The High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to India, Prasad Kariyawasam, on Tuesday described the attack on the Maha Bodhi Society office in Chennai as an attempt to sabotage relations between India and Sri Lanka.

Stating that the island nation always treated Indians, particularly Tamils, as friends, he said that some extremist elements with sinister motives had launched the attack, in which four persons, including Vajira Thero, Chancellor of Sabaragamuwa University in Sri Lanka, suffered injuries.

“We are very disturbed and concerned over the attack…they [the accused] are trying to damage the good relationship between the two countries,” Mr. Kariyawasam said.

He added that Chief Secretary S. Malathi was equally concerned over the attack and had promised adequate security arrangements.

The Maha Bodhi Society temple is 80 years old, and about 1.2 lakh pilgrims visit the premises each year.

Reiterating that the Sri Lankan Navy was not involved in the attack on Tamil Nadu fishermen, Mr. Kariyawasam said the investigations on both sides would shed light on who targeted them.

“We have advised the Navy not to open fire on fishermen even if they cross the International Maritime Boundary Line [IMBL] for fishing. It is good if they do not cross the IMBL…but many do. Since we believe that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] is no more in Sri Lanka and India, it appears that a third element is involved,” he said.

Asked whether there was a possibility of a common fishing policy between the two countries to emerge, Mr. Kariyawasam said: “There is scope for everything. I can only guarantee that the Sri Lankan Navy will not fire at Indian fishermen.”

He said Sri Lanka was in the process of rebuilding and reconciliation.

“We want to ensure that the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims remain united and live with dignity. The entire country is open to visits by the international media. But they have to take permission. We must know who is coming and going,” he said.

Suspects detained

A special police team investigating the attack on the Maha Bodhi Society detained two persons owing allegiance to the Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam.

According to police sources, Dileepan (37) and Joseph (37) of Kodungaiyur were taken into custody following a tip-off. “We have not arrested them yet. Investigation is on,” a police official said.

A large number of police personnel were deployed on Kenneth Lane where the society is located.

About 300 cadres of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, including many women, who tried to march to the office of the Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to India, were arrested on TTK Road on Tuesday morning.

The protesters raised slogans condemning the attack on Indian fishermen. They were released in the evening, the sources added.

Tension at stadium

On East Coast Road, tension prevailed at a cricket stadium where Sri Lankan cricketers Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda De Silva were scheduled to participate in a tournament. A posse of policemen led by Assistant Commissioner of Police (Thoraipakkam) K.N. Murali was deployed at the venue.

“About 30 members of the Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam came to the venue and raised slogans against the visit of the two players. They dispersed after the stadium authorities put up a board saying that the players had cancelled their visit,” Mr. Murali said.