ONE: “NPC reports alarming number of attacks on Muslims,” Island, 29 May 2017,
The National Peace Council (NPC) has called for urgent action to prevent Muslims being targeted by extremist elements. Dr. Jehan Perera has issued the following statement on behalf of the NPC: “An alarming number of attacks against Muslim religious places of worship and businesses are being reported countrywide causing economic ruin to many people, hurting their religious sentiment and bringing them dismay and leaving the entire community in fear of life and security. The worsening trend has been going on for several years and has a pattern of repeating after a short lull. It has intensified since April this year with over 20 attacks or attempted attacks being reported from different parts of the country in the past two months. So far no one has been arrested by the police for these crimes. Also, the government has so far failed to take steps to arrest this trend which has been acknowledged by the Minister of Law and Order in Parliament. This is an escalation of the longer-term trend that included the torching of a section of a town in the South of Sri Lanka (Alutgama) in 2014 in which Muslims live in large numbers.
Getty Image from Mark Hay’s article in 2014 = https://news.vice.com/article/meet-the-violent-buddhists-starting-riots-in-sri-lanka
In most parts of the country the Muslim community lives in a scattered manner which makes them especially vulnerable to all kinds of violence against them and other minority communities living in a similar situation. The failure of the police to protect people who are being subjected to attack and violence is abdication of the government’s duty to protect all citizens equally. The rise in verbal and physical violence has been accompanied by public statements that Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese and Buddhist country with the implication that ethnic and religious minorities have a lesser place. In one widely publicized instance a Buddhist monk even went to the office of the Minister of National Coexistence, Dialogue and Official Languages and challenged him to a verbal duel on that basis. This is a subversion of a universal and peaceful religion in which there are no chosen people by birth that is being misinterpreted to suit the needs of a group of politically motivated people.
At the elections in 2015 the ethnic and religious minorities overwhelmingly voted for the government parties which promised to protect them from violence, lawlessness and impunity to which they had been subjected in the past. The Sri Lankan people need to keep in mind the lessons from the past in which the failure to protect minorities from discrimination became a cause for three decades of war. We have seen that when problems are not resolved and are permitted to go on unchecked that they escalate with time. They can lead to catastrophic outcomes in the future – a situation Sri Lanka can ill afford.
The government has to pay attention to the growing anti-Muslim sentiments among segments of majority community and the use of violent means to take their message and action to the ground. This situation needs to be investigated and the root causes need to be addressed through meaningful short-term and long term actions. Countering false propaganda will need to be a central part of the government and civil society agendas. Further, the general public and civil society organizations need to be made aware of the recent negative development from the perspective of rebuilding our country after long years of war and suffering.
The National Peace Council notes that in the past the police took action under the Incitement to Disaffection Act without waiting for permission from the political authority. The police need to take action under the law to exercise the powers given to them to nip such actions in the bud and maintain law and order under the powers given to them in the Criminal Procedure Code, the criminal law and the Police Ordinance. The National Peace Council calls on the government to ensure that all state institutions act in concert to protect and uphold human rights and also insist that the police to uphold the law and put an end to impunity.
The Independent Commissions established under the 19th Amendment to strengthen the Rule of Law and good governance could play an effective role at this time in monitoring the performance of the police and in giving them the necessary encouragement.
TWO> Melani Manel Perera: “Fifteen attacks against Muslims in Sri Lanka in just over a month,” Asian News, 25 May 2017
The Secretariat for Muslims reported 538 acts of violence between 2013 and 2015 by Buddhist extremist groups like the Bodu Bala Sena. …..
|Violence against Muslims is up in Sri Lanka, whilst the authorities appear apathetic towards the problem and Buddhist religious leaders remain silent, this according to the Secretariat for Muslims (SFM), an Islamic organisation active across the country. The group has recorded 538 episodes of violence, intimidation and aggression against Muslims between 2013 and 2015, a trend that has intensified more recently with at least 15 cases between 16 April (Sinhalese New Year) and 22 May, with attacks against individuals, mosques and Muslim-owned businesses.
“Some Buddhist groups have attacked Muslim places of worship and businesses in various parts of the country,” the SFM said in a statement. “The goal is to exert power and spread hatred among peace-loving people. After Sinhalese-Tamil New Year, Buddhist groups have begun attacking Muslims again,” said Hilmy Ahamed, an activist. “Since 16 April there have been at least 20 attacks or attempted attacks, as well as acts of intimidation, and threats against people, holy places and in the workplace,” he added. “These renewed threats come from groups like Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Ravaya, Sinha-le and Mahason Balaya, just to name a few.”
Buddhist extremists set fire (and in some cases completely destroyed) to a number of businesses, including a perfume shop in Elpitiya, a leather goods store in Wijerama Junction, the Last Chance Electrical showroom, and a mosque in Panadura. The Ibrahim Jumma and Mallawapitiya mosques were attacked in Kohilawatta and Kurunegala respectively. Two shops were also attacked in Panadura, as were Selvanagar and Selva Nagar, two predominantly Muslim villages in Trincomalee.
The attackers insulted Allah, threatened Muslims in Onegama, Polonnaruwa, and seized land in Irrakamam, Mayakkali. The Venerable Gnanasara Thero, head of the Bodu Bala Sena, led the way in Irrakamam, spewing hatred against Muslims.
“This is an attempt to make Muslims turn violent and go against the government,” said Mano Ganesan, Minister for National Coexistence, Dialogue and Official Languages. “Some groups are using Muslims to split the country along religious and ethnic lines. Any attack on a house of worship is reprehensible; this is the third in a week,” wrote on twitter Atul Keshap, US ambassador to Sri Lanka, reacting to the violence.
The US government said that it believes that the Sri Lanka government will take immediate action. However, unlike the US diplomat, Muslims see the situation differently since no legal action has been taken so far. On the contrary, the SFM notes the police often puts pressure on Muslims not to file a complaint.
- AL-JAZEERA: “Who is behind Sri Lanka’s religious violence?’ 17 June 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2014/06/who-behind-sri-lanka-religious-violence-2014617174319873584.html
- AL-JAZEERA: “Sri Lanka shaken by religious violence,” 16 June 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2014/06/sri-lanka-shaken-religious-violence-201461518571482939.html
- ACL Ameer Ali 1981 “The 1915 racial riots in Ceylon (Sri Lanka): A reappraisal of its causes,” South Asia n.s. vol. 4, p.1-20.
- PTM (Tissa) Fernando 1969 “The British Raj and the 1915 communal riots in Ceylon,” Modern Ceylon Studies, vol. 3, pp. 245-55.
- AP Kannangara 1984 “The riots of 1915 in Sri Lanka: a study of the rots of communal violence,” Past & Present, no. 102, p. 130-65.
- Kumari Jayawardena 1970 “Economic and Political l Factors in he 1915 riots,” Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 39, pp 223-33.
- Michael Roberts 1981 “Hobgoblins, Low-country Sinhalese plotters or local elite chauvinists? Directions and patterns in the 915 communal riots” Sri Lankan Journal of the Social Sciences, vol. 4, pp. 83-126.
- Michael Roberts 1994 “The imperialism of silence under the British Raj: arresting the drum,” being chap. 7 in Roberts, Exploring confrontation, Reading: Harwood Academic Pubiishers, pp. 149-82.
- Michael Roberts 1994 “Mentalities, ideologues, assailants, historians and the pogrom against the Moors,” being chap. 8 in Roberts, Exploring confrontation, Reading: Harwood Academic Pubiishers, pp. 149-82 ……… reprinted as “Marakkala Kolahalaya” in Roberts, Confrontations, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2011, pp.
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