In its references to Sri Lanka, the report notes that local media and NGOs have noted ‘strong linkages between the BBS and the government, particularly Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa who appeared prominently at public BBS events during the year.’
It further notes that despite the Constitution and other laws and policies that are in place to protect religious freedom in Sri Lanka, in practice, the government as well as local authorities have failed to respond effectively to communal violence including attacks on members of minority religious groups and have also failed to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice while also adding that a ‘culture of impunity’ protects the alleged Buddhist perpetrators.
The content referring to Sri Lanka has also listed out several attacks against religious minorities in Sri Lanka that have mostly took place under the tacit patronage of the Rajapaksa regime including:
- The destruction of a Hindu temple in Dambulla to make way for a pond in the Dambulla Buddhist sacred zone and the eviction of Tamil Hindu families who had paid rent to Sinhalese landowners from the ‘sacred zone’ with the promise of alternative living arrangements with the promises yet to be fulfilled.
- Attack on the Grandpass mosque in Colombo
- Numerous attacks on Churches
- Overall decrease in societal respect for religious freedom – the Buddhist nationalist groups led campaigns targeting Muslims and Christians
The Religious Freedom Report has also quoted a survey by the Asia Foundation – an international NGO working in Sri Lanka – and the state of religious freedom in the country where it notes that the study had found that religious tension continued to be a problem among Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist groups.
“Sixty-four percent of those surveyed believed that attempts to convert people from one religion to another should not be tolerated, a perception that was relatively consistent across all religious groups,” the Report states adding that the survey by the Asia Foundation had also revealed that higher percentages of Muslims and Hindus did not feel free to express religious opinions in public.