By Hilmy Ahmed (Daily FT)
BBS leader Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero
Post-war Sri Lanka saw Buddhist extremism targeting the Muslim community with the euphoria of the victory over the Liberation Tigers of ThamilEelam (LTTE). The MahindaRajapaksa Government allowed these extremists a free reign and cause extensive damage to the Muslim economy, which resulted in the Muslims voting en-block to overthrow the once-indispensable Rajapaksa regime.
The regime change brought about a lull in Buddhist extremist activity but restarted with the Mussali Muslim issue claiming that the returning Muslim IDPs from the 1990 eviction by the LTTE were being settled within the Wilpattu reserve.Even President MaithripalaSirisena made public statements claiming that the former Minister Basil Rajapaksa who headed the Presidential Task Force for Northern Development had allocated Wilpattu land. Later he retracted and said not a single inch of Wilpattu reserve has been encroached. The extremist continued their racist campaign to deprive the Muslim IDPs of their right to return.
This led to a build-up of the racist campaign of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). Sinhala Ravaya and Ravana Balaya. Soon, they were joined by few more Facebook warriors of MahasonBalaya, The SinhaleJathikaBalamuluwa (SJB)andDanPriyasath’s who have used the freedom new media technologies offer, as a destructive force to create hate and cause violence. Most of these groups found this as a lucrative business to hoodwink Buddhist corporates and Sinhala diaspora in South Korea, Australia, Europe and America to fund the saviours of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is tragic that anyone with a smart phone has become the saviour of their community.
In the absence of stern action by the Government or the Buddhist hierarchy of Mahanayakes, Ven. Gnanasara and company went on a major racist offensive against the minorities. DidYahapalanayaconsider these racist assaults as freedom of expression or did the Sirisena-Wickramasinghe government of good governance provide subtle support to these extremists in the hope that they could break the dominance of the Sinhala Buddhist vote bank by the Rajapaksa’s joint opposition. Evidence proves to be the latter as no action has been taken despite numerous police complaints and legal action instituted by Muslims.
End of the Sinhala and Tamil New year celebrations saw the renewed assault on the Muslim community by extremist Buddhist forces. Since the dawn of 16 April, at least 20 incidents of violence or attempted violence, hate, intimidation and threats to the Muslims, their places of religious worship and business. These renewed threats are from BoduBalaSena, Sinhala Ravaya, Sinhale, MahasonBalaya to name a few.
The Secretariat for Muslims (SFM) a Muslim civil society organisation documented 538 incidents against the Muslims from 2013 to 2015. The following is a documentation of the violence against Muslims during the last five weeks:
16April – Petrol bombs thrown at shops in Godapitiya
Four shops owned by Muslims were attacked with petrol bombs in Godapitiya, Porruva. This incident went unreported due to the pressure brought in by the local police. This was not even reported in the social media by local residents, fearing further police intimidation. Even after a month, the police have still not been able to investigate and apprehend the perpetrators of this act of violence.
20April – Land grab at Irrakamam in Mayakkali
Two-and-a-half acres of Muslim land was forcible taken over in Irrakamam in Mayakkali. No police action has been taken even after complaints have been lodged.
25April – Incitement by Ven. Gnanasara Thero in Irrakamam
Ven. Gnanasara Thero visited Irrakamam and made a very provocative speech violating his bail conditions. Police complaints have been made and no action has been taken up to todate.
8May – Myanmar boat people
Ven. Gnanasara Thero claimed at a press conference that refugees from Myanmar had arrived in Sri Lanka with the intention of invading our land. These refugees were arrested at sea by the Sri Lankan navy while they were attempting to flee to Australia by boat due to the astrocytes of the racist Myanmar Government. This statement was purely meant to provoke the Sinhala Buddhists.
10May – Vesak celebrations
Vesakcelebrations with Bodhi pujas were undertaken in Irrakamam in Mayakkali which is a predominantly Muslim area to provoke them, but the Muslims showed much restraint and no untoward incidents were reported.
14 May – Threatening Muslims in Onegama in Polonnaruwa
A group of Buddhist monks led by Ven. GalagodaAththeGnanasara Thero threatened Muslims in Onegama in Polonnaruwa and broke their huts and livelihood means. The Police who were present did not attempt to stop this mob from causing this violence. Hiru TV showed the destruction of the huts of the Muslims. Here again, Ven. GnanasaraThero insulted Allah subahanauwata’aala in the most demeaning words by talking about Allah’s balls. His exact words were, “They have placed Allah’s Balls here. They say there is no physical being called Allah and yet, they have kept his balls here.” Defaming of Allah subahanauwata’aala, is the most blasphemous insult that no Muslim will tolerate. Police complaints have been made with video evidence and they have failed to take any action yet.
15May – Attack on the Muslim Village of Selvanagar in the Trincomalee District
The entire Muslim population of Selva Nagar in Thoppur (Trincomalee District, bordering Seruvila and Muthur electorate) has been threatened by a mob from outside led by Buddhist monks.A large number of Muslims have fled the area due to this intimidation. The local temple (Pansala) currently owns six acres and they are now attempting to claim 49 acres of Muslim lands insisting that these are archaeological sites. Muslims have been living and in possession of these lands for over a hundred years. Residents claim that these extremists are trying to drive them out as the LTTE did during the ethnic conflict.
15May – A fire had broken in PanaduraMosque
It is suspected that extremist elements may have attempted to set the mosque on fire using a petrol bomb. This is the second petrol bomb attack. They had also set alight a garbage dump close by. No police action has been initiated.
15May – Masked men attack KohilawattaIbrahim JummaMosque
Unidentified men had arrived on motorbikes and attempted to attack the mosque. When some workers who were doing some renovations came out, they had left on their bikes.
16May – Insults Allah
Once again, Ven. Gnanasara Thero insults Allah subahanauwata’aala in the most demeaning way at a press conference.
16May – Attack on Muslim Selva Nagar in Thoppur
A large group of Buddhist extremists numbering about 200 had gone to Selva Nagar in Thoppur with clubs and swords and caused extensive damage to 16 houses and property. No police action has been taken despite several complaints.
16May – Gang attacks Kohilawatte Mosque
The Kohilawatte Mosque, in Sedawatte, was attacked with stones and clubs, around 1:30 p.m.by an unidentified gang, resulting in extensive damage, Wellampitiya Police has been provided CCTV footage of the attack and no arrests have been made as yet.
17 May – Two shops in Panadura attacked
Two Muslim-owned shops were attacked in Panadura and extensive damage caused to its furniture, equipment and fittings. One was a bakery and the other was a communications facility.
18 May – Last Chance electrical showroom burnt
The Last Chance showroom in Wennappuwa has been set on fire and burnt down completely on the night of 17May. The losses are estimated at several millions.
21May – Mallawapitiya mosquein Kurunegala attacked
A procession led by Ven. Gnanasra, which was going to Ibbagamuwa, was stopped by police. Thereafter, Ven. Gnanasara and other Buddhist extremists claimed that they were being stopped at the call of the Muslims and abused in raw filth. They called on the crowd that had gathered to attack the Muslims. Six petrol bombs had been hurled at the Mallawapitiya mosque causing damage. Police have not arrested anyone yet.
21May – A cosmetic shop in Elpitiya burnt.
A cosmetic store owned by a Muslim has been set on fire causing extensive damage and millions in losses. Police have still failed to make a comprehensive investigation.
22May – A leather store in Wijerama Junction, Maharagama set on fire
A leather store belonging to a Muslim at Wijerama Junction, Maharagamahas been set on fire during the night and completely burnt. Losses are estimated to run in to millions.
It is very clear that Ven. Gnanasara is attempting to disrupt his arrest over the Homagamamagistrates complaint of contempt of court and intimidation of witnesses. He is attempting to generate protests from the majority Buddhist claiming that he is being arrested on the charges filed by the Muslim community. He has continued to violate his bail conditions, and is aware that he has very little chances of being outside the remand prison. Majority of the Sinhalese who does not subscribe to Ven. Gnanasara’s extremism will not move a finger if this racist is arrested. It should be noted that he commanded a mere 27,000 Island wide votes at the last general elections.
The Government of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe need to deal with this major crisis which will destabilise their hard-earned victory in January 2015. The Muslim parliamentarians, civil society, business communityand academia have requested the Government to act with a strong resolve to ensure that rule of law prevails. A peaceful environment will ensure the rapid reconciliation of all peoples of Sri Lanka.