“No individual, community or group has the right to take the law into its own hands, and/or to wreak vengeance against real or imagined grievance, as in the most recent instance of communal violence,” says the Federation of University Teachers (FUTA).
We publish below the statement in full:
FUTA is very concerned about the systematic rise in collective intolerance and antagonism among Sri Lanka’s ethnic, religious and cultural groups, which has, inevitably, led to hatred and violence, most recently in Digana, from where it has spread to other areas in the central region. FUTA joins all reasonable citizens of this country who believe that violence is never a solution to any problem. In addition, polarization on the basis of ethnicity, religion, culture or community will destroy the very fabric of this country which must be based on the equal partnership, at every level, of all communities, ethnicities, cultures, language speakers, as well as people of every region and location.
No individual, community or group has the right to take the law into its own hands, and/or to wreak vengeance against real or imagined grievance, as in the most recent instance of communal violence. In this respect, the majority community should be most vigilant to ensure that it is not seen as imposing a dominant view or values on others by virtue of its numerical and political superiority over other groups. Hence, the spreading and sharing of hate-filled rumours and stories that are designed to create suspicion and animosity against different groups must be dealt with severely by the authorities, just as ordinary people must roundly ignore such rumour-mongering which uses social media and word-of-mouth to spread its venom. It is especially important that clergy of all religions, who command unquestioned authority from the faithful in their care, should refrain from any and all inflammatory and vituperative statements that incite people to hatred and violence. No one who fans the flames of violence should be immune from full and fair prosecution by the law.
Regrettably, the Government’s inability, even reluctance, to enforce the law strongly and impartially against perpetrators of such communal violence, as well as against their instigators who seek economic and political advantage by using both ordinary people and goons as their pawns in this dangerous game, has led to the serious escalation of communal tensions and increased outbreaks of gratuitous violence and destruction on the flimsiest of excuses. Impunity, as we have seen in the past, is always an incentive to further violence and violation of law and order. FUTA demands of the State that it immediately cracks down on all parties, from whatever side they come, and, after due process, prosecutes all wrong-doers irrespective of ethnicity, vocation, political connections, social influence and wealth. Just as the perpetrators and backers of violence are wrong, so too are those protect them through inaction or cowardice to enforce the law without fear or favour.
It is FUTA’s considered view that even the labeling of groups of people as “majority” and “minority” purely in terms of population percentages is detrimental to true pluralism and diversity with dignity and equality for all Sri Lankans. We must recognise real differences amongst us, without feeling threatened or devaluing our diversity in any way. We have no right to impose our values and beliefs on others, nor to expect others to conform to our ways of being, whether we have a higher population or feel that we have no other place to go. Tolerance and respect for others who are different are cornerstones of all our religions and cultures in Sri Lanka. The core truth is that despite these political and ideological agendas that plot to divide us, we share human rights, economic, gender, political, environmental, sectoral/vocational and other concerns that cut across these arbitrary communal divisions, and are more important for our collective development and continued well-being. Let us hold the Government accountable to ensure that there is no more senseless violence among our people. Let us band together to root out communal violence and divisive politics from our country from today onwards.
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