nilame, District Secretaries, Police and Kapu ralas were also present. Due to complaints regarding both parties, the Minister at the time had announced that a committee will be appointed headed by a retired supreme court judge to look in to the matter.
The Minister now claims the suspension comes after the committee report submitted. However various questions pop up on observation.
These are listed below hoping for satisfactory answers from the Commissioner General of Buddhist Affairs.
1. Why is the report made by the retired Supreme Court Judge not published?
2. Is it a secret report?
3. During this investigation are thee not allegations against the main kapurala for violating the lot system?
4. Has the Basnayake Nilame not investigated charges levelled against them?
5.For example isnt it important to check if the Kapuralas have paid the required Rs. 2 Million monthly to the Devalaya?
6. How many complaints have been received against Kapuralas not doing so?
7. Are these not financial issues?
8. Why is an investigation not carried out against the Basnayake Nilame under S. 15.1 of the Buddhist Temporalities Ordinance No. 19 of 1931?
9. Why was a charge sheet not issue relating to the suspension?
10. Why was Dilruwan Rajapaksa apointed as acting Basanayake Nilame? Why is he so important?
11. Why was an additional commissioner not appointed to the position instead?
12. Can the Ministry assure that Wedihiti Kanda and Kiri Vehera which comes under the Temporalities ordinance is being financially managed property?
13. Why is the Basnayake Nilame of the Saman Devalaya not being removed in the same way Kumarage was removed after even hiding the initial investigation report?
14. Does the Minister and the Commissioner of Buddhist Affairs have no knowledge of the audit report of the financial irregularities that took place in Maha Saman Devalaya in Ratnapura?
These questions arose in our mind while watching this drama that has unfolded which has even left other staff without their salaries. These issues must be answered by officials. Therefore we hope the Commissioner gives us the necessary answers.
It is not to grant justices to infidels who go to Kataragama to over ask but instead to show the calibre of men you are to the people of the country as opposed to God.