Sinhala-Muslim Violence in Lanka: An Appeal and Allegations from a Muslim Professional

M. M. Zuhair, in the Island, 13 March 2018, where the title is Who is trying to destroy our unity and why?”

The mob violence that erupted at Ampara town on Monday February 26, a day after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the stop-gap Minister of Law and Order and followed by violence in Digana, Teldeniya and several other parts of Kandy, independently of the Ampara events, will soon be forgotten, notwithstanding evidence that the extremist attacks in both places appear to be well organised following prior concert.

Most Sri Lankans here and those elsewhere across the globe must certainly be feeling shamed by these tribal assaults happening in the 21st century, targeting a numerically insignificant minority in the country. It will be comfortable if we can forget it all, now that the affected regions have limped back to normalcy. But the truth is that the victims of violence will never forget, for the rest of their life time, the fear, the tension and the ordeal that suddenly engulfed them and which they endured during that revulsive never ending weak! They will forever remember not only those who rushed in large numbers from unknown elsewhere and attacked their places of worship, their homes and businesses but also those from the neighbourhood belonging to Sinhala and Tamil communities who came to their rescue and gave many of them unforgettable refuge in their homes.

Meanwhile, in a move that sent a timely message of Buddhist empathy, the National Buddhist Front participated in a silent protest in Colombo on Friday 9th March attended by hundreds of Buddhist monks and activists in protest against the anti-Muslim riots. The Catholic, Christian and Hindu religious leaders also extended sympathy at the destruction caused to the Muslims.

Nonetheless, the fundamental problems facing the country and the communities remain beneath the surface unresolved. Governmental measures being taken so far, post-violence, appear short-term oriented. These measures, though delayed, were aimed at bringing the situation under control. Police investigations are a legal requirement that will be closely watched. But more importantly the investigations should go deep into the actions of the pre-meditators, the inciters and the financiers of extremist violence in Sri Lanka and deal with all violators firmly according to law, if the country is to avoid a recurrence of such tragedies.

The proposed Commission of Inquiry would be meaningless unless it is preceded by unbiased police investigations and empowered to order and supervise further or fresh investigations. It should not end up like the Justice A C Alles Commission of Inquiry into the Galle anti-Muslim riots of July 1982. The Commission’s proceedings collapsed at its inception because the police investigations turned out to be attempts to cover up the Sinhala rioters and did not aim at acting as a deterrent to rioters, no matter their race or religion.

These moves apart, the need for long term solutions has not been focused upon, so far. Soon everything can become history to be forgotten. The need to prevent a recurrence of mob attacks on whollyuninvolved civilian communities, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, cannot be permitted to be pushed under the carpet, as it invariably happens at the cost of the long term interests of the country.

One clear outcome of what is evidently a well-organized anti-Muslim hate campaign by the Mahason Balakaya (MB) on a dangerous turf laid since 2012 by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), followed by incitement to violence and actual violence, is that the world-wide publicity given by the powerful main stream media to the attacks on nearly 25 Mosques and nearly 400 Muslim owned businesses and homes, has left Sri Lanka in tethers of disgrace. That too at a time when the international community is closely monitoring the inclination to violent extremism at the drop of a hat from sections of the majority community and which can strengthen arguments in Geneva of civilian killings in the week that preceded the end of the war on 19th May 2009. It is probably in that context that the Brigadier’s throat-slitting spectacle in London is being put on notice by the British to demonstrate what could have happened in the height of a passionately fought war in the secretive jungles off Mullaitivu.

The media reports that went out from Sri Lanka during the last ten days, regrettably caricatured Sri Lankans as a tribal grouping of rioting marauders. Carnage receives media coverage but not the more valuable National Buddhist Front’s silent protest in support of the victims. Excepting from Myanmar and countries afflicted by wars in the Middle-East, no such reports of serious mob attacks by one community against the other, came out from any of the countries during the last decade or even more. Amongst countries with a Buddhist majority reputed for equanimity and tolerance Sri Lanka got a shameful place next only Myanmar. In the backdrop of the major 1983 racial riots against Tamils in Sri Lanka, religious confrontations against Christians and Muslims from 2012 onwards and presently against the Muslims under the Yahapalana government which the Muslims too helped to set-up, the country stands disgraced world-wide as a nation of rioters. It is an unfortunate indictment on the majority of the peace-loving people of every community that inhabits our island nation.

This situation is a serious challenge to a country struggling to settle the huge foreign debts. Our foreign earnings cannot sustain the annual debt settlements for several more decades unless we find oil off Mannar. Tea and tourism had got adversely affected following the troubles. Tea prices dropped at the auctions by Rs. 50 per kilo. Sri Lanka lost valuable foreign exchange. Tourism, another foreign exchange earner has lost heavily, though mercifully the country is at the end of the current tourist season. Foreign investors would be uncomfortable to invest in a country perennially plagued by man- made conflicts. We had lost to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand decades ago. Now we can stand behind war afflicted countries like Vietnam, Laos and Bangladesh thanks to our ethnic and religious in-fights and thanks to extremists in our midst. We need to find long term solutions to our national weaknesses.

Senior Opposition MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara told Parliament last week that Norway was funding certain Buddhist extremist organisations in Sri Lanka. That assertion and possibly other similar funding programs need investigation, proof and reflection whether and why Norway is intermeddling in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka. Norway widely believed to often act on behalf of powerful Western countries did invest heavily in Sri Lanka until 2004. By 22/02/ 2002 Norway succeeded in advancing the terrorist LTTE to a status on par with a helpless Sri Lankan Government! However, it may not be the governments of these powerful countries who fund extremist activities in third world countries. It could well be the leaders of the more powerful arms industries who invest through lobby groups and foundations and discreetly finance powerful Western politicians as well as third world extremist groups. An ex-public servant working full time for one of these groups had in fact admitted the Norwegian involvement in his group.

Vasudeva Nanayakkara’s assertion in Parliament needs to be investigated. He must make an official complaint to the IG Police calling for a comprehensive investigation. It is highly probable that powerful countries which failed to divide Sri Lanka into two have given way to these lobby groups to divide the Sri Lankan people on confrontational ethnic lines. Conflict creation is a terrible art that inures for the benefit of the exceptionally powerful forces in the western arms industry. We need to know who is attempting to destroy our unity and why!

The writer is a former Member of Parliament and can be reached on mm_zuhair@yahoo.com … ALSO SEE https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._M._Zuhair….

In office
2006–2012
President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Member of Parliament for National List
In office
1994–2000
Chairman of Rupavahini Corporation
In office
2004–2006
Personal details
Born Mohamed Mohamed Zuhair
July 11, 1947 (age 70)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Alma mater Zahira College
Occupation Attorney at law

ALSO SEE

* “Marakkala Kolahālaya: “Contemporary and Secondary Literature on the Anti-Moor Pogrom of 1915,” 11 March 2013,  https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/marakkala-kolahalaya-contemporary-and-secondary-literature-on-the-anti-moor-pogrom-of-1915/

 

 

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