President Maithripala Sirisena who has in the past ordered the Police to carry out impartial investigations on various crimes, in his capacity as the Head of State, has this time around passed the buck, evading responsibility and has instead blamed the police for allowing anti-Muslim attacks to escalate in the country. He had blamed the police during yesterday’s SLFP Central Committee meeting.
His comments comes as yet another Muslim owned shop in Kahawatte was torched by an unidentified group. Meanwhile, the Colombo Telegraph learns that during the meeting presided by Sirisena yesterday, the Muslim ministers who are SLFP members had remained mum and instead it was several junior members of the party who had expressed their growing concerns over the violence against their community. Several non-Muslim members had also supported the junior Muslim members and had said that steps must be taken to put an end to these attacks against the minority community.
Even though Sirisena appeared to be soft peddling the issue and has failed to take action against the hate crime culprits led by Bodu Bala Sena’s (BBS) General Secretary Galagoda Atte Gnanasara, Sirisena was quick to express his condolence to the people of Manchester following today’s attack, all while his very own people were being attacked by hardcore Buddhist groups with mosques and shops owned by Muslims coming under increasing attack since last month. Since the escalation of attacks against Muslims last week, neither has Sirisena or Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe issued any official statements condemning the attacks on the Muslims.
Over the weekend, Sirisena also shot down a request by Muslim MPs who wanted to meet him to discuss the growing attacks against their community. Amidst rising tensions, Sirisena left for Australia today. Meanwhile, the US Ambassador in Sri Lanka and the EU Office in Colombo have expressed concern and have called on the Government to take prompt action against the growing hate crimes in the country.
Although he came to power assuring an end to racism, Sirisena seems to have in the recent past forgotten his promise, and appears to be following in the footsteps of ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa. During Rajapaksa’s reign, Muslims came under serious attack in the hands of groups such as BBS, Ravana Balaya which resulted in Rajapaksa losing a sizable amount of the minority votes at the election, for failing to take action against the culprits. The attacks against Muslims escalated in 2014 when BBS led groups to Aluthgama, Beruwala and Dharga Town killing at least 4 people, injuring more than 80 and rendering hundreds homeless. The anti-Muslim riots resulted in many homes, mosques and shops being attacked and torched. Despite the severity of the attack, the mainstream media in the country censored news on the riots.
By Munza Mushtaq (Colombo Telegraph)
Globe-Trotting Maithri Too Busy To Meet Muslim MPs As BBS Led Groups Continue Their Rampage
More focused on his very own political survival and foreign jaunts, President Maithripala Sirisena appeared to have no time to discuss the increasing attacks against the Muslim community, and had shot down a request by Muslim MPs to meet him and had instead directed Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka to preside the meeting scheduled for today.
Sirisena who is off to Australia today on a four day state visit, was too busy with the cabinet reshuffle and his impending Australia tour, and had little or no time to focus on the fact that the Muslims in the country were coming under increasing attacks once again by the Bodu Bala Sena(BBS) with a mosque and Muslim owned shops in several parts of the country being attacked or torched.
Even at the time this news report was published, several more establishments owned by Muslims had reportedly come under attack. Since mid-April this year, there has been at least 15 such incidents in various parts of the country. However, no action appears to have been taken by law enforcement officers apart from the customary ‘we will look into this.’ The government is yet to make an official statement on this issue despite growing tension as well as fears within the Muslim community of yet another BBS sponsored Aluthgama riot which left people killed, injured and houses and shops burnt.
Despite back to back attacks allegedly launched by the BBS led mobs against Muslim owned establishments and mosques in several parts of the country, the police are yet to take any serious steps to apprehend the culprits, including Bodu Bala Sena’s General Secretary Galagoda Atte Gnanasara who has been making anti-Muslim statements as well as hate mongering against Muslims at various meetings attended by large groups of Buddhist youth.
Since coming to power in January 2015, Sirisena has been busy globe-trotting and has been overseas at least 25 times. Sources pointed out that before strengthening Sri Lanka’s relationships with the outside world, it was important for leaders to focus on building strained relationships within the communities in the country.
In his election manifesto, Sirisena promised to ensure freedom of religious belief for people belonging to all religions in the country. “Religious disturbances are developing in the country due to the activities of extremist religious sects. In this situation the extremist groups mutually nourish one another and are expanding their activities. In order to control this situation, I will establish regional and national councils comprising religious leaders who will boldly work for religious coexistence and against extremism, without giving room for extreme elements of all religions. These Councils will be empowered to investigate into all problems associated with places of religious worship and arrive at final conclusions. Issues unresolved at regional level will be referred to the National Council,” he said in the 62 page manifesto which was released during the presidential election. However, no such councils have been appointed despite Sirisena been in office for over two years.
By Munza Mushtaq (Colombo Telegraph)