August 06, 2020
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    President considers amending Antiquities Ordinance

    July 25, 2020


    Committee to study the Act

    Measures to increase funding and to meet employee shortage
    Ordered to resolve issues discussed immediately
    Proposal to bring back artefacts from overseas museums
    Maha Sangha blessed for an era of securing ancient heritage

    President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has paid his attention to amend the Antiquities Ordinance in order to strengthen the preservation of antiquities and historical national heritage.

    President has decided to appoint a committee comprising Maha Sangha and experts in the field to study how the amendments should take place.

    The proposed amendment seeks to stop the destructions caused to antiquities that has been going on for a long time and to pass on the country’s heritage to the future generation
    while resolving practical issues.

    This decision was taken by the President during the fourth meeting with the Buddhist Advisory Council held at the Presidential Secretariat July (24).

    Archeological conservation and development were discussed at length.

    President Rajapaksa said that no room will be left for anyone to damage the historical heritage or archeological value of any sacred place and all such places will be considered as
    national heritage and will be protected. Proposals by the Maha Sangha on antiquities and archeological sites will be forwarded to the respective Presidential Task Force, President

    He also said measures will be taken to increase annual fund allocation to the Department of Archeology and to address the shortage of employees.

    The possibility of obtaining the services of the Civil Defence Force in the implementation of programme of conserving archeological sites and antiquities was also explored.

    The attention of the President was also drawn to the request made by the Maha Sangha to transfer the cases relating to the artefacts and historical places in the Northern and
    Eastern Province, to courts in Colombo.

    President Rajapaksa instructed the Department of Archaeology to make swift responses to the requests made by Maha Sangha to protect the archaeological and historical sites.

    The Maha Sangha pointed out that the artefacts taken away during the colonial period were later found reposited at the British Museum and the National Museum of Denmark in
    Copenhagen. The Maha Sangha suggested the President to initiate a process to get the artifacts back to the country following consultations with UNESCO.

    The Maha Sangha further pointed out that during the past five years significant damages had been done to the artefacts as well as to the historical places. Various groups of
    people forcibly occupy lands belonging to the temples. The Maha Sangha stressed that due to these kinds of acts a substantial damage was caused to the historical Buddhist

    15 people were recruited when the actual requirement was only for two labourers to work in archeological sites. Furthermore, they even do not possess the required knowledge in
    this regard.

    The Central Cultural Fund had spent Rs.7000 million annually to pay salaries for these people, who were recruited violating the proper procedure.

    The approved number of director positions is 11 at the Department of Archaeology. Nevertheless, the Director General of the Department of Archaeology, Senarath Disanayake
    said that no one has been appointed for these Director posts. The approved number of positions for the post of Assistant Director is 38. But, only one person has been appointed
    for this post. The Director General further said that under these circumstances he cannot perform the duties and the responsibilities of the Department in a proper manner.

    Annually, around 80 Special Degree holders in Archaeology pass out from our universities. President Rajapaksa instructed the relevant officials to take immediate steps to recruit
    persons who possess theoretical and practical knowledge in Archaeology.

    During the previous administration graduates in archeology were recruited and then assigned to work at the Sugathadasa Stadium. President pointed out the need for deploying the
    individuals with specific expertise in the subject.

    Puravidya Chakrawarthy Ven Ellawala Medhananda Thero highlighted the massive damage caused to the antiquities by treasure hunters. “During my 65-year explorations I did not
    find any valuables such as gold, silver or gems inside antiquities. Therefore, it is vital to give the right knowledge to the people to protect them. Compilation of report on antiquities
    exploration and mapping is a priority. Legal action should be taken against those distort history and express opinions without proper investigation” Ven. Medhananda Thero said.




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