25 October, 2020

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Lessons From Black July And The Recommendations Of The LLRC

By Jayantha Dhanapala and Rev. Jayasiri T. Peiris On behalf of Friday Forum

Jayantha Dhanapala

Lessons From Black July For Law And Order And Tolerance 

This week we remember with deep regret, shame and sadness, the Black July of 1983, now chosen to be forgotten in history. Many factors paved the way for the incidents that took place during the 1983 Black July. We remember the intensifying hate campaigns, the terrorism and the ever increasing tensions between the ethnic groups that preceded black July and the thirty year war this led to.  During this long period of hate and war citizens of this country were subject to terror and unimaginable destruction was caused to life and property. It is consequently important that we should be of one mind and collectively learn from the lessons of this evil and traumatic experience so that similar mistakes will not be repeated now or in the future. It is regrettable that in spite of the destructive war, many seem to have failed to learn lessons from this sad period in our history and continue to promote hatred among different ethnic and religious groups.

During the last few months, we have come to learn through the media that certain groups in our country have embarked on another hate campaign that could cause harm to our country. This hate campaign is based on religious grounds. Hate and violence are advocated, suspicion is brewing and citizens of this country are being estranged from one another. A few individuals and groups have taken the law into their own hands, in a manner detrimental to the welfare of this country and its citizens. It is our view that some of the speeches made by certain individuals are not only against the tenets of true religion  but also against  Article 10 of the Sri Lankan Constitution. This article guarantees the freedom of religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion of choice for every citizen. We firmly believe that no person is above the law.

According to our understanding the threats and attacks that have been launched against places of worship of Muslims and Christians are incompatible with the core teachings of all religions -and are detrimental to the peaceful co-existence among our communities. This hate campaign should stop immediately if we are to move forward as a nation that has overcome selective violence. If not the chances are that we may end up a failed state. All four major religions in our country have spiritual values that promote peaceful co-existence and respect for all. True followers of these religions should be guided by their respective teachings.

The primary responsibility to protect citizens from intimidation, threats and violence lies with the government as we have stated in our earlier statements. If the government continually fails to take adequate steps to protect and safeguard minority groups, then we are compelled to arrive at the conclusion that the government itself encourages religious conflict. The government cannot be blind to the fact that lawlessness, deliberate fostering of ethno-religious tensions and the impunity given to those who indulge in these acts is extremely short sighted and will undermine social trust and harmony as well as the economic wellbeing of the country

We, as members of the Friday Forum, wrote to the President in early March this year urging him to act immediately and decisively to counter the increasing venomous anti- Muslim campaign by a few extremists. To the best of our knowledge, the President has not taken any action in this regard. Threats and attacks directed against Muslims and Christians and other minority groups have now increased. At the UNHRC meetings held in March 2013, the Sri Lankan delegation stated that the Justice Ministry was drafting legislation that would address ethno-religious grievances especially of the minority communities. We are yet to know what these are.

When the Prohibition of Religious Conversions Bill was debated a few years back, the Congress of Religions proposed the setting up of an Inter-Religious Council to resolve tensions between religious groups.  We consider that the creation of such an Inter-Religious Council is timely. Aggrieved parties would thus be able to bring their complaints before such a Council for redress.

The Friday Forum urge the President and the government to  implement without further delay and with commitment, the recommendations of the LLRC which specifically address issues that characterized three decades of bitter internecine conflict and seek to prevent the re- emergence of civil strife. The recommendations of the LLRC relating to Inter-faith Harmony & Confidence Building are detailed in the annexure.

We appeal to all people to live by the true Dhamma in each of their religions, to the political leadership to uphold the Constitution specially Article 10 and to religious leaders to take a firm public stand on behalf of inter-religious co-existence so that our people may be enriched by the presence of the other.

Jayantha Dhanapala                                                          Rev. Jayasiri T. Peiris

On behalf of Friday Forum, the Group of Concerned Citizens

Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala, Reverend Dr. Jayasiri T. Peiris, Ms. Anne Abayasekara, Rt. Reverend Duleep de Chickera, Professor Arjuna Aluwihare, Mr. Faiz-ur Rahman, Mr. Danesh Casie Chetty, Dr. A. C. Visvalingam, Mr. Javid Yusuf, Mr. J. C. Weliamuna, Professor Ranjini Obeyesekere, Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda, Ms. Shanthi Dias, Mr. Prashan De Visser, Ms. Damaris Wickremesekera, Dr. Deepika Udagama, Mr. Mahen Dayananda, Dr. Devanesan Nesiah  Mr. Chandra Jayaratne,

Recommendations of the LLRC relating to Inter-faith Harmony & Confidence Building

                       “The Government should establish an independent institution to address the grievances  of all citizens, in particular the minorities, arising from the abuse of power by public officials and
other individuals involved in the governance of this country;” (8.201)
“Interfaith Reconciliation and Peace Committees may be established at District and Provincial levels to provide grass root level inputs to implement measures aimed at inter-ethnic and inter- religious harmony; (8.204)
“A good faith effort should be launched to develop consensus on devolution to devolve to the periphery, especially at grass roots levels to the maximum possible extent, as well as power sharing at the centre:”  (8.225)
“The learning of each other’s languages should be made a  compulsory part of the school curriculum. Every attempt must be made to create a sense of belonging irrespective of race, religion or social status;”  ” All relevant curricula should infuse a strong sense of equal national       entitlement and belonging to the various communities in Sri Lanka;” (8.254)
-“The Government should encourage mixed schools serving children from different  ethnic  religious backgrounds;” (8.250)
-The Commission observed that ‘hate speech’ had contributed to major communal disharmony and recommended that deterrent laws must be enacted to deal with inflammatory speech
relating to ethnicity religion and literature. (8.302)
-The Commission strongly feels that the Security Forces and law enforcement agencies must work as agents of change in assisting people to fully harness and enjoy the right to freely
engage in observing their religion and other freedoms such as freedom of association and
movement. (9.116)

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Latest comments

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    All this will not be necessary if we could establish the rule of law. The problem is that we do not seem able to do so.

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    Dear Jayantha Dhanapala and Rev. Jayasiri T. Peiris,

    The problem of anti -Tamil, -Muslim or -Christian actions are not a recent phenomenon.

    After independence in 1948, when estate Tamil population were deprived of citizenship rights, the problem has already been started by the State.

    Colonization of the Tamil homeland in the North-East was started by D S Senanayake even before independence to the unhappiness of the Tamils.

    These are the early sowing of ethnic disharmony, by nobody other than the Sinhalese-dominated state.

    Do you remember the moves against the Burgers, Malayalees and even the Catholics? These were the early symptoms of lack of nation building, ethnic discrimination.

    Then came the Sinhala only bill by the state, followed by the tearing up of the B-C pact. This pact would have served to preserve the unity of the country, but there was no statesmanship.

    Then came the 1958 anti-Tamil riots with severe loss of life and property to Tamils.

    In 1961, 1977, and in 1983 more and more intense anti-Tamil pogroms followed when thousands died – all of them were state sponsored with the aiding and abetting of the armed forces and the police.

    In reaction to all these serial genocidal activities of the state and its agents, Tamil youth took up armed resistance, which lasted until 2009. In 2009 the state committed genocide of 70 thousand or more Tamils in revenge.

    From the failed B-C pact in 1958, Tamil politicians are still trying to find an amicable settlement, but the Sinhalese-dominated state continues with vengeance its genocidal agenda.

    Hindu temples are replaced with Buddhist ones in several places.
    Armed forces occupy Tamil peoples’ lands, and gobbling up even more.

    This is the background to the happenings you are talking about, i.e., attacks on Mosques and Muslim businesses, and Christian churches.

    It’s crystal clear the state is behind all these actions anti -Tamil, -Muslim and -Christian activities.

    How many of the culprits since 1956 anti-Tamil pogroms onwards have been prosecuted, let alone punished. Have the victims received compensation from the state?

    Don’t you think the state has failed long ago: it’s only further descending into hell-fire?

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    continuation.

    Nothing is to be gained by pleading to the state actors – the state is not democratic, it’s not just and is decadent morally. The state and its cronies act with impunity. Nothing can be salvaged from it.

    We need to find salvation for the people from elsewhere!

    R2P must be implemented.

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      In a decades time, the version of events will be repeated and the list
      extended. The Forum only makes an analysis from time to time of things
      well know to the Public, to State Authorities, marking time.

      It is high time that the Government must be made to be frightened of
      its Voters and not the other way around.

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      Well said Thiru

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    ‘protecting and safeguarding minority groups’. This is obviously not happening anymore. Those of us who lived through July 1983 and the years before must feel an incredible sense of ‘deja vu’. Will this country and GOSL never learn!

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    Well written.

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    Our worst enemies are these self appointed pundits and the aspirants striving to join the bandwagon of world forums bent on propagating imperialist hegemony over the small and many resourceful countries. These people thrive on colonial prejudices.

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      Talk to your self. What the hell is colonial about what it said in this article?

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    We have a history of six decades where racial and religious hatred against other religions by the majority community in this country. The constitutional protection has never been considered and the state itself has violated the constitution and all the institutions including parliament, law and order, security and justice system failed in its duty. Even the so called professional and Diplomats co-operated with racial politicians. It is too late to cry now when the situation has gone out of control. We all know that only LTTE had the power to stop such behavior. There was no racism between 1983 and 2009.

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    This man – Jayantha Dhanapala – is not aware of how other Sri Lankans visualize him.

    Now, he shows how cheap he is.

    Look like he is a Christian and is supporting the Church.

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      Jim softy, while you accuse others as cheap Christians or traitors to the country, for trying to promote reconciliation giving recognition to the minorities as well, which is nothing but a pre-requiusite to any civilized society, have you for a moment thought if you had been born to the minority, would you have been spitting venom in this fashion as you have displayed in almost every comment of yours, in this Web site. Although you may believe you are a Buddhist, you are not, as the Buddha never left a Register for you to claim as a Buddhist, nor to fight on behalf of Buddhism as you are no custodian. Neither can I claim to be a Buddhist myself, as I am only a follower of the doctrine. You appear an Olcott/Anagarika Buddhist with a label, but certainly not a Sinhala Buddhist for that matter. Except a few of your calibre, the majority who practice the Philosophy Buddhism in this country gave refuge to the minority Tamils when they were attacked by your ilk in ’83 risking one’s life and property. If not many more thousands of Tamils would have been butchered by you Olcott Buddhists. I gave refuge to two Tamil families. I am happy to see their children doing well in life today in foreign climes while your ilk are killing each other and you from overseas are fueling strife here. How would you like if you as a migrant in your domiciled country bring in restrictions to deny your rights as human beings, merely because you are an immigrant? The readership here would like an honest, frank reply?

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        Jayantha dhanapala is showing really who he is.

        That is all.

        I have seen how he is going behind the POPE expecting he would become the UN – CHIEF. They did not care him.

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    Thank you Sir for highlighting that we have In-Fact chosen to forget 83

    When the shameless MR government chooses to make an annual event of this Victory day parade, they don’t have the compassion and human qualities to even recognize the tragedy that caused this. Surely as the President who defeated the LTTE and on whom History has entrusted the task of reconciliation, it is his responsibility to make such moves.

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    What they did in Mahyangana and Kuliyapitiya even Israelis didn’t do against muslims.

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      Don’t be an idiot.

      Google and see.

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    Clearly justice is selective, nothing new…decades of violence of mass murder (JVP, 83, LTTE), state sponsored thuggery (1980 strike, 1982 referendum – Naxalites ), election violence and ballot stuffing, corrupt judiciary and police and now the utterly politicised military has led to a state of absolute fear of life by the ordinary citizen which is further compounded by an impotent opposition leadership. We owe it to those who laid down their lives in the name of peace to fight for a better SL

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    What does LLRC have to do with 1983 riots?

    When this forum fellows sitting merry in Colombo think they are big shots and issue statements – they must be fools to think the people will listen to them.

    JD is nothing but a yes man to so many that he thinks we have forgotten what he’s up to.

    What JD needs to do is to send this letter to the UNP – what he needs to do if he is so concerned about reconciliation is to tell the wrold that the SINHALESE did not take part in this attack but thugs of the UNP did… there’s a big difference.

    By claiming to be angels of reconciliation and taking every opportunity to point fingers at the Sinhalese Buddhists… JD is simply throwing mud at himself and those clowns in his forum

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    Churches are always for divisions and neve support unity.

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      If they are united why they have 38000 or more different “denominations”.

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    The Friday Forum which is a body of liberal intellectuals must realize, in their wisdom, that their periodic statements are ineffective, and aside from assuaging their conscience, no tangible results can be achieved. Writing to the President is like pouring water on a duck’s back. The President is no reader, he hates to read anything. It is better to arrange for a regular dialogue with him to meet face to face once in three months or so. Apart from taking up arms, heaven forbid, I am sure there are other ways to achieve your admirable goals!

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      well said, but this is atleast something

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    I believe this Friday Forum without limiting their activity to discussions alone should venture to promote a Political leadership to achieve the common goal for all citizens in this country. As we all know our polity was divided between the two main Political parties the UNP and the SLFP after Independence on Govt. Policy. The UNP was considered the Capitalist party and the SLFP was considered a Socialist Party for the poor only of the country which they openly advertised calling the West, Rapacious Imperialists. Their main Political slogan was ‘Down with Capitalism’. Ironically, although the UNP was identified as the Capitalist Party, the UNP had the largest vote base as a single party where in the population the Capitalists constituted a marginal 8% to 10% and the rest were the poor peasants. I believe the majority poor peasants stuck with the UNP because the UNP did a lot to the poor peasants by providing land to the land less, water for irrigation and welfare measures to the poor once again. The SLFP drew a smaller crowd and they could never form a govt on their own as all the poor did not swallow their bait, not even being offered free rice from the moon. However the SLFP led govts the main concern had been to destabilize the UNP and it’s support base, more than doing something for the Poor in the country. Certainly the Poor SLFP Politicians and their Party cadre benefited from the State coffers more than the poor masses of the country. One could see from the life styles of the present SLFP politicians who were mere nobodies then, are the wealthiest in society today. Strangely they never shout today, “Down with Capitalism’. In the interim there crept another lot of poor through the UNP, who also helped themselves with State funds to out beat their predecessor Capitalists in the UNP. All in all, Politics have paid rich dividends to these non pods from both sides, including the Left breed as well, to bleed the country.

    Today like in the past there are no two economic policies in the country. Capitalist and Socialist. There is one common Economic Policy that both the UNP and the SLFP led coalitions follow. That is a Private sector led Economy with the State providing the Infrastructure. What is important is to have in such a scenario, is a person with credibility and integrity to maintain Law and Order and Discipline in the country as the LEADER. This is the main cry and grievance that the majority of citizens of all hue, in this country have today, let them be UNP, SLFP or the Left oriented. The majority are sick of the present Corrupt, Murderous SLFP leadership with equally corrupt, murderous of the UNP as Ministers in the UPFA govt. Therefore without fooling ourselves with false prejudices and beating about the bush, we all have to put our shoulders behind the only person who have a semblance of the qualities that I have mentioned for a Leader to have, to pull this country out of the mess we are in, that is RANIL WICKREMASINGHE. So I earnestly request for this Friday Forum to put aside all differences and personal pride behind and have a dialogue with him and come out openly for the masses to follow and give leadership before it is too late. If not we will have to blame ourselves and not others. Let us learn from the past and our mistakes. Remember the known Devil is better than the unknown Angel.

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      Gamini@,
      I am so glad to see you are back.

      quoting from yours:

      a)So I earnestly request for this Friday Forum to put aside all differences and personal pride behind and have a dialogue with him and come out openly for the masses to follow and give leadership before it is too late

      THE EDUCATED MASSES WILL APLAUDE THIS. MANY OF THEM ARE SPEECHLESS TODAY. NOT KNOWING ANY WAYOUTS.

      b)Remember the known Devil is better than the unknown Angel

      THOSE WHO OPPOSE TO RW HAVE TO STUDY THE SITUATION WITH MUCH MORE CONCENTRATION, WHO ELSE WE HAVE LEFT IN THE COUNTRY TO LEAD THE NATION FOR THE FUTURE?

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    Church is a business enterprise.

    Now, it’s clientele are going down in the western world. So, they are looking for more in Asia.

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    When I read this article this is the typical way of Christians. They set fore here and there and say see that side it is in flames and it is a bad place and come to our side.

    I have seen how immigrant religions are cornered by the Christians. I know it very well.

    Otherwise, Jayantha Dhanapala can prove whether the racial riots had not happened in Great Britain, USA and in other countries of EUROPE. Besides, Jayantha Dhanapala should remember how Protestants and Catholics are fighting and showing each others arrogance in Ireland. Ireland is not the only country like that. Even though, it did go to the brutal violence side, I have seen the same in some places, which I don’t name here, in North America.

    I have seen at least how the division in Indian – religion was used by christians to show how good that they are.

    This article is against BBS and to promote Christianity.

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      only a dumb mutt can draw such stupid conclusions from this article

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