The Rajapaksa regime has officially confirmed it is in fact in agreement with a position taken recently by the State newspaper Daily News and its Editor Rajpal Abeynayake, by issuing a statement claiming that many of the religious worship targeted in mob attacks were those operating in violation of the guidelines governing the establishment of such place. “ It has generally been found that these incidents have been a reaction on the part of the community resident in those areas,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in its rebuttal of remarks by visiting US Assistant Secretary of State on South and Central Asian Affairs.
“With respect to incidents that have raised concerns the minister observed that in many instances the facilities concerned were not mosques or churches but makeshift prayer centers whose operations had irked relevant communities. He pointed out that there are laws regarding the establishment of places of religious worship,” Minister G.L. Peiris said, according to the Nation Newspaper.
Biswal had underscored concerns about continuing religious intolerance and attacks on mosques and churches in Sri Lanka during her concluding press briefing yesterday.
In response, the External Affairs Ministry said that attributing blame to the government for these incidents was totally unwarranted. “While legal action has been taken with regard to some incidents, others have been settled amicably. Therefore, the criticism is grossly disproportionate and politically motivated,” the Ministry said.
The sentiments echo the reasoning by Abeynayake who recently authored an editorial in the Rajapaksa state newspaper Daily News, alleging genocide against the Sinhalese people. “For example the Sinhala majority in this country is often not permitted to do anything tangible about aggressive proselytization which is carried on through the twin instruments of unethical conversions and the illegal or barely legal establishment of churches etc., on ground that was previously occupied by Buddhist temples, or on property that has simply not been authorized for the purpose of establishing places of religious worship,” Abeynayake’s editorial in January said.
Neither the Daily News nor the Sri Lankan Government appear to comprehend that the excuses being made for mob violence are tantamount to justifying the attacks against minority religions. In the case of the Hikkaduwa church attacks for instance, the most recent case, the “community” in the area were claiming that the churches were operating in violation of an October 2008 circular issued by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, making reference to places of religious worship set up with effect from that date, claiming they would need authorisation from the Ministry. However, both churches had been in operation since the late 1990s.