Colombo Telegraph

Aluthgama Riots; Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

By Mass L. Usuf

Mass L. Usuf

“While it is difficult to claim with authority as to who was behind these riots, it is important to note that the signs of organization and orchestration were evident. The transportation provided for looted goods, the weapons that the attackers had at 6.30 pm, their access to glass bottles, petrol, and long sticks and iron rods and lengths of bicycle chains, the pieces of metal canisters that we saw and photographed, dispel any possibility of a spontaneous conflagration”. (Report on Aluthgama riots and its aftermath. Law & Society Trust, December 2014).

A disgraceful account indeed of a systematic and orchestrated spate of violence on the 15th and 16th of June 2014. Further reading revealed the outrageous complicity of the preachers and the protectors. Here is an eyewitness’ narration :

“First there was one group that came and this group was led by two monks. They threw stones and broke all the windows of the house. Then 15 minutes later another group arrived. Then a few minutes later, a third group came. They were the worst, they broke and smashed and burnt down everything. Later when we were trying to put out the fires there was another group that came – a group of young boys – maybe 15 years old. The STF chased them away. There were others who came with their faces covered and took the stuff from the houses put them into bags and carried them out.

The witness also stated that the STF was in the vicinity and when he ran to ask for assistance when the house was burning he was told that they had come for some other work and could not help him. He had gone once more and he was told, (Malli Umbalah karagaththu deval umbala bala ganilla). “Malli, these are things that you created, so sort it out yourselves.” (ibid).

Monks and the Police

A qualitative analysis draws an amazing contrast!   The people normally trust their preachers and take them as their guides. The above account is the consequence of the so called “guidance” given to the people by the racist and inflammatory speech by Ven. Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thero. Shockingly there were also monks who led the mobs of destruction and killings. Monks whose wish is “sukhino vā khemino hontu” meaning, “May all beings be happy and safe”. The preachers who follow the four immeasurables (Brahmavihara) : metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy or empathy) and upekkha (equanimity).   Right in the centre of the theatre was the Police force whose Mission according to their Website is, “Sri Lanka Police is committed and confident to uphold and enforce the law of the land, to preserve the public order, prevent crime and Terrorism with prejudice to none – equity to all”.

The Muslim community has been deeply traumatized, their properties destroyed and feelings wounded. The decent Sinhalese citizens were hanging their heads in shame and in utter disbelief. Is this an instance of the gross misuse of status (i.e. monkhood) with the ulterior motive of preying upon innocent civilians and deliberately inciting them towards violence? The influence of the robe did not spare even the Police who were in compliance with the unlawful behaviour. Each of these has to be brought before the Law. An independent commission has to be appointed by the government to investigate into this. Especially, those in the chain of authority in the Police and related government departments. “A comprehensive and impartial State investigation into the incidents of Aluthgama and nearby places is a dire and urgent need. Through this investigation the impact of the hate speech, the inaction of the Police and the STF…..should be highlighted” (ibid).

It is shocking to read in the report, “The BBS requests that 7 of the 11 arrested for the attacks be released. IGP agrees on assurance that Ven. Gnanasara will stop the meeting in Mawanella from taking place”. Curiously, the question that props up is if this is a travesty of the law or protection of the Law ?

Rehabilitation

“Hate sentiment had been assiduously cultivated over the past two years by the Monk’s group formed in 2012, the Bodu Bala Sena and there has been sporadic violence against Muslim communities throughout the country during that time. This sentiment erupted in a systematic and orchestrated spate of violence on the 15th and 16th of June 2014”. (ibid).

Values of co-existence have been called into questioning. Ethnic harmony has been breached. The noble principles of the Dhamma have been violated. Spreading of hate, distrust, suspicion in the minds of the people has been sowed. All of these will have to be positively reprogrammed in the minds of the people who have been wrongfully influenced, the monks who were involved and the Police force.

This is certainly not the result of just one incident of a quarrel. There is much more behind the scene. These underlying causes have to be investigated. This is a serious national issue, if allowed to persist will breakdown the fabric of a delicate society that has just emerged from a war.

It is clear that the Bodu Bala Sena demonized both religious minorities, like the Christians and, racial minorities, like the Muslims. They were systematically creating mistrust, fear and resentment in the minds of the people. Like the notorious ISIS is using the name of Islam to perpetrate its unIslamic activities, it seems Buddhism is being used by certain forces in our country with ulterior motives rather than for national and reconciliatory objectives. Arguably, Buddhism and the saffron robed have been transformed into a medium to gain the support and empathy of the innocent Buddhist masses.

The Report states : “However, the limited progress with regards to finding and prosecuting the perpetrators of the crimes, the fact that those inciting hatred are still at large, and seem to be continuing their work, the fact that the government maintained a limited account of events sends the message to reassure racist and violent segments of society that they got away with criminal acts”.

The Muslims politicians failed under the previous regime to initiate an investigation into this. Now, under the government of good governance, it becomes the duty of the Muslim politicians to collectively ask for an independent investigative commission. If not, they will be considered miserable failures in their obligation towards the victims.

Houses can be rebuilt but the hearts and minds of the innocent victims cannot be healed by that. They must feel the sense of the dispensation of justice for the crimes against them. The perpetrators must feel a sense of remorse. For both, the law must act. Justice delayed is justice denied.

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