1 November, 2020

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Six Months On: Easter Tragedy Forgotten, Muslims Demonised & The Culprits Still At Large 

By Mohamed Harees

Lukman Harees

Six months ago, in the wake of extremely shocking scenes relating to the Easter Sunday massacre, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called on Sri Lanka’s government to “mercilessly” punish those responsible “because only animals can behave like that”. Both religious and world leaders strongly condemned these barbaric attacks as affronts to the universal values and freedoms. The attacks bore little similarity to the violence of the civil war, but initial investigations pointed out that this gory spectacle had echoes of mass ISIS terror attacks around the world in recent years. As the nation on a panic mode and armed forces mobilized to maintain law and order and to hunt for the so-called ISIS indoctrinated culprits, a serious lapse of responsibility was adduced to the government of Sri Lanka, which had been previously warned of the threat. Six months on, while hundreds of affected families are crying out for justice, a demented nation is continuing to pay Pooja to the top guns in both the present and the previous governments, who were clearly responsible for allowing this tragedy to happen, in the run-up to the November elections. Tales of woe appears to be left in limbo as the Election heats catches on.

This massacre indeed represented a massive security failure by the Sri Lankan state. Parliamentary Select Committee(PSC) Report also supported this position thus; ‘Following the attacks, evidence emerged that prior intelligence information was available regarding the impending attack but that it was not acted upon’. The PSC further notes, that whilst the greatest responsibility remains with the Director SIS, others too failed in their duties. Within the security and intelligence apparatus, the Secretary MOD, IGP, CNI and DMI failed in their responsibilities. All were informed of the intelligence information prior to the Easter Sunday attacks but failed to take necessary steps to mitigate or prevent it. 

Woefully, large-scale terrorist attacks destroy lives, but they also have the power to upend political realities and the dastardly Easter Sunday attacks were no exception. The actions of the perpetrators did send political shockwaves across Sri Lanka, whatever the larger objectives of the perpetrators were. The political reverberations of the attacks were almost immediate. Within hours of the bloodshed, infighting within the government burst into public view. That simmering animosities within the Sri Lanka’s divided Post- Oct 2018 government pitting MS against RW, clearly accounted for the massive failures of intelligence and policing, made the news even worse. People were understandably appalled, who blamed the government as “guilty of culpable homicide,” from its “reckless approach towards the affairs of state.” 

RW’s allies all but blamed MS for the failure to stop the attacks, saying the former was kept in the dark. It was indeed Sri Lanka’s internecine Game of Thrones-style rivalries for control – a political system in which violence, conflict and even decisions of peace and war are often part of a much wider battle! Waiting in the wings was MR, the hawkish strongman who took much political advantage of the government’s inefficiency. Thus, the bombing and its aftermath appear to be shaped by Sri Lanka’s very messy politics and history. As Alan Keenan in a ‘International crisis group (ICG) report says: ‘A better-functioning national government might not have thwarted the Easter atrocities, but political and personal battles at senior levels contributed to government complacency and weakened the ability of the security services to detect and prevent the attacks…. Theories about collusion between government officials and the attackers are given added potency by claims from some officials that military intelligence under the Rajapaksa government worked closely with various Tawhid groups, both as informants and, reportedly, as agents provocateurs, to provide targets for radical Buddhist groups’ agitations’. 

The forthcoming presidential election has only increased the sense of growing polarisation. It was not surprising that MR’s camp chose to exploit the situation by keeping the tension alive. Within days of the bombings, Gotabaya Rajapaksa indicated his intention to contest for presidency and now he highlights security issues in his election campaign. He has also been endorsing Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith’s call for an independent commission to investigate the security failures that led to the attacks. However, humorously, in a recent TV interview, Keheliya Rambukwella admitted that former MR government has financed Muslim extremists like Zahrans to act as informants. These type of statements as well as the dismal failure of this Yahapalana government have further weakened public trust in the Post- war governments and fed political divisions. Narcissist MS was also salvaging his political career, by trying to curry favour with Sinhala Buddhist nationalists. One such stroke was the pardoning of Gnanasara Thero who was in jail for contempt of court, who had also been a leading actor in the Post war anti-Muslim hate campaign. This hate monk joined another- Ratana Thero to spread fear within the Muslim community after the Easter attack, which led to the mass resignations of Muslim Ministers and Governors. 

Then the question of the extent of culpability of the Muslim political leaders in respect of the Easter disaster also surfaced in the public domain. Three of them –Minister Rishard  and Governors Hisbullah and Azath Salley were forced to resign in the face of accusations by Sinhalese hardliners followed by a fast-unto death by Ratana Thero,  that they shielded or assisted the Easter attackers. However , the accusations were found to be unfounded after Police investigations. Both Muslim political and religious leaders like ACJU pointed out that as the behaviour of Zaharan and his extremist elements grew more provocative and ultimately violent, many of them warned police; but no action were taken. Some writers alleged that local Muslims have been silent observers, tacit supporters and active apologists of these extremist groups. However, the ICJ Report challenges this view. Firstly, it would have been difficult to anticipate the transition Zaharan made from “a religious leader who was drawing Muslim youth with his sharp debates on religion, to a militant. Secondly,  understanding the violence and hard-line Muslim attitudes that may have driven the Easter bombings requires a wider lens than “Wahhabism”. Thirdly, Muslim leaders may also have felt constrained from policing practices in their own communities given the hostility they faced in the post-war period.

In the post-Easter period, hard-line Buddhist nationalist lobby who has been accused of fostering ethnic divisions and of carrying out their own attacks on churches, rose up once again in full vigour to re-orchestrate the anti- Muslim hate campaign  which had peaks during both MR and Yahapalana governments. Although the attackers ,like Zahran were fringe actors in a community that has been notably peaceful amid Sri Lanka’s political turmoil, racist politicians and Sinhalese nationalists have used the bombings to justify actions that have harassed and humiliated the broader Muslim community. They were pushing for the Muslims to collectively assume guilt for the growing “extreme”.  As Alan Keenan in ICG report says, ‘The government has allowed militant Sinhalese groups purportedly defending Buddhism to ramp up their post-war anti-Muslim campaign of economic boycotts, media pressure, and organised violence with impunity. The months since the Easter bombings have seen island-wide boycotts of Muslim businesses, vigilante attacks on women wearing hijab, and old and new media rumour campaigns by Sinhala nationalist groups alleging Muslim plots to sterilise Sinhalese women. Two days of devastating riots targeting Muslim businesses and mosques in mid-May raised fears of an island-wide pogrom like the July 1983 anti-Tamil riots that led to all-out war. ..Given that members of the small group behind the Easter bombings all appear to be dead or arrested, public fears of further jihadist attacks in the short term have receded. But with dysfunction in the security services left largely unaddressed, and the country’s political and Sinhalese Buddhist religious leadership either oblivious or indifferent to the ill will they may be sowing with the nation’s law-abiding Muslim citizens, Sri Lanka is nonetheless taking steps down a dangerous path. It is past time to reverse course, lower communal tensions and focus on the critical and unfinished work of knitting together a fractured country’.

PSC Report also notes that ‘several politicians made comments subsequent to the Easter Sunday attacks which were inflammatory and irresponsible’,  ‘that speeches that incite hate and racism, by politicians, religious leaders and others, are extremely dangerous and must be independently investigated and individuals held to account. Inaction will only exacerbate the impunity and contribute to further hate and fear in Sri Lanka’.  

It was really pathetic that the Yahapalana government leaders including RW did little to challenge the aggressive political and rhetorical attacks on the Muslims and reassure them, except Rajitha and Mangala. As Alan Keenan echoes in the ICG Report, ‘This lacklustre show of support for the nation’s Muslims reflects a clear political calculus: the UNP, which has traditionally benefited from Muslim support in elections, is hesitant to challenge the anti-Muslim campaign too strongly, for fear of losing Sinhala voters to the more nationalist opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabaya. But some analysts note that in so doing they may be taking Muslim support too much for granted, and that significant numbers of Muslims may choose not to vote or decide it is safer to support the Rajapaksas in the coming election’.   

This type of government apathy led to well-established Sinhala Buddhist militant groups launching major attacks on Muslim businesses, homes and mosques in Puttalam, Kurunegala and Gampaha districts in May 2019. This was not spontaneous retaliation for the Easter attacks, but a continuation of the years-long and orchestrated anti-Muslim campaign in Post war Sri Lanka. Rumours and unfounded allegations began to spread through both traditional and social media, fanning popular fears and prompting more arbitrary arrests under ICCPR. Mazahima who wore a dharma chakraya like dress was one victim of malicious detention. The more famous case was that of Dr Shafi ,who was wrongly accused of sterilizing Sinhala women. Ratana Thero  mounted a campaign of attacks against Dr. Shafi in the media for attempting to destroy the Sinhala Race, as well as alleged links to terrorists and to Minister Rishard, who had also been the subject of a similar campaign. He has since been exonerated by the CID and the Courts. Further, Post- Easter boycott campaign has been causing considerably greater damage to Muslim shopkeepers and businesses across the island, than earlier attempts. Adding insult to injury, public remarks made by the chief priest of the Asgiriya chapter to “unite as Sinhalese and as Buddhists” against Muslim expansionism and endorsing the Rajapaksas return to power in the upcoming presidential election, showed debased political games at play. There was also a concerted campaign against Muslim attire as well while Niqab was banned under Emergency regulations. Ending impunity for attacks on Muslims from Aluthgama to Minuwangoda has thus become a wishful thinking. As Amnesty International said, “It is worrying to see the recurrence of hostility and violence against ethnic and religious minorities in Sri Lanka..As long as there continues to be impunity for series crimes under international law, Sri Lanka will not be able to decisively break from that history”.

According to Christian Today Magazine, ‘attacks on members of religious minority groups in Sri Lanka, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians are not new. Religious intolerance has been on the rise in the country since 2000 and especially since the end of the civil war in 2009. Acts of violence motivated by religious hatred persist in an environment of impunity as the authorities are often reluctant to curb Buddhist nationalists and statistics on religious discrimination and harassment are often denied or ignored. The situation also drew the attention of the UN Human Rights Council, which in 2014 adopted a resolution on reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, noting its alarm “at the significant surge in attacks against members of religious minority groups in Sri Lanka, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians’.

Yes! It was a culture of impunity and government apathy that enabled the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka. It is a shame  that Gotabaya Camp has already used the Easter bombings to fan the flame of Sinhalese nationalism. On the other hand, Cardinal Malcolm issued a scathing criticism of this government too, over the Easter attacks decrying a “total lack of interest”. The government of Sri Lanka must investigate and prosecute those responsible for the Easter Sunday bombings and take steps to ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief is upheld and promoted for all Sri Lankans, ending the culture of impunity which fuels this violence. Human rights must be at the heart of the next Sri Lankan president’s policies and his government needs to live up to its commitments to provide justice, compensate those harmed, and reform laws and practices to uphold human rights standards. This should be the way forward. 

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Latest comments

  • 7
    6

    There are 2500 Muslim in jail, in very bad condition. Most have not been charged. But bail have been set at Rs 1million and above. Most come from poor families, if they are terrorist, they should be charged and the courts should decide. What we have is kangaroo justice, where the police decides a person terrorist, and even if the friend of the person gives him water, they are also considered terrorist. No due process. There would be more people resisting this in the future , if this police brutality continues. Muslims are put in toilets in remand prison and sexually abused. This should be stopped. Most Muslim leaders are afraid to condemn this , as they will be also be in trouble with the police. It’s better the world knows this and calls this out.As this is a genocide waiting to happen.

    • 8
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      Jehan

      The sad aftermath of the Easter bombings is that it has effectively condemned the overwhelmingly innocent members of our Muslim community to live (forever?) under suspicion. Guilt by association, however irrational, is a common practice in Sri Lanka. Restablishing the trust of all others Sri Lankans will be a long and uphill task. The outlook for now is bleak..

    • 8
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      Jehan,

      The 2500 Muslims in jail learnt a very big lesson. Never try to sabotage law and order and terrorize people. When the Army gets involved things get very bad. In fact very very bad.

      The Sinhalese learnt this the hard way. Way back in 1971 and 1989.

      The Tamils learnt this the hard way in May 2009.

      The Muslims should have learnt by just observing the above two. But instead they tried to take their chances.

      Bad bad choices.

      • 1
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        Rtd. Lt. Reginald Shamal Perera – Yes, the army should be respected. Can you also please remove that “Rtd. Lt.” from the name, to start with?

    • 2
      1

      Lukman Harees,

      RE: Six Months On: Easter Tragedy Forgotten, Muslims Demonised & The Culprits Still At Large

      Who did the terrorism? The” Muslims “: or the Wahhabis and their clones who follow the Devil, Satan per prescient Hadith of Najd?

      The Question is why did the Muslims allow themselves to be dragged into this Satanic Wahhabi Ideology?

      Hadith of Najd

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadith_of_Najd

      “O Allaah bestow your blessings on our Shaam. O Allaah bestow your blessings on our Yemen.” The people said, “O Messenger of Allaah, and our Najd.” I think the third time the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, said, “There (in Najd) will occur earthquakes, trials and tribulations, and from there appears the Horn of Satan.”

      This is the Land of Native Veddah Aethho. All others are Paras. What makes the Muslims, Tamils and the Sinhala thinks that this is their country?

      Sri Lanka should be a secular country, devoid of unproven ideologies. .

      • 1
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        The Question is why did the Muslims allow themselves to be dragged into this Satanic Wahhabi Ideology? – Saudi Money, not the religion. For SL Muslims, money first, then the rest, including parents!!!

    • 0
      0

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  • 9
    4

    The Demonized & The Demonizer
    .
    .

    “The government of Sri Lanka must investigate and prosecute those responsible for the Easter Sunday bombings and take steps to ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief is upheld and promoted for all Sri Lankans, ending the culture of impunity which fuels this violence”.

    In offering the above solution to the ‘Muslim problem’, the writer knowingly or unknowingly continues to make a serious mistake in his analysis of the situation. This is his failure to acknowledge the role played by the ‘Demonized’ that lead to the breakdown of relations between the Buddhist and Muslim communities by empowering the ‘Demonizer’.

    The problem cannot be resolved by adopting a stance which says “The Muslims are 100% innocent. The Buddhists are 100% guilty. Therefore the Buddhists must take every possible measure to ensure that the human rights of the Muslims are not eroded in any way”.

    What about the human rights of the Buddhists ? Don’t they have a basic right to lead a life free of apprehension, uncertainty and fear in their Motherland ?

    Have the Muslims asked themselves whether our Buddhist brothers and sisters have ever felt ‘demonized’ by Muslim ‘demonizers’ ?

    It is time for serious introspection and critical thinking among the Muslims. The “We Are Innocent” assumption must be totally rejected immediately. Empathy, Compassion, Understanding and Compromise must be the pillars on which harmony and reconciliation should be built on a foundation of Mutual-Respect and Tolerance of all Sri Lankans, not just the Buddhists and the Muslims

    • 5
      0

      Ekelbroom! Refer the opinion of Gamini below. You brooms do not know what to sweep and what to be left.

  • 8
    1

    The Authors and real architects of these crimes are unlikely to be identified and punished as they wield a lot of power in Sri Lanka. Ultimately they have political overtones.

    This Sri Lankan society is so corrupt it seems it’s beyond redemption. Sorry to be so pessimistic! I hope I am wrong.

    • 5
      1

      No you are not wrong!

  • 6
    10

    Another Taqqia Master from the Lankan Moslem community, trying to blame everyone but unable to say that their community with unquenchable bloodlust engaged or condoned the horrors of Easter Sunday, allowing the most pious among their young men to reach heaven by the most heinous massacre possible of Lankan Kaffir Christians. The writer wallows in a catharsis about failures of Lankan politicians and bureaucrats, etc. etc. but he knows well that his community has been casting the most maniacal hatred filled glances at the Kaffirs, with women wearing the hooded horror of head to toe covers, and young buck Moslem fanatics looking for Jihad and joining ISIS is large numbers. When Al Bagdadi made the call to avenge New Zealand killings the murderous Lankan ISIS sprang to action, to kill as many Kaffirs as possible and reach heaven and Mohamed.

    Lankans must understand that they are fighting a losing battel against horrific barbaric ISIS men and women who have vowed to create an Islamic Republic by 2030 through sheers breeding and numbers. They have a golden chance to elect a strong, determined leader with a military background who can hunt down the ISIS swine and annihilate them. If they fail to do so they will lose the country to Islam and medieval barbaric horrors of Jihad, Sharia and ISIS.

  • 3
    8

    Another apologist for Islamic expansion, burqa, niqab and the mushrooming of 2000 Islamic and Arabic colleges.

    • 2
      1

      Bawa,

      Do they guarantee a ticket to heaven, Nirvana etc, or just for low IQ 79 suckers, so that the Ulama and Monks can have their hegemony?

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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  • 6
    8

    The Easter day Muslim terrorism isn’t forgotten, but the VICTIMS of the Muslim terrorism are deliberately forgotten. The pathetic situation is that everyone is concerned about Muslim perpetrators who now pretend to be the victims.
    /
    Apparently, Easter day Muslim terrorism is tit-for-tat for Christchurch attack on Muslims. But politicians in both countries had played it down.
    /
    The allegations against Sinhala-Buddhist nationalists are all made up lies, there is no minority suppression in Sri Lanka. The reason Borah Muslims held Muslims conference in Colombo is they knew that as a minority community they were safer amongst Sinhalese. But local Muslims were annoyed by Boras’ presence.
    /
    Lukman, have you forgotten Muslim-on-Muslim deadly violence in Aluthgama, Kaththankudy, etc??? Wahabi Muslims killed and assaulted several Sufi Muslims and dug their graves as well in Aluthgama. This was before they turned on innocent Sinhalese.

  • 0
    1

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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  • 4
    4

    John chambers the pedo guy ?

    • 1
      2

      Jehan that’s the best defence and explanation you can provide? Pathetic.

  • 2
    2

    The entire episode of the Easter Bombings can be summed up as follows.
    Sri Lanka is a majority buddhist country and budhism is given a foremost place in governance.
    The bombings were aimed at the Christian minority and the victims were mainly Christians.
    The ruling government does not care a tuppence because it is not the buddhists who bore the brunt.
    The president and the PM are both not worthy of the positions they hold in governance.
    Both individuals have proved time and again that they are in plain language crude, unrefined, uncouth persons who do not understand the meaning of shame.
    Ranil was called a “Pakaya” in parliament which is a damned shame and disgrace.
    Sirisena was caught on tape speaking raw filth sometime ago.
    What can one expect from Gutter Snipes of this kind as politicians not just politicians but leading politicians.
    The world needs to ostracize Sri lanka from worldly society because Sri lankan politicians like their other African and South American Banana Republic counterparts are not fit to be in decent society.
    Yes ! there are good, very good Sri lankans out there but because of the ” Gutter Snipes” who govern the country they too have to hang their heads in shame.
    Hope that someone will show this to the “Sarong Johnny” who is the President and the ” Slovenly Gay” PM aka ” Pakaya”.
    Finally ! may the victims of the tragedy Rest In Peace.

  • 2
    0

    I heard that US -democrats’s baby is the ISIS. Muslims kill only the kaffirs and infidels. but, Zaharan says another story.

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