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Muhudu Maha Viharaya: Victim of fake news

We make the statues by rolling them on the ground. We will place them upright only after this process is complete. So the news of damaging the statues is not true ~  Chief incumbent of Pottuvil Muhudu Maha Viharaya, Warakapola Indrasiri Thera 

Mass media is widely considered as the gatekeepers of civil society. However, the reporting of the incident at the Kurunegala hospital challenged the ethical behaviour of traditional media too. A daily Sinhala newspaper broke a story of forcible sterilisations without verifying facts, which lead to a series of trouble to many, especially to the family of the alleged doctor. In such reality, how can we believe social media, where regulation is nil compared to the mass media?

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Social media platforms started burning again last week after the visits of Athuraliye Rathana Thera and musician Iraj Weerarathne to Muhudu Maha Viharaya in Pottuvil, Ampara. Both had their focus on issues of land grabs in the area, with the support of the Buddhist monks of Muhudu Maha Viharaya.

Since the focal point was on the historic place, some had taken photos of a few statues rolled on the ground and which seemed like damaged statues, and published on social media stating that extremists have destroyed them.

Subsequent to a series of hate speeches on social media, finally, it has been revealed that the claim is not true.

“We make the statues by rolling them on the ground. We will place them upright only after this process is complete. So the news of damaging the statues is not true” Chief incumbent of Pottuvil Muhudu Maha Viharaya, Warakapola Indrasiri Thera told the media.

“Those pictures were statues of 80 main Buddhist monks mentioned in Buddhist history (Asoo Maha Shrawaka), they are not of Lord Buddha. The spread of such fake news would suppress the truth” Indrasiri thera added.

The thera said that at present some illegal occupants have grabbed lands belonging to Muhudu Maha Viharaya. According to a Gazette passed in 1951, Muhudu Maha Viharaya has 71 acres of land whereas now the temple is confined to a mere 14 acres. He stressed that publishing fake news would suppress their true battle against illegal occupation, which does not have any racial facet to it.

Meanwhile, an attempt to assault another Buddhist monk in the Pottuvil Muhudu Maha Viharaya stormed social media last week after Iraj Weerarathne published a video.

The video shows a youth trying to hit the monk from behind. However, the accused has been remanded now, following the charge of attempting assault.

“He did not hit me. But the video shows there was an attempt. We complained about it and now he is in remand” Udalamatte Rathnapriya thera who faced the incident said.

When contacted by the Sunday Observer a senior police officer at the Pottuvil Police station said the news stating that extremists have damaged the Buddha statues is false. “I saw pictures of those Buddha statues on Facebook. But that news is not true. Those statues have not been fixed yet. That is why they are on the ground. There are no damages reported to the statues” the officer said.

However, he confirmed the claim of the Buddhist monks of Muhudu Maha Viharaya about clashes with the neighbourhood. “We have received several complaints related to problems with Muhudu Maha Viharaya and its neighbouring community. We have investigated and taken necessary action against those complaints” he added.

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