Nip this in the bud (Daily News Editorial)
There are ominous signs that defeated political elements are attempting to open up yet another flank to achieve their goal of a comeback, adding to the prevailing chaos of strikes, agitations and anti- government protests, to culminate in what they hope will be the ouster of the Yahapalanaya government. The explosive and incendiary issue of religion is now being merged to this heady cocktail to rouse the public. The recent attacks on a number of mosques is a pointer to the prevailing undercurrents, where these elements are hell bent on fomenting religious discord. A delegation of Muslim parliamentarians have already met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to apprise him of the deteriorating situation.
There is no issue at present such as the halal controversy that is said to have sparked the anti-Muslim riots in Aluthgama. With no tangible cause, whatsoever, in evidence, to provoke a retaliation by the majority community the conclusion is inescapable that a political hand is at work in the current spate of attacks on places of Muslim worship. What is contemplated is to drive a wedge between the two communities ala a Aluthgama and exploit the fallout for political gain.
It is therefore timely that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has chosen to read the riot act to these disruptive elements. Speaking at a ceremony at Temple Trees on Tuesday the Premier said the police had been directed to step up vigilance in the face of bankrupt politicians trying to instigate the people in a bid to recapture power. He also said that the vast majority of people had delivered a clear message against extremist forces bent on setting the country on fire as they had done under the previous regime. He said; “Certain elements with vested interests that tried and failed to destabilize the country by propagating racism were trying to achieve the same objective by creating religious tensions”.
The PM is aware of the dire necessity of confronting the situation head on before simmering tensions explode. He certainly would not want things to advance to the stage of a Aluthgama. The Cabinet too on Tuesday have taken serious note of the developments and decided on firm action to bring things under control. It has also decided to direct all police stations to be on alert in this connection.
There is no doubt that the politicians who have been thrown out of power are making desperate attempts for a comeback and will stop at nothing to attain their objectives. This can be observed from the heightened activism of the Trade Unions, the GMOA, teachers etc. who are obviously being manipulated by a political hand. We say this because most of their issues and demands had their origins during the previous regime. But the country did not witness protests and agitations to such a heightened degree. The SAITM issue is a clear example. Adding to the racist slogans that are being bandied about freely we now have the religious element, a deadly cocktail that is waiting to explode.
The government should act swiftly and firmly at the first sign of trouble and bring things under control before the situation deteriorates further and plunge the country into an ethno- religious volcano. It is not just the lunatic fringe, and certain bikkhus alone who are responsible. There are other elements too working openly and behind the scenes to create racist and religious tensions, among them certain private electronic media.
The modus operandi adopted is to get a rabid nationalist politician for interviews and bowl ‘full tosses’ at him to elicit the responses that their political masters desire. The strategy is to show the government is not evenhanded in dealing with attacks carried out on places of Buddhist worship in the North when considering the alacrity in which it goes into action in the South. By this way it is hoped to inflame religious passions in the South, with the wrath directed at the government.
The recent attack on a police car in the North too has been reconstructed to show that the LTTE was still alive and kicking ignoring the attack on the police vehicle in Piliyandala while on a mission to detect narcotics, just to create the wrong picture in the minds of the public. Criminals abound in all parts of the country and the North is no exception. Taking a criminal act in the North out of context to portray it as something different to the people of the South is being ingeniously carried out with the government none the wiser.
Hence what is needed is an overall surveillance to detect ALL those responsible for spreading ethnic and religious hatred. If attacks on Buddhist shrines are carried out in the North, as claimed by some, this certainly should be investigated and the culprits brought to book. The law, needless to say, should cover the whole country. But, this in no way can justify retaliatory attacks in the South, instigated or otherwise.