Deeds of mosque in Dambulla and photos of damage: How is this structure illegal? (UPDATED)

Groundviews was sent a copy of what we were told was the deed of the mosque at the centre of an on-going controversy in Dambulla, Sri Lanka. We were also sent photos of the damage and vandalism wrought by the mob violence a few days ago.

We’ve uploaded the document to Scribd as a PDF, and the high resolution, original scanned images of the deed to Flickr. Both are embedded below, along with four photos of vandalism to copies of the Quran and the cupboards in which they were stored.

Groundviews has already flagged that the basis upon which the PM, in a televised submission, said that the mosque was an illegal construction is hugely suspect.

In a video of a community meeting uploaded to YouTube two days ago, in the presence of Senior Minister for Urban Affairs A H M Fowzie and the Assistant Government Agent, there is a discussion in Sinhala about, inter alia, the legality of the mosque. The discussion on the mosque’s location and legality starts around 6.20 into the video. at around 7.50, the AGA is directly asked whether she thinks the mosque is an unauthorised structure. Seconds before, the discussion was about the fact the mosque had been there for decades. The AGA unequivocally notes that the structure is unauthorised. When asked why she thinks so, she says nowhere in the AGA’s office is the structure recorded as a mosque. When the crowd informs her that this is not necessary given the law in Sri Lanka, she responds that she doesn’t even have a copy of the records that some in the crowd say have been for years with the central government.

From around 8.40 to around 9.30, a lawyer present at the meeting politely and patiently runs through the relevant laws around registering a mosque, reiterating that the AGA’s office is not the location, under the law, that it should be registered with. The AGA persist and says that her office has no record of a mosque or kovil in the area. A person from the crowd retorts that while this may be the case, it is irrelevant under the applicable laws. In response however, the AGA simply notes that there is no record of a mosque or kovil in her records.

Given the exchange above, we publish the deeds for wider public scrutiny in the hope that informed persons, including lawyers more familiar with the registration of places of worship, and in particular, mosques, are able to shed light on why a structure that has, by multiple accounts of residents in the area, been present and used for decades, and ostensibly for which the deeds are also available, is now considered illegal and unauthorised.

5:53pm: Pursuant to the vibrant debate on Twitter (follow on @groundviews) over the original post, Groundviews has just been forwarded copies of what we are told is the original deed, and other relevant documentation over the land for the extension of the mosque. This documentation was kindly sent to us from the office of Reyyaz Salley.

  • Harshana

    Hi ,

    Anyone having a deed could start any thing anywhere ? What if i start a bar near a school or a funeral palor near a residencial area.

    With the deed you can’t do as per your whims and fancies.

    • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews
    • MAYA

      @Harshana

      Have you ever traveled from Kolonnawa to Dematagoda?

      If you had, then you wouldn’t have said such a thing.

      In the said passing way, within max of 700 meters there are two schools (JMC International College & Mukharrama International College) and approximately 6 wine stores.

      Now, what do you say about it?

      • Nithyananthan

        It’s an excellent head-on rebuke by Maya. Keep-up your Good Work! Thanks, Nithy!

    • MAYA

      Good work GV.

      Keep it up!

    • abdul

      The mosque in question has got deeds and its legally built. It is there
      over 60 years and it self sacreed. As some of them argue wine shop and school can not be next to each other, there argument itself support mosque should and can be stand in sared lans as it is a worship place like Budhist temple.

      I beleive still Sri Lanka is a beautifull country and this mother land stand over 1000 years all communities sholdre to shoulder. I pray and hope this beautiful land should not be tarnished by few trouble makers.

    • meraj

      in reply to insensitive person like harshana i wud like to remind him that those deeds are the papers which gives the right of an ownership. if inspite of having the deed of ur own house i wud claim that house to b mine and decide to destroy ur house then how wud u prove the ownership right of ur house.these kind of people like harshana r a threat to the peace of the society and their insensivity towards other religion shows their dirty character and upbringing. mr. hrshana can u gve me an answer that where were these monks 60 years ago when the mosque was established. and now suddenly some insensitive and communal person are having problem with the existence of the mosque. and does n e of the religion permits u to destroy the religious place of another community. shame on that religion which teaches u to do so…. shame….shame…..shame….shame…….

  • veedhur

    The deeds that you have presented were executed in 1995, and I guess refer to only part of the mosque property and were sold to the mosque later. These do not relate to the purchase of original mosque property way back in the 1960s as Azath Sally and many others claim. May be there are more older deeds?

  • veedhur

    A correction to the previous comment. These deeds were executed in 2007, the sellers having acquired it in 1995.

    What is Really interesting though is that according to the survey plan in the deeds the mosque land’s neighbors include Krishnapilla, Ranasinghe, a Malayali Devan and villagers. It does not mention land belonging to temple anywhere.

    I sincerely hope some one is looking into the interest of Krishnapillai, Ranasinghe, Malayali devan and the villagers, because according to Sumangala Thera – all of them are unauthorized squatters and have to be cleared out.

  • veedhur

    And btw, Why only ask the Muslims to prove legal ownership and longevity of title? Why not the Buddhists?

    Can groundviews also present the documents on which the Prime Minister, Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Sumangala Thera claim that that land belongs to the temple? Can you locate and publish the Gazette notification that every body keeps referring to?

  • http://etofinda yapa

    I think this is not a feasible or suitable thing to do in a public forum. Then what is the purpose of having lawyers and courts to solve such problems, we ourselves can solve land disputes.

    I think this irresponsible act itself could amount to taking law into their hands. Journalists also should not think that they are Jacks of all trades. They also should understand their legal and moral preview and scope as well. Going beyond it could be both legally and ethically wrong.

    I put to journalists they also responsible for blowing this incident out of proportion. Journalists too are not exempted from their responsibilities.

    I think all the journalists also will behave in a responsible manner in this unpleasant juncture.

    Thanks!

    • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

      Given that, according to reports in the public domain, the President himself believed that the mosque was only two years old, it serves the public interest to source documentation to the contrary. We sincerely wish those in this forum, and other moderate web fora, had the power to diffuse what is a very volatile situation on the ground, with extremists from both the Sinhala-Buddhist and Muslim community attempting to use this situation to their advantage. In such a scenario, ignorance over facts breeds more violence. A fuller record of documentation, leading to a more accurate history of the mosque’s establishment and subsequent extension, can help understanding, and through a transparent debate, hopefully contribute to better decision making. At the very least, it holds those who take decisions and the law into their own hands based on parochial reasons, including misinformation, accountable for their actions.

    • Dessert Fox

      C’mon Yapa, [edited out] !!

      Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. Isn’t it Yapa?

      For your information;

      ‘Investigative reporting is to journalism what theoretical research is to science, having the potential to present new realities and shatter old paradigms – how people see and understand the world around them – which, in turn, can transform politics.

      That is why investigative journalism is so important to the health of a democracy. A dramatic set of new facts – as in Watergate or Iran-Contra – can overcome long-maintained lies and shake a corrupt government to its foundation.

      Investigative reporting also can strip away the pleasing façade of a deceptive leader or it can expose flaws in a “conventional wisdom” that is taking the nation in a dangerous direction. Done right, investigative journalism is a huge threat to powerful elites trying to manipulate a population.’ – Robert Parry

      • http://etofinda yapa

        Dear Dessert Fox;

        Has the investigative journalism shattered the paradigm of responsibility?

        When did they shatter the ethical/ moral paradigms?

        I think parrots only can pronounce what others taught them, they have no capacity to talk according to the situation.

        I am not a parrot.

        People need crutches when they cannot stand by themselves, when their legs are not strong enough.

        Thanks!

      • muzammil

        Dear Desert Fox,You shouldn’t have said this “wisemen and fools”thing
        to my friend Yapa.Yapa is very sensitive about “taking law into your
        own hands.”Next time please pass the law into his hands.Thank you.

    • Gaya Fernando

      Maybe its cos am a lawyer. I do urge Groundviews that this is not a good practice. Deeds and all related documents should be treated with professional analysis. Would you bring the pics of wounds of those injured for the internet audience to ascertain – esp the medics therein from footage displayed in this manner as to the instrument that caused the wounds ? If you do not agree please seek counsel on this.

      • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

        Gaya, thanks for your comment. When exactly have we discouraged professional analysis, done it ourselves or claimed we could, suggested these documents were not up for public scrutiny and debate, put up content that wasn’t cleared by the parties concerned to release to the public domain, including by progressive Muslims deeply concerned about the volatile situation, allowed for bigots to take over this comment thread or any other on this issue, or in any way suggested that this content is the basis for anything other than more informed discussion, here, on Twitter and elsewhere in virtual and physical fora, that as we have noted earlier, lead to better responses?

      • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

        On an unrelated note, like your iSrilankan videos. Perhaps you have already seen Moving Images, a series of terrific videos on Sri Lanka?

    • veedhur

      Thanks for following up, the next would be to check at the land registry. Can some one also send to Groundviews certified copies of land registry extracts.

      And in the mean time, can Groundviews follow up with the Prime Minister or Sumangala Thera for documents to substantiate their claims?

      @yapa pursuing truth after what has happened can only be helpful, and the most buddhist thing to do? But of course if some one goes to court (which would be the right thing to to) then the issue becomes sub judice and constraints what journalists can do.

      @GV my information is that on the ground there isn’t much extremism by muslims (they can’t afford to be), that is coming from Muslims elsewhere. In Dambulla itself, extremism seems to be the prerogative of those whom you saw on the various TV channels and those behind the Rangiri radio station.

    • Kshama

      Groundsview has only published evidence it has received, it is not attempting to act the lawyer here. That is what all responsible journalists are expected to do; present facts from all possible sources so that the public is appraised of the situation.

    • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

      @Yapa

      You blame journalists for blowing this incident out of proportion. You must be knowing that when a dog bites a man it’s not news, but when a man bites a dog it’s news.
      In the Dambulla incident, if a mob of Sinhalese had stormed the mosque it would have been news that would have been tucked away in the 3rd or 4th page of a news paper. But since this mob was led by a number of Buddhist monks who acted like punks, it become headline news and also became world news when BBC, Reuters and Al Jazeera picked up on the story.
      It’s better to remain silent Yapa regarding this incident. Because the more you try to justify things or blame others, it’s seems that the more you put your foot in your mouth. :D

  • Ram

    Its not a question of legality of the extension. it is the wishes of the majority people. The minority muslims must adher to the wishes of the Sinhalese people. Sri Lanka is a small country and it belongs to Sinhalese. Others like Tamils and Muslims can live here peacefully but can not try to demand equal rights. We do not want to go down the line like the Tamils had. So many deaths and destrction for Tamils, but evantually they lost to the Sinhalese. Same thing will happen to muslims. Its better to back off now.

    • KPerera

      “Its not a question of legality of the extension. it is the wishes of the majority people.”

      So by your reasoning, if the majority of the people of a certain area wishes to murder each other, we must all forget the laws of the country and accede to the majority’s demands? That is not democracy, that is mob rule, and most importantly, anarchy. Why do we have laws and a justice system in Sri Lanka if we can all pick and choose when and where said laws apply? What’s the point of having such laws if they apply differently to different people?

      “Sri Lanka is a small country and it belongs to Sinhalese”

      Wrong. By all rights, it belongs to the indigenous people of this country, the Veddha people. Quote the Mahavamsa all you like, but we Sinhalese too are foreigners in this land. So stop trying to propagate this Nazi-like “superior race” nonsense.

      “Others like Tamils and Muslims can live here peacefully but can not try to demand equal rights”

      The constitution disagrees with you, mate. Read up on Clauses 10 and 14 in Chapter 2.

      “We do not want to go down the line like the Tamils had. So many deaths and destrction for Tamils, but evantually they lost to the Sinhalese”

      You speak as if this was simply a one-sided affair. Have you forgotten of the horrors of July ’83 that the Tamils suffered at the hands of Sinhalese who shared the kind of sentiments you expressed in your third sentence? Have you forgotten of the countless number of people on all sides, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim, who died during that war? There was no “winning” of the war. What did we win? What have we as Sinhalese learnt even after that war about how to treat our fellow Sri Lankans?

      “Same thing will happen to muslims. Its better to back off now”

      So now that the Tamils are “dealt with”, its time to turn on the Muslims now, is it?

      You make me sick and ashamed to call myself a Sinhalese. Please stop now before you and your ilk sully what is left of our good name.

    • KPerera

      Correction, Clauses 10 and 14 of Chapter 3

  • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

    A week ago, a violent a mob of about 2,000 Sinhalese, including a group of Buddhist monks led by the Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero, stormed and vandalised a mosque in Dambulla. The mosque was declared an illegal structure, but it is unclear how this far this is accurate.

    The shameful behaviour and expression employed by the Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero, along with the monks he led and the crowd of thugs is not remotely associated with or reflective of the philosophy of the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha, or the way in which a Buddhist monk is supposed to behave and speak. Many online have already expressed their dismay and deep concern over the actions of a few, placing Sri Lanka in the media spotlight again for all the wrong reasons.

    We have a choice, but time is running out. Speak up. Put your name in a comment below and say that this violence was not in your name, and that more calls to violence are futile. Renounce a fringe lunacy and resist extremism. By putting your name below, you are opposing mob violence and bigotry as ways to resolve disputes.

    If we have to fight, let’s fight to keep Sri Lanka free of extremists who threaten not only what they seek to destroy, but also who and what they claim to represent. Add your name below, and please pass the message on.

    Read and sign up today – http://notinournamesl.wordpress.com/

    • meraj

      these buddhist monk r such hypocrates. they show to the world that they r peace loving but wat has happened in dambuula shows the true colours of those monks. it shows the true color of their religion and the teaching of their religion.

      • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

        “it shows the true color of their religion and the teaching of their religion.”

        Sorry, but the behaviour of these monks emphatically does NOT show the true colour of Buddhism or its teachings.

  • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

    It is also clear that the existing Sri Lanka legal framework does not provide for the declaration of ‘sacred areas’, although there is regular practice of such terminology increasing the confusion. It is therefore extremely important that the Government addresses such confusion and initiate steps to regulate land development and protect rights of the people as provided by existing laws.

    See http://www.scribd.com/doc/91824125/Legal-Framework-Governing-Places-of-Religious-Worship-in-Sri-Lanka