Thatscricket - News - Lanka monks add fuel to stadium debate
Published: Monday, June 18, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
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Colombo: Sri Lanka's top Buddhist clergy have raised the stakes in a raging controversy over the country's newest international cricket stadium built on temple land, officials said on Sunday.The country's senior monk, Udugama Buddharakkitha of the Asgiriya chapter, has warned that Buddhists priests will take to the streets in protest if a top official in the Buddhist Affairs Ministry tries to override the clergy.The official had raised doubts over the legality of a temple in the north-central town of Dambulla leasing its property to the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka to build an international stadium."The Buddhist commissioner thinks he is the Maha Nayaka (Chief Priest) of the country," a temple official quoted monk Buddharakkitha as saying. The monk maintained that they had followed proper procedure in giving out the temple property for the construction of the stadium.It has also become a sensitive political issue because the stadium was built by the previous management of the cricket board, which was sacked by Sports Minister Lakshman Kiriella in March.The Dambulla Stadium built in record 150 days and at a cost of Sri Lankan Rs 300 million ($ 3.3 million) was the venue for the first One-day International between Sri Lanka and England on March 25.The Sports Minister has already ordered an investigation in to financial transaction of the committee headed by Thilanga Sumathipala, who initiated the Dambulla stadium.The Buddhist monks also blasted the authorities for shifting three One-day Internationals scheduled to be played at Dambulla next month between Sri Lanka, New Zealand and India.The new Cricket Board is looking for an alternative venue for Dambulla following legal advice that it may be risky for them to play at the newest Test venue where the ownership was said to be in doubt.The Buddhist Ministry had maintained that the temple was not empowered to give the land over to the Cricket Board, a charge denied by the monks.The cricket board is currently embroiled in several court cases over the dismissal of Sumathipala's management team as well the minister's action to appoint an interim panel.Cricket sources said the decision not to play in Dambulla may be a political move to spite Sumathipala who has argued that the venue would be useful when it is the rainy season in the rest of the country.