PSC to look into religious disharmony while ‘halaal’ certification  is voluntary and non binding sans any State role: Govt. By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent Government and Opposition legislators locked horns in Parliament this week on the definition of who a “terrorist” is, and what constitutes a “terrorist act”, during the debate on an amendment [...]


Opposition badgers Govt. into exact definition of ‘terrorist’, ‘terrorist act’


PSC to look into religious disharmony while ‘halaal’ certification  is voluntary and non binding sans any State role: Govt.

By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent

Government and Opposition legislators locked horns in Parliament this week on the definition of who a “terrorist” is, and what constitutes a “terrorist act”, during the debate on an amendment to the Convention on Suppression of Terrorist Financing Act.

When the Bill was taken up for debate on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, along with several other Opposition MPs, asked the Government to come up with a precise definition for the term “terrorist” and “terrorist act”, as a loose coining of these words could be used to act against political opponents.

“The Government will be able to fix the terrorist label on anyone, if it does not come up with a definite definition to these words,” Mr Wickremesinghe said.

UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella joining in the debate, warned that, if the word is not defined properly, it leaves room for innocent people to be victimised. “When we speak of ‘terrorism’, the greatest problem we have is State terrorism,” he said.

External Affairs Deputy Minister Neomal Perera said the Bill was passed by Parliament in 2005, and what was being introduced were a few amendments in keeping with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) of the G 7 countries, to establish a global legal framework to suppress financing of terrorism.

However, Opposition legislators continued to protest, saying they were not satisfied with the definition contained in the original Act, and hence, the debate was postponed till Friday. By then, the Government introduced a more specific definition of what a “terrorist” is and what a “terrorist act” means, in terms of the Bill.

The Opposition Leader also raised in Parliament on Tuesday, the recent incidents reported from several areas in the country, that could lead to religious disharmony, by the controversy surrounding the issue of halaal certificate by the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulema (ACJU).

“This is an explosive situation fuelled by rumours which the Government must address immediately, but has taken no steps to control this escalating situation,” Mr Wickremesinghe said.

On the issue of halaal certificates by the ACJU, the Opposition Leader asked why the government has allowed a private organisation to undertake such a task.

Leader of the House Nimal Siripala De Silva responding on behalf of the government on Thursday, accused the Opposition Leader of attempting to make political capital out of this issue, saying the Government views these matters seriously, which is why it has proposed setting up a Parliamentary Select Committee to look into these issues. “The UNP has said it will not join the Committee, but if it is genuinely concerned, it should join in,” the Minister said.

On the issue of halaal certification, the Leader of the House said that obtaining the food certification is a voluntary process with the Government having no role in it. “It is up to the consumers to accept or reject halaal food or halaal certification,” he said.

Communal tension: All’s well says Govt. not so, says Opposition  

The recent rise in religious
disharmony as well as the
controversy caused by the issue of ‘halaal’ certificates by the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulema
(ACJU), were raised in
Parliament by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on
Wednesday. On Thursday, Leader of the House Nimal Siripala De Silva responded on behalf of the Government. Here are extracts of the views expressed by them:-

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe:

Altogether there have been 10 attacks on mosques and 10 protests in various towns. This is an explosive situation fuelled by rumours, which the Government must address immediately, but has taken no steps to control the escalating situation.

The first canard is that the Sinhalese are becoming a minority in the Sinhala deep south. Another map shows the country without any Muslims, at the time of arrival of the Portuguese. It was the Muslims that warned Dharma Parakramabahu VIII not to allow the Portuguese to come into the country. The Sinhala ratio has increased from the time of independence- since 1947, when it was 63% to 75% today. But the ratio within the minorities has changed since a large number of Tamils have left the country. If the Sinhalese population is in danger of being depleted, we in the UNP will be the first to raise the issue in the House.

Secondly, there is the question of halaal certification. To the best of our information, Halal certification is an entirely voluntary matter. If anyone has forced halaal certification on business organisations, an inquiry must take place, after a complaint is made. The Government must inform us why a private organisation is assigned to perform this function,

which is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan Standards Institute?

There is also the allegation regarding Law College entrance exam. As there is a suspicion of wrongdoing, an Independent Committee should be appointed to go into this matter, correct any anomalies that may have occurred, and punish those responsible, if any. The Government should not sweep this question under the carpet. It is not in the interest of the Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils, nor the country as a whole. Today, many individuals are manipulating competitive exams for a consideration. Therefore, all those who have done so must be exposed. If any Muslims are involved, the Muslim community should not suffer for it.

There are a number of websites which are highly derogative to the Islam religion. The Government, which blocks websites highly derogative of the Government is silent about websites, which seek to arouse, to inflame religious and ethnic passions.

Leader of the House Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva:

The Government denies the allegation by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe that 10 Muslim places of worship had been attacked in the recent past. Several protests took place in the country, and facts exaggerated to say that Muslim religious places had been attacked.

In addition to these actions, the police have taken the following measures on the instructions of the IGP, to avoid any incidents causing religious disharmony:

The Police Department has taken several steps to build inter religious harmony. Inter religious committees will be set up with the participation of Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu and Islamic religious leaders, covering the nine provinces. Already, 104 All Religious Committees have been set up in 43 police divisions in the country.

All religious ceremonies will be given equal importance by organising religious ceremonies under the patronage of relevant departments.

Top level leaders of the Bodu Bala Sena Organisation (BBSO), including its Chairman, had been summoned to Police Headquarters on November 12, 2012, where the IGP requested them to refrain from any act that would cause religious clashes.

There has been no other government in this country, which has worked to bring about harmony among communities. The President had highlighted in his address to the nation on Independence Day, that he is committed to eliminate racial and religious differences.

Under President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration, state radio had started broadcasting daily the five times call for prayers for the benefit of Muslims. Sri Lanka is the one and only non-Muslim country which has done this.

The Government condemns the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition against halaal certification and the ACJU. Halaal certification is known internationally, and this is so not only in Muslim nations, but also in some western nations. The international headquarters of this certifying body, World Halaal Food Council (WHFC) is situated in Indonesia. They have their member organisations in other countries. The ACJU is the one accepted and approved by the WHFC. Neither the Sri Lanka Government, nor any government institute has accepted this organisation.

The Opposition Leader said there are a number of websites spreading anti-Muslim sentiments. It is a known fact that Opposition activists and leaders manage a number of websites to sling mud at the President and the Government. The Government has already commenced acting against websites operating against Muslims. Yet the technology is so sophisticated that, even if we shut down one web site, the operatives could commence another one.

The President had meetings with the Muslim Ministers who had promised to do their best to avoid extremist forces causing disturbances.

The Government has also proposed to set up a Parliamentary Select Committee in this regard, but the Leader of the Opposition had refused to participate in this.

The Leader of the Opposition also mentioned the doubts that have arisen about the Law Entrance Examination. Minister of Justice Rauff Hakeem has already briefed the House in this regard. It is the Council of Legal Education that takes decisions with regard to the Law College entrance examination. The Council and the CID have investigated these allegations, but found no indication of any impropriety in the manner in which the exam was conducted.

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