21 July, 2018

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Anti-Muslim Violence: The Puzzle Of Continuing Impunity  

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Some years ago, in 2011, there was a phenomenon called the “grease devils” that struck fear in communities in different parts of the country, and particularly those living in areas in which the Tamil people predominate. Semi clothed men with grease on their bodies started to infiltrate into the homes of people. They broke inside and sometimes groped women but usually they only caused utter fear and no other physical harm. As in the case of the present upsurge in anti Muslim violence, the grease devil attacks took place in a number of places almost simultaneously, as if pre-planned. On occasion when people from the affected communities gave chase they found the suspected grease devils running into camps of the security forces in their bid to getaway. As suddenly as it started the grease devil phenomenon ended.  There were no arrests by police that led to convictions.

In the last two months there have been several violent attacks targeting the Muslim community which appear to have ended at least temporarily. Muslim owned business enterprises and places of religious worship were especially targeted. These incidents, numbering over 20, caused economic ruin to many people, hurt their religious sentiment and brought dismay to the entire community. However, attacks on the Muslims have been taking place on an irregular basis for the past several years. They spiked in 2014 with the burning of a section of Aluthgama town in which the Muslim community was dominant. The most recent attacks took place in different parts of the country. While not simultaneous, they were sufficiently widespread and systematic to suggest a pre-planned effort to target the Muslims. None of the recent attacks led to deaths. It appears that the attacks had been carefully calibrated.  None of the attackers are known to have been arrested.

The failure of the security forces to apprehend those who have broken the law is at the root of the puzzle. It has led to calls for action by the government to uphold the Rule of Law. These calls have been made by civil society organizations, political parties, foreign governments and also by the Bar Association. The statement issued by the Bar Association sets out the provisions of law under which the police can arrest those who perpetrate violence and hate crimes against the Muslim community and under which the Attorney General’s Department can file indictments in the courts of law. The puzzle is that the police have been inactive in taking the first step which is to obstruct the violent actions of those who are terrorizing the Muslim community and arrest those who have been videoed and documented as having been in the attacking parties.

Myanmar Example 

The evidence of attacks and the identity of the attackers are readily available. A national television station, for instance, showed an incident where the temporary shelters of Muslims in a rural area were being physically pulled down and demolished by a group of people with a prominent Buddhist monk in the picture. Those who have suffered violence and destruction at the hands of violent groups have also provided the police with footage of the attacks. The irony is that the governmental leaders who are in charge of the security forces have been affirming their opinion that the police ought to act, even in Parliament, but there continues to be governmental and police inaction that is difficult to explain.

It may be that the governmental leadership does not believe that this is the time to act. The massive crowds bused in by the Joint Opposition for their May Day rally was larger than any other.  It is also indicative of the political opposition’s ability to muster people power onto the street, even if they have to be provided with a handout inclusive of transport, meals and drinks. In this context the government’s instinct may be to delay taking decisive action and hope that the problem will go away. The government may also be trying to follow the example of Myanmar, where the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi has sought to accommodate the hardline Buddhist nationalist groups within the government in order to win their support.

In Myanmar, the greatest threat to the stability of the democratically elected government comes from the military that ruled the country for over five decades. It has only been in the last five years that the military has taken a step back from its direct hold on power and relinquished power to the elected civilian government that is led by Aung San Suu Kyi. But the government is afraid that the military generals are waiting in the wings to take back power and this is why the democratically elected government has preferred to try and bring the Buddhist nationalist groups within its own fold.  During the period of military rule the Buddhist monks were a powerful and non-violent force that stood resolutely in opposition to the military dictatorship.

Act Sooner 

The problem is that while the Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar are opposed to the military dictators, they have also identified the Muslims as a source of future threat to Myanmar especially in terms of changes in the demographic composition of some regions of Myanmar. As a result the Myanmar strategy of trying to bring the hardline nationalists within the government has not been successful.  Instead  it has further legitimized the hardliners in the eyes of the general public and they have become more active in attacking the Muslims in Myanmar. It is ironic, and unfortunate, that in a similar manner in Sri Lanka, the government appears to be seeking to pacify hardline Buddhist nationalist groups in order to deal with the political challenges posed by the Joint Opposition which can exploit Buddhist nationalist sentiment and insecurities.

Although the anti Muslim violence has got the centre stage at this time, there is also anti Christian violence that has been directed for a longer period against evangelical Christian groups that engage in conversion activities. The National Christian Evangelical Alliance has reported that since the beginning of this year, over 20 incidents of violence and intimidation took place against Christian places of worship across the country.  In this context, the government may want to prevent the Joint Opposition and the Buddhist nationalist groups from coming together for fear that they can create conflict on the streets in a way that would make the country difficult to govern. It is noteworthy that the anti Muslim attacks grew in numbers after the Joint Opposition’s show of strength at its May Day rally. But whatever may be the motivations of the anti Muslim violence it cannot be condoned, justified or permitted.

The right to equal protection of the laws is not only a constitutional right; it is an absolute human right in any civilized society that cannot be violated. The government has a particularly strong political mandate to uphold the equal protection of the laws for the ethnic and religious minorities. These are the groups that gave their wholehearted support to the government at the last elections. All Sri Lankans need to keep in mind the lessons from the past in which the failure to protect minorities from discrimination became a cause for three decades of war. We have seen that when problems are not resolved and are permitted to go on unchecked that they escalate with time. With terrorism spreading throughout the world, it is important that Sri Lanka should be committed to its non-recurrence in Sri Lanka, and for this it needs the fullest support of all its people who benefit from the equal protection of the laws.

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    Blimey ……..I thought “Grease Yakkas” were .TNA supporters, who were recruited to help prepare the grounds for Bodhi Sira and his new mate, Dr Batalanda Ranil to roll Rajapaksa…… Prolific Muslim writer, Mr Iseth told us several times that BBS and Gnnanissara are products of a Joint venture among Fundamental ist Christians , Israelis ….. (I thought they wrote first redition of the holy Book ) and Norwegians ……….And Mr Pirahaparan’s Buddy and Mentor Mr Solly organised all the logistics for the BBS training in Oslo………Mr Iseth even accused Vellala Tamils w ith money buying the Wella Garden properties , after UNP Cyril chased away the Tamils by burning their their houses……….Dr Jehan must be Catholic NGO Boss…… Right…….

    • 3
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      Sumanasekaram Bikku, your thoughts are wonderful! The first time I couldn’t see the word “Vellala” from the Bikku who always like to sleep in dreams with gota Bikkuni and Wimal Rani. You are invited to Burma to have a wonderful night with Greese Yakka.

    • 3
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      “I thought “Grease Yakkas” were .TNA supporters’

      There is no surprise there as NO one believes that you have the capacity to think critically.

      “Prolific Muslim writer, Mr Iseth told us several times that BBS and Gnnanissara are products of a Joint venture among Fundamental ist Christians , Israelis”

      Interesting to note the superior race are servant boys of evangelical Christians and Jew. LOL

      Still better than the Superior race sending their women to the Arabs to wash their dirty linen, pots pans and other things and without any right to practice the religion.

      BTW you should check how the Rajapaksa’s came into so much land in the Kotte / Nugegoda area before looking at “Vellala Tamils”

  • 5
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    “All Sri Lankans need to keep in mind the lessons from the past in which the failure to protect minorities from discrimination became a cause for three decades of war.”

    Sri Lanka did not have three decades of war. Sri Lanka had three decades of terrorism. Now terrorism is spreading in the so called ’Developed’ countries. Does that mean those countries failed to protect minorities from discrimination?

    Recently, some jokers went to a mosque which is an undiplomatic thing and expressed their solidarity to Muslims who are the victims of Buddhist extremists. The most ridiculous thing is the presence of the Ambassadors of the European Union headed by its Chief, Ambassador Tung Lai Marque and the guy from UK. Of the 137 mosques targeted in Europe in 2016, France saw the most with 60, followed by 54 in Germany, 21 in Sweden and two in Switzerland. French authorities shut down 20 mosques and prayer halls they found to be preaching radical Islamic ideology since December 2016. There are about 1700 mosques in the UK. Research reveals half of all Britain’s mosques have been attacked since 9/11 (about 700 mosques have been targeted). Immediately after the Manchester attack a mosque was torched in Oldham. May be these idiots are unaware of what is happening in their backyard. Instead of coming to preach us, they should first clean the shit in their ass.

    • 3
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      No it was counter-terrorism after seven decades of Terrorism sponsored by the Sinhala Buddhist State and implemented by the Sinhala Buddhists, looting and murdering Tamils.

    • 4
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      “Instead of coming to preach us, they should first clean the shit in their ass. “

      If you can do is for the Arabs: why don’t you volunteer to do it for the Europeans.

  • 8
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    It is not a puzzele, it is the pattern of governance since indpendnece:

    The rulers (Sinhalese) discriminate aginst Tamils and Muslims.

    Worse still they don’t apply the rule of law when it comes to the minorities.

    Every successive govenment is guilty of these actions.

    The country has a ong way to go before it is civilized, democratic and just to all citizens irrespective of their language, religion or race.

    I doubt that it will happen in our life time.

  • 7
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    This is the beginning of a monk led sinhala buddist terrorism raising its head in the country. Very soon all sinhalese who disagree with these terrorist elements will also be attacked and killed.

    The one thing that has proven to be true since 2009 is that it appears impossible for successive corrupt governments to rule the country without it bieng in a state of war.

    Hence this is why mahinda and now the backbone-less yahapalana govt seem to follow the same agenda. Without war life is difficult especially for politicians. The only answer is public justice. Any of these sinhala buddist terrorists show up, beat them to death. The law will always seek to protect these terrorist elements.

    • 6
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      Two comments are from disgruntled Tamils who lost the tribalist war for the mono ethnic enclave. If Sri lanka gave the full federal solution with no army in the tamil homeland and full police powers, full land titles and no sinhala or muslims working there, these two comments would have been about how diffiucult to live in a federalized country.

  • 2
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    What impunity? Mother of all roots of all the ills in this country lead to MS and RW. They are thee culprits for all the problems.

  • 5
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    Coolio is right. The bbs and its sister organisations have all the symptoms of a terrorist organisation in the budding… Remember, every terrorist organisation has a cause to justify their actions. If the muslims or tamils burned sinhalese establishments, temples and publicly insulted buddism wouldn’t you consider that as terrorism? Open your eyes. Stop fighting your own countrymen based on the lies spread by politically ambitious monks. If you are willing to accommodate sinhala terrorism then you should also accept tamil and Muslim terrorism that’ll inevitably come along as a result. Just because the LTTE was crushed in 2009 don’t think you can get away with anything. If you hit someone hard enough they’ll eventually hit back. And who knows the retaliatory blow might even kill you this time around.

  • 4
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    Jehan Perera: “Anti-Muslim Violence: The Puzzle Of Continuing Impunity”. Sorry Jehan. There is no puzzle here. Culture of Impunity was off the scene for a few milli-seconds on 08 January 2015. At best a blip.

  • 2
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    Dear Jehan Perera and all participants,
    Sri Lankan journalists and Politicians are just waking up from being violent Kings and their supporting Ministers. It had to take 70 years of bad violent politics and world interference to bring some sober realization. The Journalists Knowledgeable of the situation must band up and bring good sense to the Leaders and Administrators giving priority to the fundamental rights for all the different communities. Keeping religion, politics and administration separate without one interfering with the other. There is also help available in decision making from Academicians, retired Administrators. More importantly, the Journalists using public media must be stopped from encouraging racism and religious extremism. Most of the religious clergy are nor aware of fundamental truths. Because they get encouraged by bad politicians seeking power in a hurry. Ultimately all those loving one religion are going to hate their religion when the clergy indulge in violence and arson. It is very important for Journalists to show examples in the past and present of Countries successfully developing and successfully applying jurisdiction for violence and hatred. Hate speech and hate journalism must be nipped in the bud. If good jurisdiction is not rendered same to all minority communities, the minority is always going to hate the majority and look for a chance to put down the majority. Having a powerful force to control the minority or threaten the minority multiplies the hatred of the minority against the majority. Forcing the minority with the religion of the majority motivates the minority against the majority. The politicians, Journalists and Academicians must see the Citizens are not misled by politicians seeking to come to power by inculcating the fundamental truths.

  • 1
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    Wonder which way ther ex LTTE rich Diaspora in London will vote on Thursday…. Will their boss and UNP ally Suren Surendran endorse Mrs May or the Milliband Party boss old Jerry………..

  • 1
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    Yesterday, In Vavuniya a Tamil accused was beaten to death by prison guards and opponents. Here Koozhukkum Paadi Kanchikkum Paadi Jehan PhD is covering up the Yahapalanaya, pretending like Muslims sympathizer. When in last year’s UOJ reception the Hindus students played Nathasuram, Jehan PhD went there and demanded those students attend to his preaching or face the trouble. Jehan PhD is dying hard to frame that the trouble is coming from North East only. So he, with the name of Religious reconciliation, is taking Bold headed Podi Ayatollahs to North-East to spread Buddhism. The Southern wildlife has been brought up for 70 years with Relious opium of free Biriyani and arrack. Making a small change in those minds is like cracking a piece out of hard diamond. A massive campaign has to be undertaken in to tame the Southern wildlife so they reject Gnanam themselves. That is the day the religious racism will start to go down in Lankawe. But even before from JR’s Kandy walk, the South is fed above the nose with religious hatefulness. Even Sampanthar and TNA have been forced by these NGOs and Yahapalanaya to accept the Buddhism as the superior religion in the proposed constitution. If not on minorities, where BBS can enforce the predominant position ensured in the constitution? How many times Jehan PhD had written sincerely an essay insisting the proposed constitution has to secular to make Buddhists respect other religions too. These NGOs are putting all money they get into their pockets, taking the Bald headed ones to north-east and declaring the religious reconciliation is over. Jehan PhD plays this drama in English media to ensure the fund flowing, but in Sinhala, BBS preaches. At whom this baby is asking the question of “The Puzzle Of Continuing Impunity”. ? When did he land in Lankawe for the first time?

  • 2
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    The despicable, sinister and pathetic attempt by the writer to cover up yahapalana inability to govern the country and establish rule of law is clearly evident across the entire article. To use JO as a scapegoat doesn’t add up. It is not JO who rules the country. JO doesn’t have recognition even in the parliamentary opposition. Jehan will have to find a better way to cover the nakedness of yahapalanaya.

    ” the government appears to be seeking to pacify hardline Buddhist nationalist groups in order to deal with the political challenges posed by the Joint Opposition which can exploit Buddhist nationalist sentiment and insecurities”. Well……..Jehan, yahapalana junta and their masters need to focus on addressing the Buddhist insecurities if they are to find sustainable solutions. Wilfully ignoring it or imprisoning Buddhists and monks will not solve it.

    Jehan correctly identifies that this govt is dependent on minority support simply because the majority of the majority are not with the govt. Treating minorities equally under the law and appeasing them to prop up the yahapalana junta at the expense of the larger population are two different things altogether. While the former is an absolute responsibility of the govt, the latter is a clear recipe for disaster.

    Purohit Jehan may need to provide more wiser counsel to his yahapalana partners in crime.

  • 0
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    [Edited out] Please avoid typing all capitalized comments – CT

  • 0
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    BAD BAD BAD.
    In 2012 similar things happened in Bangladesh. See below

    Tens of thousands of rioters left a trail of destruction in southeastern Bangladesh as they torched Buddhist temples and homes near the town of Ramu. The violence was sparked by a photo posted on Facebook that allegedly insulted Islam.
    A 25,000-strong mob set fire to at least five temples and dozens of homes throughout the town and surrounding villages after seeing the picture, which they claimed was posted by Uttam Barua, a local Buddhist man, AFP reported.

    The group chanted “God is Great” while setting fire to the centuries-old temples.

    “I have seen 11 wooden temples, two of them 300 years old, torched by the mob. They looted precious items and Buddha statues from the temples. Shops owned by Buddhists were also looted,” local journalist Sunil Barua said.

    Security forces were deployed to contain the uprising: “At least 100 houses were damaged. We called in army and border guards to quell the violence,” district administrator Joinul Bari said.

    No casualties were reported, and authorities did not confirm whether police arrested any of the rioters.

    Buddhist monks protested against the attacks on Sunday, forming a human chain in the country’s capital of Dhaka.

    Bangladeshi Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said the attacks were preplanned, and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

    “The attack was conducted in a coordinated manner. Temples and houses were set on fire using patrol and gun powder. It would have been impossible if the attacks were not planned,” he told Bangladesh’s Bdnews24.

  • 1
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    Maybe there is some overreaction to Muslims in Sri Lanka. But whose fault is it really? Today in the UK “Daily Mail”, there was this headline: “Nursery worker is left with broken ribs and needing stitches after she was punched and kicked to the ground and slashed with a Stanley knife by three girls shouting ‘Allah will get you’.” People don’t live in a box. They see these headlines and imagine they are next. Fear is a natural instinct. There has to be some reaction to fear. Politicians, monks, media can exploit this fear instinct. Also, understand that this animosity towards Islam is not just in SL. It is everywhere and growing. Average people are very scared they will get caught to some terror attack, so there are spontaneous outbursts, e.g. attacks on mosques, Muslim businesses, etc. The immigration policies that allow anyone to come in on a flimsy pretext and live off government benefits does not help either.

    • 2
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      Lester: “There has to be some reaction to fear”. Are you asking SL Muslims to show some reaction to fear that who might be the next victim of next violent attack from the rising extremism against peaceful Muslims in SL? What’s happening in London is aftermath, not due to fear. Why in SL the illusive fear of terrorism, makes the fearful one to act like a terrorist?

      • 0
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        Isharath: Can you show where Sinhalese have blown up trains, airplanes, etc. outside of Sri Lanka? Then we will be able to agree who is the terrorist here. Thanks.

  • 0
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    Jada Palanaya Shutting The Mouths Of The Sinhalese People And Aiding Muslim Extremism That Is The TALK OF THE TOWN……………Hence The Muslim Ministers Are At The High End Of Terrorising The Whole Country……………Sinhala Buddhist Heritage Sites Are Being Invaded And Damaged ……………..Gnanasara Thero Who Is Always Defending The Sinhalese Buddhist Peoples Rights Is Targeted By The Bloody Muslim Exremists Ministers along With Their Counterparts The PONNA JADAPALANAYA ………….All People Should Awake And Fight Against The Muslim Extremism A Time When Muslim Extremism Is Getting Tight Internationally

  • 0
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    All NGO Junk Set Who Is At Work With LTTE Is Too Busy As They Have Got Another Cake To Share With The STINKING MUSLIM EXTREMIST POLITICOS’ ….But This Time It will Not Be easier For Them As All Will Be exposed To The World …………..They Will Have To Share With THe Terrorist Label The International Community Stamp Against These Muslim Extremist In Each Country They Play Havoc……….Would Any World Leader In The International Community Bow Down To A Racists Group To Give their Mother Country Off BUT It Is Been Happening Only Here Due To The COWARDNESS of THe STINKING POLITICOS……………There should Be Strict Regulations To Deal Against These Muslim Extremists In This CounTry…………….We See as TheY Are Setting A Background To Irritate The Sinhalese People And Create A Communal Violence…………..Any Man Or Woman Who Keeps Eyes And Ears Open To The Matters Happening Around Could Identify the Dangers These Muslim Ministers Are Setting Up………..At This Moment Itself They Should Be Arrested And Brought Before The Law

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