The Kandy district which was paralysed for the past one week is slowly limping back to normal due to the heightened law-enforcement measures by the authorities. After a declaration of a State of Emergency, daily curfews, closing of schools, restrictions imposed on social media and the meticulous investigation leading to the arrests of over 100 [...]


Digana: No communal conflict, but organised anti-Muslim violence by outside forces


The Kandy district which was paralysed for the past one week is slowly limping back to normal due to the heightened law-enforcement measures by the authorities. After a declaration of a State of Emergency, daily curfews, closing of schools, restrictions imposed on social media and the meticulous investigation leading to the arrests of over 100 persons by the Police, tensions have eased.

The attacks on Muslim business places as well as mosques have drawn the attention of the whole world including the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Countries. Travel advisories have been issued by the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and several other countries alerting their citizens to the situation in Sri Lanka’s Central Province. International news media, too, have reported extensively on the incidents thus contributing to a negative image of the country. That this is happening at a time when the United Nations Human Rights Council is in session in Geneva is also disturbing.

In Sri Lanka, there have been calls from various sections of society calling for communal harmony and good relations among the Sinhala Buddhists and Muslims.

Religious leaders, cricket icons like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayewardene, Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan, artistes, the Human Rights Commission, civil society organisations and a host of others have called for sanity to prevail.

The President, the Prime Minster and Kandy District UNP leader and Minister Lakshman Kiriella, among others, have condemned the attacks on the Muslims in the strongest possible terms and called for action to bring the lawbreakers to book.

Historically Sri Lanka has been a shining example of religious tolerance and co-existence over centuries. Nourished by the values of the four major religions of the world, the communities have lived in harmony. It is only in recent times that there has been somewhat of an erosion of the trust that existed among the ethnic groups fuelled primarily by the thirty-year-old civil war and its fallout and the actions and utterances of a few politicians who have sought to exploit differences among the communities to achieve political goals.

Despite all these pressures at grassroots level, the common humanity that has bonded the people together has withstood all the trials and tribulations of the recent past. During the anti-Tamil pogram of July 83, which was orchestrated by a microscopic few the large majority of the Sinhalese and Muslims stood by the Tamils and provided them protection and took great pains to mitigate their suffering.

When the LTTE was forcibly evicting the Muslims from the North, the Tamil people pleaded with the LTTE to desist from doing so but their cries went unheeded. Some Tamils even lost their lives in Chavakachcheri at the hands of the LTTE when they spoke on behalf of the Muslims.

During the Tsunami tragedy of 2004, the hands of help did not distinguish between Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, Armed forces or LTTE, rich or poor. In fact, the spontaneous reaching out of the poor who helped out with their meagre earnings was a heartwarming reflection of the Sri Lankan culture that encourages the helping those in need irrespective of their religious or racial leanings.

Even during these troubled times the humble Sinhala Buddhists in the Central Province have shown their goodwill towards their fellow Muslims in no unmistakable terms. The senior Buddhist monk of the Peraketiya Temple, close to where the deceased lorry driver Kumarasinghe lived, had personally ensured the safety of Muslim villagers in the vicinity. There are reports of Buddhist priests along with other Buddhist villagers pitching camp in mosques overnight to protect these places of worship. On Friday a senior member of the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulema confirmed that several Buddhist monks together with others had ensured the peaceful conduct of Jumma prayers.

Despite all these expressions of goodwill towards each other the Government and other law enforcement authorities should not lose sight of the reality that there are evil forces attempting to create disharmony through violence, hate speech and spreading rumours to create fear and mistrust among communities.

If one examines the happenings in the Kandy district and in Ampara last week this becomes crystal clear. When four drunken Muslims travelling in a three-wheeler assaulted a Sinhalese lorry driver over a private traffic dispute resulting in serious injuries to the latter, there was no reaction from the villagers who treated it as a common crime. In fact, the four suspects were arrested by the Police within a couple of days with the local Muslim community itself helping the Police to apprehend two of the suspects. It was only after the deceased died on March 4th after receiving treatment in the hospital for nearly ten days that the first signs of trouble started. Reports of outsiders coming into the villagers began to emerge, contributing to tension among the villagers. While the Police were initially slow to act to prevent the situation from taking an ugly turn, after the Government took steps to increase the Police and STF presence supported by the Armed forces the situation seems to have been brought under control.

The Police investigations have now confirmed that the violence has been perpetrated by organised outside groups who caused mayhem and disruption of the lives of the people of the area.

This then is a clear indication of the evil forces using the death of an innocent lorry driver to achieve their own objectives. Further investigations will be able to unravel what these objectives are.

In contrast, it is now clear that the Ampara incident was also pre-planned to target the Muslims.

It began with a drunken youth walking into an eatery called Cassim Hotel and ordering a rice-and-curry meal with meat curry. Upon being told that the meat curry was over he insisted that he be served with the meat that he so strongly desired.

This was followed by verbal and physical assaults on the cashier and the allegation that a fertility pill had been placed in the food. Almost on cue, a large mob had descended on the shop and thereafter went on an attacking spree where the eating house, other Muslim-owned shops in the vicinity and the mosque had been damaged.

The attack was clearly pre-planned and the argument in the hotel was only a pretext for the mob in waiting to move into action. How else can one explain such a large crowd arriving in the early hours of the morning when most people in rural Sri Lanka are in bed.

Following the Ampara incident the Health Services Director General publicly stated that no anti-fertility pills or ‘Wanda Pethi’ had been discovered by Medical Science anywhere in the world. However this message has not been sufficiently communicated to the people as a result of which innocent Sinhala Buddhist still refer to such a pill leaving them easy prey to the machinations of various evil forces. Even the Government Analyst’s report confirming that what was found in the meal parcel was only a lump of flour has not reached the ears of the public.

To sum up, the incidents in Kandy and Ampara are not the result of inter-communal clashes between the Sinhala Budhhists and Muslims but forces that have their own objectives including creating anarchy.

It is up to the Government and law enforcement authorities to be vigilant and take all necessary steps to root out all such evil elements who can otherwise derail the country’s development journey. The Government can only ignore the warning signs at its own peril.


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