By Mass L. Usuf –
Two recent incidents, both around the first week of March 2020, provide a comparative insight into how the concepts of the rule of law functions in contrast to extremist vigilantism that is prevailing in this country.
In the first incident, as reported in the national dailies, six persons had gone to a hotel in Periyamulla, Negombo and had attempted to consume alcohol inside the hotel premises. However, the hotel owner and his staff had objected to them consuming alcohol within the hotel premises. The six persons had attacked the hotel owner and his staff with sharp objects and had fled. The hotel owner and four of his employees had sustained serious injuries and had been admitted to the Negombo Hospital. A 36-year-old staff member died of his injuries.
Some facts incidental to this event and of relevance to the subject column are firstly, the hotel is a Muslim hotel. Muslims as a community do not generally consume alcoholic drinks and, secondly, this day happened to be a Poya day. A day on which all Buddhists reverentially observe sila (moral conduct). Thirdly, the person who died was a Muslim.
The hill capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy, was the scene of the second incident. This was in Seetha Devi Balika Vidyalaya. The story involves a six-year-old girl student. While playing she had fallen and fractured her arm. The helpless little girl had been crying in excruciating pain and had been assisted by her playmates to the classroom. This student had been told by a teacher to apply some medicine when she goes home. That was it. The teacher reportedly had left leaving this child to deal with her predicament. It really saddens to hear that this child had continued to be in class crying in pain until school was over.
When the mother came to fetch her from school, she saw her distraught daughter exhausted and howling in pain. In order to inquire what had happened she wanted to enter the school and was denied access by the female security guard. Later allegations of grabbing by the shirt, pushing and even assaulting was being thrown at each other by the concerned parties. All of which are matters for a court room adjudication.
The basic problem this country is facing is the lack of the rule of law and this is, obviously, as a result of not applying the law equally to all citizens. With no disrespect to any one, it is very embarrassing and saddening to see the police officers in uniform being threatened and abused by monks in public. The sheepishness of the police officers in the face of such intimidation and obstruction of their police duties is a definite poor show. The reason being that they first pay obeisance to the monk who is violating the law. Then they start to negotiate a way out. However, if it was a normal citizen Perera they would deal with him differently.
This behaviour of the policemen has given the moral upper hand to the extremist elements. The first thing they do is to make sure that they have a monk who is participating in whatever activities they are engaged in. Alternatively, summon the presence of monks after an incident has taken place. This is an assurance for them that they will not be harmed by the police.
Those studying human behavioural patterns may find it interesting to analyse the following ethnic classification of events. For example, (1) a road accident involving two people both not Muslims is a normal occurrence not worthy of any extra attention. (2) If one of the parties is a Muslim, then it deserves all the extra attention one can muster irrespective of whether the Muslim was right or wrong. (3) If one of the parties is a Muslim and the Muslim is the victim, then there is no need of any extra attention.
In the Negombo incident one man was killed and several others seriously injured on a Poya day and, that too, for objecting to the assailants demanding to consume liquor on that sacred day. It was not a matter of much interest for Gnanasara Thero and his ilk to interfere. The reason being it fell into the third category of the above classification. All were Muslims and probably disposables. In contrast, the quarrel in the School in Kandy attracted the attention of Gnanasara thero. The female security guard and the Principal were all not Muslims. The reason for this, as per the above classification, is because it fell into the second category. As if an enlightened one is descending from the heavens hey presto Gnanasara thero is in the scene. The self-proclaimed saviour of the Sinhala race, the saviour of the Sasana, the saviour of Buddhism. This column will not venture to write about him as volumes have already been written in these pages about Gnanasara Thero and his credentials.
Ethnic Time Bomb
For the maestros in deception; the scheming misinterpreters; the fake protectors; the instigating masterminds, the irrational fear and ignorance of the people are the fuel to inflame an otherwise normal situation. The way a given situation is turned into a communal issue is clear evidence of the time bomb on which the Muslim community is sitting on. This also speaks a lot about the mental state of the extremist elements which unfortunately, is shared by some of the so called, ‘monks’.
These people submit to take refuge in the Enlightened Buddha. They submit to take refuge in the Noble Dhamma and sadly, they submit to take refuge in the Sangha, in this case, the Sangha who are misleading them away from the Buddha and the Dhamma. And, not taking refuge in the respected and honourable Sangha. One venerable thero recently asked me a question, the logic of which I never realised. The venerable said, “how can a person wearing this sivura, go about in expensive vehicles, have a following of people to back him up etc. without being funded by whoever?”
The Real Saviour
The present senior DIG for Central Province Mr. Roshan Fernando took immediate steps to avert what would have become the genesis of another Digana massacre, coincidentally in March 2018, in the hill capital. In that instance, the matter can be classed under the second classification above. It was a normal squabble which was not racially motivated. However, it was turned into a communal conflict with devastating consequences. The infamous Ampitiye Sumana Thero and Gnanasara Thero visited the funeral house prior to the destruction and killing that took place.
To know that there are Officers of the calibre of Mr. Roshan Fernando is like a silver lining in a dark cloud especially, when much of hopes have been lost. All senior officers in the Police must stand tall with confidence, fortitude and protect their dignity as Policemen. The juniors will automatically follow in the footsteps of their seniors. For us, we look forward to a proud and strong Police which will treat all equally and provide security for the citizens of this nation.
As part of President Gotabaya’s promise to strengthen the safety, peace and security of every citizen, it would augur well if the President may direct the relevant authorities to hold an inquiry into the incident. The architects of twisting a normal incident into a racially motivated one should be brought to justice. An irresponsible misadventure which could have caused immense loss to the entire country. Such a swift inquiry would serve as a lesson for those who are hell bent in disrupting normal civilian life.