Sri Lanka: February - March 2015 (Report 1)State officials dispute construction on pastor's premises
Jesus' Touch and Healing Ministry
Chankaladhi (Batticaloa District)
11th February 2015
The pastor was obtaining the services of a workman to build a temporary shelter in his premises for his livelihood purposes. At approximately 10 a.m., the Grama Sevaka of the area visited the premises and questioned the workman, stating that the pastor cannot build on the property. The Grama Sevaka then obtained a signature from the workman on a blank sheet of paper, informing that the construction must stop with immediate effect. At about 2 p.m., the pastor lodged a complaint at the area police station concerning the incident.
12th February 2015
Mob attack on pastor's premises
At around 10 a.m., 6 persons along with the area Grama Sevaka visited the pastor’s property while he was away and questioned the workman on the purpose of the temporary shed. The group also verbally abused the workman during the incident. The pastor received credible information that the 6 persons belonged to an influential political party.
The police inquiry on the complaint lodged by the pastor on 11th February commenced at 12 p.m. The Grama Sevaka who was present at this meeting informed the Officer in Charge (OIC) that he had been instructed by the area Divisional Secretary to investigate the construction. It should be noted that the property has clear title deeds and all legal requirements were met prior to the construction of the temporary shelter.
At approximately 8 p.m., 2 persons with a can of petrol stood outside the pastor’s premises. The unidentified persons, however, left when they saw the caretaker.
Later, at around 8:45 p.m., a group of unidentified persons surrounded the premises. The group then broke down the fence, pelted stones and threw nail-studded poles at the caretaker. The caretaker suffered injuries to his forehead in the attack.
The pastor was informed of a threat of an attack prior to the incident. Though the pastor requested for police protection, the police refused stating there was no reason for the pastor to fear. While he was at the police station, the pastor received a call from the caretaker informing him about the attack. The pastor immediately rushed back to the property. The police, however, arrived only after the mob had dispersed.
Approximately at 11 a.m., the area Grama Sevaka, along with the Cultural Officer of the District Secretariat arrived at the pastor’s property. The pastor was present on this occasion. They instructed the pastor to halt the construction till the 15th of February, claiming that they had received numerous complaints from villagers. They went on to question the legality of the pastor’s documents, even though the pastor had received approval from the Koralaipatu Pradeshiya Sabha.
At approximately, 4.30 p.m., 2 officers from the Koralaipatu Pradeshiya Sabha visited the pastor’s premises and handed over a letter addressed to the pastor. The letter revoked approval granted on 08th August 2014 for the pastor’s temporary shed. The letter stated that approval was revoked as a result of the court case filed in the Magistrate court concerning the property.
The case filed in the Magistrate Court was in connection to an attack on the pastor’s premises in 2014. The case has no relation to the said property matter.
Police officers request pastor to register place of worship
The Christian Fellowship
Kalawana (Ratnapura District)
9th March 2015
At around 12 p.m., a police officer visited the pastor’s premises while he was away and questioned a neighbor about the legality of the premises. The pastor later telephoned the area police station and spoke to the officer who visited the premises. The police officer instructed the pastor to register his place of worship stating that there were some complaints lodged against him. The pastor, however, responded stating that there was no legal requirement to register religious places of worship.