The Kotte Heritage Foundation has alleged that the Department of Archeology is sanctioning the destruction of archeological sites falling under the Ancient Kingdom of Kotte.
Speaking to The Nation, President of the Foundation, Prasad Fonseka accused the department of approving projects that have the potential to destroy valuable archeological sites around Kotte.
Fonseka, who is a researcher, said the Archeology Department’s attitude had already resulted in the destruction of a section of Kotte Kingdom’s inner-city gate. According to Fonseka, the inner-city gate was never gazetted by the Archeology Department though in 2012, its officers had inspected the site where it is said to be located. Although the physical evidence at the site was clear and it was marked on the map of the Kotte fortress drawn by the Dutch, it was not declared as a monument, he claimed.
Fonseka went onto say that when a land developer started developing the site to build a housing complex, a group of concerned citizens including him had reported the matter to the Archaeology Department and temporarily stopped it. “The department sent a team to do a sample excavation instead of sending a surveyor without knowing that it had been built on a natural mound. The officers dug the natural mound and certified that it was not an archaeological site. Now the entire eastern section is destroyed.”
The Foundation further claimed that the department has now approved a project that will see the destruction of part of the ancient city’s ramparts in order to connect the inner-city moat to a new drainage system. One of the reasons for forming the Kotte Heritage Foundation was to prevent this from happening, its president disclosed.
According to Fonseka, the inner-city moat, built by King Parakramabahu VI has existed for 600 years. “No other country would allow an archeological site that has existed for that long to be destroyed in such a manner,” he said.
When The Nation contacted State Minister of Cultural Affairs Nandimithra Ekanayake on the matter, he said he was ‘currently helpless’ to look into it as this was an election period. “I cannot interfere. I can only look into it after the election is over,” he pointed out.
Repeated attempts to contact Director General of Archeology, Dr. Senarath Dissanayake for comment proved futile.