Features, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Post-War, Reconciliation, Religion and faith

The Jaffna priest and the policeman who turned IGP

“I am speaking from the sacred Keeramalai Naguleswaram temple, home of Lord Naguleswarar and goddess Nagulumpika. I thank you for asking me to talk about the temple.

Earlier, Mahinda Balasuriya, he was a DIG here. He was then transferred to Colombo.

* A ‘DIG’ is a Director General of Police.

We got on well. He came here to get my blessings. So I blessed him.

We spoke for a while, then in the end, I told him:

“Sir, I’m very happy to hear of your transfer to Colombo, but immediately, you will within one month, get promotion in high post.”

Then one day he came here. “Kurrukkal, your blessing is very good. Now, I am an IGP!”

* An ‘IGP’ is an Inspector General of Police.

So I blessed him and gave him one of the presentations to him. He take it in his hands and like this, he worshipped.

Then after he asked me: “Kurrukkal, what do you want? Anything else?”

I told him that a lot of tourists visit the temple now.

“You’ve seen it, the disturbance they make. It would be good if there was a police post here. That’s what I think.” I told him.

Immediately on that Friday, the DIG ordered a police post here, day and night. From that time on there has been a post here.

Today about a hundred policemen are on duty here. They keep the inside of the temple clean, give directions to the people – for the men, not to go inside with their shirts on, and for the women, to keep their hair tied back. And no one to wear shoes inside the temple.

He did a good thing.

The IGP posted someone here who could speak Tamil. He’s from our village.

If you have someone who speaks Tamil then there will be no confusion. Then he can ask me, “Kurrukkal, what do you want? What needs to be done?” And I can tell him straightaway in Tamil, and he can give the orders to the others.

The others don’t know how to speak in Tamil.

From the http://iam.lk project, a collection of narratives from Sri Lankan elders.

http://iam.lk is a narratives project exploring Sri Lanka’s regional identity in sound and image. 36 portraits of Sri Lankan elders. 3 new portraits every week.

  • Ravy

    Only if life is as simple as this! Why the need for hundred policemen?, I am sure this crafty kurukkal has enough chores to keep them busy!, Refreshing article!

  • Mel

    Lovely piece Sanjana. The pictures were beautiful.

  • iam.lk is brilliant, I watched / read / stared at most of his work!

  • Great combination of sound and pictures. Really quite powerful.

  • Arosha Bandara

    I just discovered iam.lk last week and find the stories absolutely riveting. The combination of the images, stories of the people and those of the correspondent’s meetings with these people gives us a unique insight into the lives being lived across different geographies and social strata in Sri Lanka.

    It is good to see this work getting exposure on groundviews.

  • Nandhan

    When reading this article my mind brings some memories with Naguleswara Kurrukkal which I think is more suitable to write here.

    1. It was at beginning of 1990 where both our historical Keerimalai and Maavittapuram kovils went under military high security zone. Since then
    all the Sacred statues of both these kovils were scattered everywhere. All the statues were digged to take the gold plate underneath and the statues were
    thrown into all the surrounding areas in “Mailatty”, “kurunbusitty”, “vasavillan” areas. All the “Aimpon” statues were smuggled to south for good
    price. You may have remember how big the “Moolasthana Vikraham” at Maavittapuram kandasami kovil. That statue is completely missing. I was crying
    myself when I saw the plide of Maavittapuram kovil in the year 1997 when I was going in a bus from Jaffna to KKS to take ship to south. Both kovils
    were completely destroyed due to shelling and bumming at that time.

    2. It was Naguleswara Kurukkal’s extreme effort to collect the missing statues both Keerimalai and Maavittapuram kovils. I personally helped
    Naguleswara Kurukkal in his great effort. He went and met lot of high rank military officers in colombo explaining importance and values of those statues
    and the necessity to get them back. Lot of high rank officers felt really sorry for what has happened to these kovils and helped us in searching for
    the statues in all the possible ways. Almost every weekend we used to receive calls from officers and me and Naguleswara kurukkal used to visit
    to Ratmalana camp and colombo head office to identify the statues and collect them back. Officers said these statues were seen scattered in those areas
    as I said above. Not all the statues were recovered. All the “Aimpon” statues were missing altogether.

    3. It was Naguleswara Kurukkal’s great effort to go and stay in Keerimalai alone and slowly persuaded officers and slowly got permission to
    reconstruct the Keerimalai slowly. This was after 1998. Yes he stayed there alone in the middle of the military machine. There were no public
    in those areas at that time. He stayed there, cooked for himself and worked hard to get the Kovil back. Later he stayed in Thellipalai and traveled alone
    daily to Keerimalai for the construction works. He managed to bring sinhala workers and got the Kovil reconstructed slowly. Not to mention
    tamil labours are not allowed in the high security zone. I do not think in the current world, anyone has got such a brave guts to challenge like him.

    4. If someone wants to really understand his great works here is the simple steps. Visit both Keerimalai and Keetheeswaram kovils. Both are in the middle
    of the military high security zones. But Keetheeswaram is still like a forest now whereas Keerimalai is back to how it was before 1990.

  • The Kurrukkal’s reflections on how the temple was before the war, the day he fled the temple when it was bombed and his return can be found here: http://iam.lk/keeramalai-kurrukkal/