By Hilmy Ahamed –
The Chairman of the Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB), Mr. Amal Senalankadhikara, another political appointee of the Rajapaksa regime, is the latest victim of the saffron brigades.
A group of monks, representing the Ravana Balaya raided the office of the Chairman; Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB) on the 16th of October with a large number of monks and journalists, questioned the Chairman on his integrity and efficiency as someone tasked to protect the Sri Lankan migrant labour force in the Middle East. The pleas of the FEB chairman to discuss any particular issue of concern to the invading force away from the glare of the media camera’s fell on the deaf ears of the protesting group. A clear evidence of the publicity stunt played by these groups.
The Convener of the Ravana Balaya, Ven. Ittakande Saddhatissa Thero, claimed that our labour force in the Middle East are ill treated, harassed, sexually and physically abused on a daily basis and with ample evidence, the FEB has failed to take appropriate action.
What is disgustingly shameful is that Mr. Senalankadhikara claims that he too is a Sinhala Buddhist, in response to the treats by these monks. Did he imply that these unlawful intruders couldn’t question him because he was a Buddhist? Does that imply that it would be acceptable that this Saffron Brigade could target non-Buddhists? Why has he not made a complaint to the Police against these trespassers? Why has the government failed to protect its own public servant?
These unruly vigilantes in robes have, with impunity continued to harass and intimidate Government politicians, officials and minority communities over the last three years. In the recent past, ultra-nationalist Sinhalese Buddhist organizations have targeted senior politicians including Hon. Prime Minister, D M Jayaratne, Hon. Rauf Hakeem, Minister of Justice, Hon. Rishard Bathiudeen, Hon. Dilan Perera, Hon. Vasudeva Nanayakara amongst others with various fabricated charges that lack any credence or evidence. In all these incidents, the presence of the police top echelons, and their failure to take action points to government complicity with the Saffron robed brigade.
The failure of the police department to take action against violators of the law has led to the destabilization of discipline in the entire state administrative machinery. In the absence of clear guidelines from the Ministry of Law and Order as to how the Police officers on the ground should respond to this menace, these vigilantes will continue to intimidate helpless public servants. Some of the members of the saffron brigade have had the audacity to announce publicly that they will correct government lapses and save Buddhism from these anti-Buddhist political vultures. Who are these anti-Buddhist political vultures? Is, His Excellency, Mahinda Rajapaksa part of this group of vultures, or is he not a good enough Buddhist to govern our tiny nation of Sri Lanka? Where are we going to find the true Buddhist? Who or where is this person, they promise to pull out of their magic box to save our fragmented nation and Buddhism?
Buddhist extremism has been growing in Sri Lanka over the last three years. Many of us have witnessed the failure of the state to remedy the declining governance issues. Petty political considerations have blinded the country’s leadership to ignore the assault and intimidation of politicians, public officials and the harassment of minority communities through a relentless campaign of hate.
The Secretariat for Muslims (SFM), a civil society organisation that works with research and documentation of conflict related issues has recorded over 350 incidents of hate, threats, intimidation and violence against the Muslims in country. Number of mosques and places of religious worship of the Muslims have been shut down or demolished by crusaders of the extremist Buddhists. The Christian community too has recorded a large number of attacks on Christian churches and prayer centers. Most of these have also been forced to shut down. In all these conflicts, the law enforcement authorities have been mere spectators and have failed to act.
The hate campaign, in the name of Buddhism carried out by these extremists elements in robes have severely damaged the image of the country and the trust, the minority communities have had on the majority Buddhist community, and the Government. Sadly, even the so-called moderate monks, whom the minorities thought were sympathetic to their grievances, are being drawn towards these extremist elements, as they dare not defy these extremists. They fear public abuse and ridicule, which has gone unquestioned by the authorities.
These extremists, who are not camera shy, thrive on the publicity that has been given to their radical views by mainstream and social media. Some media institutions are accused of assigning permanent crews to these groups. The silent majority of the Buddhists, who do not subscribe to these racist views, dare not challenge these elements fearing violence that could be unleashed on them.
The country just emerged from the 30-year ethnic conflict that caused the death of thousands of lives on both sides of the divide. The economic cost to the nation and its people is irreversible. The lost opportunities would never re-emerge. Yet, there is hope, and hope that we can bring prosperity to our nation, if there is commitment from all, to shed the baggage from the past and move towards the future. To achieve this, the first priority should be to ensure that the rule of law prevails and the Government should declare its commitment to a multi-religious, multi ethnic, multi-cultural Sri Lanka.
The nexus between the Bodu Bala Sena and 969 movement of Ven. Ashin Wirathu signed and sealed during the Sanga Convention last month and the announcement by the Al-Qaeda of its intention to set up a South Asian wing spells disaster to religious co-existence in the region. Sri Lanka needs to do what is required to stop this menace from further spreading in the country by not providing a platform for these terrorists to infiltrate our nation.
Failure on the part of the authorities to reign in these terror groups will tarnish the image of the country and drive the minority communities away from the reconciliation process. They will tend to look for support from other extremist groups who could provide them security. If driven to this point, will the Muslims, who have up-to now stood by the nation, look at support from international terrorists from outside the country? May Allah (SWT), forbid them from looking at ISIS, Taliban, Al-Qaida or any other terrorist group as a solution to Buddhist terror.