By Latheef Farook –
The ban on social media only helped the government to cover up its failure to prevent racist attacks on Muslims in central hills and the destruction of their properties and livelihood. Despite advance knowledge from intelligence reports of the planned carnage, the government miserably failed to stop the attacks.
These racist mercenaries, of suspected local and foreign anti-Muslim forces, caused billions of rupees of destruction to Muslim owned properties in and around Digana, Teldeniya, Akurana, Galaha, Katugastota, Menikhinna, Ambettene, Pujapitiya and surrounding areas in the central hills.
These attacks were so sudden and fierce that the Muslims just could not do anything to save their properties and even belongings.
Affected Muslims were overnight deprived of their livelihood and thrown into streets. The question is why, what crime did the Muslims do to deserve this and where is the government which is duty bound to protect all its citizen?
The mainstream media often dominated by journalists of racist mindsets serve various anti-Muslim forces. Yet the media in general gave wide coverage to the carnage during the first week and highlighted the senseless carnage.
However since the beginning of the second week mainstream media began to accuse Muslim victims of extremism and suspected of trying to cover up madness of a relatively small group.
After the second week electronic media has virtually ignored these attacks and the destruction.
When organized mobs attacked Aluthgama, Beruwala and Dharga Town during Rajapaksa government, local media virtually imposed a blackout. They were exposed and woke up when the international media gave wide coverage with vivid details.
However during the recent anti-Muslim violence in Digana and other areas the local media did a reasonably good job. The international media described recent violence as crimes committed by Buddhist extremists though Buddhists have nothing to do with it.
An Arab friend of mine from the gulf called me to find out what was going on asked “what is wrong with the Sinhalese who are always attacking minorities?” I had to explain that this was not a problem between Buddhists and Muslims. I told him that Buddhist monks stayed inside mosques last week until the Friday is over. Buddhist monks have also joined the armed forces in renovating destroyed properties.
His next questions were what is the government doing? Why can’t the government punish perpetrators and maintain law and order? This is the shameful state of affairs under so called good governance.
When these attacks on Muslims began more than a year ago delegation after delegation met president, prime minister and all others involved and appealed to them to stop these attacks.
However all these appeals fell on deaf ears. This provided protection for hooligans. Had the government enforced law and brought culprits to book this disaster against Muslims and the country in general could have been averted.
Many suspect this as a strategy to divert the country’s attention from the political mess the government is in. It was the same old UNP-SLFP game to remain in power or to gain power at any cost.
The mob came in buses, Lorries and vans, three wheel drives and motor bikes. They first broke opened closed shops with hammers and other heavy equipment, emptied almost everything before setting fire to buildings while the Muslim owner’s helplessly watched crying. They took food items and distributed to the mob to eat.
In some areas people were informed by their Sinhalese neighbors of the attacks in advance. Muslims took their families to the nearby jungle where they were hiding in fear without food or water. While they were in the jungle the mob broke open their houses and took out everything, destroyed furniture and all electrical items.
Muslims did contact the police which promised to come, but came only after the mob destroyed everything. These Muslims who lived with dignity now live on charity. Their plight is not worthy of coverage for the local media. Even television networks such as Sirasa which boasts about its investigative journalism found there is nothing to investigate in the plight of Muslims victims whose tears still remain wet.
One should not forget that it was the racist media which fanned communalism and divided communities and contributed to violence since independence.
Disgusting state of affairs is such that two Muslims were mercilessly beaten up by more than a dozen of STF personnel. A Sinhala doctor refused to treat a Muslim bleeding in head. He was victim of mob attacks but was accused of being a terrorist destroying the country. Instead of treating the bleeding patient doctor called him hambaya, a derogatory term for Muslims, and asked the police officer to dump him in a cell.”
Released on bail by court the next day and admitted to Kandy district hospital his head wound was sutured.
It appears human kindness seems to have dried up even in the highly commercialized medical profession supposed to be humanitarian.
One Muslim said that he was at home with his friend when the STF broke into the house. Terrified women and children began screaming. According to reports he and his friend were dragged down the steps by the STF members, thrusted plastic bags filled with petrol and bound their hands and feet. Then the STF personnel beaten them with wooden poles to force them to admit that they were plotting to attack Sinhala shops.”
Meanwhile there began a new trend in the mainstream media of accusing Muslim of extremism though they were victims of racist violence. This began ever since JVP Parliamentarian Bimal Ratnayake said that Sinhalese and Muslim extremism should stop.
The question is whether anyone could produce a single Muslim extremist here who resorted to violence to harm innocent people. No Muslim ever attacked a temple or Sinhalese owned business or industrial complex. They only expect the government to ensure safety of their lives and property to continue their peaceful life.
They are the most peaceful of the three major communities. If racist mercenaries cannot live with them they would not be able to live with anyone even among themselves. On the other hand do the lunatics who committed these crimes understand the damage they have done to the image of the country and to the image of Sinhalese community in the international scene?
There were cancellation of bookings by tourists. Investors are unlikely to come and this happens when the economy is collapsing and the political scene is chaotic. It also shows politicians are not worried about the country. They are only keen to protect their power and perks.
We are all settlers in the island.Like the Sinhalese, Tamils and others, the island’s Muslims also settled down here more than 1000 years ago. Though they lived in peace and harmony with Sinhalese they were subjected to cruel atrocities during the Portuguese and the Dutch colonial rules but were given some relief during British rule.
However since independent in 1948 the Sinhalese dominated governments continued to strip Muslims of their rights and privileges in many fields.
They were, by and large, deprived of employment opportunities in the government and semi government sectors, in the armed forces and were also deprived of proper education. Contrary to the false image, some reports disclose, that around 60 percent of the Muslims live below poverty line.
Those Muslims evicted from Jaffna still languish in refugee camps. They lost everything and were driven out empty hand though they have nothing to do with the 30 year racist war. When they tried to return to their lands to rebuild their shattered lives racists began to create problems and obstruct.
As a result Muslims were left only with trading and jobs abroad for their survival. Now the racist wanted to destroy their source of livelihood by attacking their shops.
Unless judiciary is strengthened and justice is visibly restored and racists are brought to book at the earliest, it is matter of time before tottering Sri Lanka officially becomes a failed state. Under the circumstance not many Muslims have faith in the government’s ability to deal firmly with these attackers in view of its record of colossal failure to fulfil its promises to the nation since it was elected to office on 8 January 2015.