By Hilmy Ahamed –
Two years have passed since the pogrom of Aluthgama, the black June for the Muslims in Sri Lanka. The government of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe (Yahapalanaya) has done sweet nothing for those affected by extremist violence in Aluthgama and Beruwela. Demands for a commission of inquiry on religious hate and to punish the perpetrators have fallen on deaf years. The government is only interested in appeasing the international community in Geneva with regard to the conflict in the North. The culprits of Aluthgama continue to roam freely, and are beginning to regroup. They will unleash hate once more.
Harin Fernando, the Minister of Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure revealed in parliament that the convener of the Ravana Balaya Ven. Iththakande Saddhatissa Thero, had been provided three vehicles by former Minister Wimal Weerawansa’s Ministry of Housing Development. This was at a cost of Rs. 2 million a year. He said this in parliament during the debate on the no confidence motion against Hon. Ravi Karunanayake. These perks and privileges had been given to these extremists from our tax money, paid without a doubt through dubious means. What were Ven. Iththakande Saddhatissa Thero’s responsibilities at the Ministry of Housing Development to merit three vehicles?
Ven. Iththakande Saddhatissa Thero is one of the most militant and extremist Buddhist monks in the hate campaign against the Evangelical Christians and Muslims. The Defense Ministry during the Rajapaksa era too has been accused of providing land rovers and other high end luxury vehicles to the instigators of the Aluthgama violence, the Bodu Bala Sena and Ven. Galagoda Atete Gnanasara Thero. Two Muslims lost their lives, hundreds were injured and hospitalized, and billions worth of business and property were destroyed in this violence two years ago. The government has not taken any initiatives to inquire and arrest those responsible for this communal violence.
Buddhist religious leaders and their places of worship probably need state patronage where true Buddhism is preached and practiced. What right do these extremist Monks who unleashed so much violence against the minorities have, to enjoy perks and privileges from state institutions? Is it not time for the government of Yahapalanaya to investigate these excesses committed by politicians or government officials and punish them for financial irregularities? Have they followed financial policy guidelines? If they cannot prove with evidence as to how they provided these facilities from state institutions to those who were not directly involved with the administration, they would be guilty as charged. What was the service these monks rendered to government institutions? There would not be a need for extensive investigations or proof of misuse by the FCID, CID or other investigating mechanisms. The evidence would be there in black and white. Money and services have been extended to private persons without any service rendered in return. The politicians of the previous regime seems to have done well in hiding their tracks and now fingers are pointed at the public officials who had approved and made illegal payments from various government institutions. For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, there is the possibility of punishing public servants for being political stooges. If enforced, this would ensure that future public servants would not be party to politicking with public funds.
Several public servants are rumored to be signing petitions threatening the government that if investigations are carried out against their administrative lapses during the reign of president Mahinda Rajapaksa, they would resign. There is no doubt that they probably committed irregularities due to the political pressure brought about by their ministers or from the Presidential secretariat of Mahinda Rajapaksa. But as public servants, they are not beyond the law or financial responsibility. And if they have funded extremist groups to intimidate fellow citizens, the full force of the law needs to be enforced.
With the new wave of racism reemerging, there is a need to reign in the extremists. They caused so much of violence against the minorities under the Rajapaksa regime, that the war-winning President lost his 3rd term attempt at the presidency due to the Muslim and Tamil communities voting against him. The Bodu Bala Sena, Ravana Balaya and Sinhala Ravaya were allowed to cause violence towards the minority communities with impunity under the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime since the end of the war. Regretfully, these same vigilante Buddhist monks are beginning to intimidate and threaten the minority communities again as if they are the enforcers of law and order. The regime change in January 2015 saw a major reduction in the incidents of hate reported. The Secretariat for Muslims (SFM), a research and documentation organisation recorded 537 incidents of intimidation, hate and violence against the Muslim community during the last three years of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) too recorded over 500 incidents against the evangelical Christian community by Buddhist extremists, led mostly by monks. Most of these attacks were against their Prayer Centres and Churches. These vigilante groups complained that the local authorities have not granted approval for prayer meetings or any church activity in the private buildings of the church. They continued to take the law in to their hands and enforce strictures as if the local government officials do not exist. The police allowed them to act with impunity.
Recently, we saw the revival of these protests by a couple of dozen protestors outside the Kandy Malay mosque near the former Bogambara prison. They claimed that the Minaret that was being constructed could be taller than the Sri Dalada Maligawa. Minion men in robes once again led the protest.
The Minaret is not a religious symbol, and is of architectural value only. It is similar to a dome or the pinnacle of a Dagabo.
If there has been a breech of any law or building guidelines by the mosque in Kandy, it is the local government authorities or the law enforcement agencies that should have stopped the construction and not these vigilantes.
Failure of the police and government authorities to control these alarming vigilante actions could lead to major violence. All it takes is a little spark, and all hell would break loose.
While all citizens should respect the law and order irrespective of their religious or social standing, the authorities and law enforcement arm of the government should ensure that justice is provided to all the citizens of Sri Lanka equally.