Series of clashes between a chief monk and the neighbours on land dispute around the temple ended up when the chief monk was brutally murdered in Moratuwa.
A group of four persons had broken into Sunandopanandarama Vihara, in Egoda Uyana, Moratuwa, on Sunday, February 3, around 9:00 in the night, and attacked Ven. Matigahathenne Wimalawansa Thera, the chief incumbent of the Vihara, who later succumbed to several serious stab injuries.
So far, Moratuwa Police had identified four suspects. During the police investigations, it had come to light that a long-drawn-out land dispute had cost Thera his life.
The police suspect the chief incumbent was murdered by alleged unauthorized settlers in the temple land behind the Vihara. According to police, the suspects had visited the temple a few days before the incident and had got involved in an altercation with an 18-year-old monk (podi hamuduruwo), who was watering the plants, and even assaulted the monk.
The chief incumbent, who had witnessed the incident, had lodged a complaint with the Moratuwa Police. When the Ven. Thera returned to the temple after lodging the complaint, two individuals who are suspects in the murder, along with several others entered the temple premises and attacked the vehicle of the Thera. Thereafter, they dragged the driver of the vehicle out and assaulted him, according to the police. One assailant then pulled the chief incumbent by his robe and attacked him with a sword. The Ven. Thera tried to escape the assailants, after receiving a sword injury to his head. However, he fell on the ground, and the assailants started attacking him ruthlessly with the sword, police revealed.
According to eye witnesses, the assailants then removed Thera's robe and wrapped their weapons in it, before leaving the temple premises.
Subsequently, the residents in the area and the driver of the temple took the critically injured Thera to Panadura Hospital in the same vehicle he had gone to the police station earlier. While the chief incumbent was being admitted to the hospital, Ven Liyangahawala Gnanarathana Thera, another monk attached to the temple, went to the police to lodge a complaint. A few minutes later, the driver of the temple received a telephone call from the Panadura Hospital informing him that the victim had passed away. Hospital sources revealed that the cause of Ven. Thera's death was excessive bleeding due to severe stab injuries to his chest and face caused by sharp weapons.
Later, two suspects in connection with the murder were shot dead in Bandaragama by unidentified persons.
The chief incumbent of the Sunandopanandarama Vihara was engaged in a lot of social work.
Ven. Gnanarathana Thera, recounted the incident to the media: "Around 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, our podi hamuduruwo was watering the plants. It was at that time this murderous gang barged into the temple. As they entered, they shouted at our podi hamuduruwo. Among the thugs there were two fearsome murderers who had built unauthorized shelters in the land belonging to the temple. There are six such unauthorized shelters at the temple land at the moment. We have, along with Ven. Wimalawansa Thera, lodged 11 complaints against them to the police so far, but no action was taken because these murderers were asked to settle in the temple land by a powerful politician in the Moratuwa area. This politico is responsible for the series of events up to the murder of the Thera. Moreover, our complaints to the police too had been suppressed by this same politico. He is a pest, not only to our temple, but also to all the temples in the district. Three months ago, Ven. Wimlawansa Thera, who was killed by these murderers, went to the police over the land dispute and the politico and his gang attacked the Ven. Thera inside the police station. At that time too the politico encouraged the murder gang and obstructed the legal process," the Thera alleged.
He said: "I was inside the temple when this murder took place. As the two murderers entered the temple premises and started attacking the vehicle and Ven. Wimalawansa Thera, I telephoned the police. The murderers entered the temple premises after planning well. And they executed their murder as planned. The main reason behind this murder is the opposition mounted by our Ven. Thera against the unauthorized erection of houses in the temple land. One salient fact in this regard must be revealed to the media; that is, murderers like them who enjoy political patronage, are exploiting that to the maximum advantage. This incident is no exception. Hence, it is the duty of the Moratuwa Police to arrest the local politico, who is linked to this murder.
"As Buddhist monks, we also request the President of the country to shun such political rogues from society, and enforce the law against the murderers, otherwise the fate that befell our Ven. Wimalawansa Thera today, can befall another Ven. Thera tomorrow. As Buddhist monks, we are hoping that the law shall take its course."
When the residents of the area heard of the news of the murder, they were provoked so much that they demolished the unauthorized shelters in the temple land. The residents expressed their views to the media as follows: "Among all the chief incumbents of the temple, it was Ven. Wimalawansa Thera who made the most valuable contribution to temple activities during his 20 years there. He was the only chief incumbent who renovated and re-built the temple that was in a dilapidated condition. These murderers are drug peddlers, and we as the residents of the village will campaign against them."
Meanwhile, Moratuwa Additional Magistrate, Purnima Paranagama, ordered to remand the suspect, Deputy Mayor, Municipality, Moratuwa, Sujith Pushpa Kumara, until 14 February, when he was produced before the courts by police in connection with the murder.