The political leaders as well as ultranationalists in Sri Lanka seem to be suffering from severe amnesia syndrome. I fail to comprehend as to why they have conveniently forgotten the Muslim political leaders’ iconic contribution to gain independence from the British and are bent on perpetually torturing the Muslim community.
Hon. late T.B. Jayah who played a historical role in the struggle for Independence in the State Council would be turning his grave if he knew how the Muslim community is being systematically marginalized, criminalized, and traumatized by ethno-religious nationalistic forces and that too with the blessings of every successive government which ruled since 1948.
Hon T.B. Jayah was a visionary leader and during the pre-independence era, thought the majority community will safeguard the minorities’ interests – specifically the Muslim community – thereby extending unconditional support towards the introduction of the “Dominion Status Bill” – a Sri Lankan bill sponsored by the late Mr.S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, even at the risk of sacrificing advantages and benefits to his community.
The colonial regime challenged the national leaders to come up with a joint demand for independence and said that “unless all communities come together we cannot grant independence since we are the custodian of the interests of all”. The pivotal role Hon. Jayah and the Muslim community played became crucial during the negotiations for Independence. Had Hon. Jayah, or the Muslim community, sided with the British at that time or had he joined G .G. Ponnambalam who famously clamoured for a “Fifty-Fifty” (50% of the seats for the Sinhalese and 50% for the minorities) stance, the granting of Independence to Ceylon would have been postponed.
Being a truly patriotic citizen, Hon. Jayah spoke for three hours on the Soulbury Report and the White Paper of the United Kingdom Government to pave the way for full independence. It was on this historic occasion that the then Leader of the House in the State Council, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike paid him high tribute when he said: “Credit for the attainment of independence should undoubtedly go to T. B. Jayah for his historic speech in passing the Dominion Bill”.
If he were alive today, he would no doubt be heart-broken to see his vision of the Muslim community living harmoniously and peacefully in a pluralistic mother Lanka, shattered and up in flames, both literally and metaphorically, speaking.
I further wonder if the Islamaphobes are aware that their present Kanatha Cemetery was once a grazing ground and stables for the legendary M.C. Abdul Rahman’s horses as well as parking space for his fleet of horse-carriages. M.C. Abdul Rahman was the 1st Muslim member of the Legislative Council of Sri Lanka in 1889, and being a philanthropist, he donated the Kanatha cemetery to bury dead non-Muslims as a gesture of goodwill. Never in his wildest dreams would he have thought that it would one day be used to cremate the dead bodies of Muslims against their wishes and in direct violation of their religious rites.
In fact, as a spiritual man himself, Abdul Rahman surely would be cursing in his grave, all those who are responsible for roasting the cadavers of the COVID-19 Muslim victims at the very place that he donated. What a gross travesty of justice!
Where were these so-called ultranationalists and bigots who now victimize the Muslim community, during 30 years conflict with the LTTE when Muslims fought valiantly on the ground with our “Tri Forces heroes” against the Tamil Tigers?
Have they forgotten how Muslim officers did their duty to their nation by playing a pivotal role in defeating terrorism? Colonel Tuan Nizam Muthaliff, Commanding Officer, Military Intelligence Corps was a mastermind behind many successful DPU operations including several ops in the eastern province. He befriended Karuna Amman, a former top LTTE military commander, and was responsible for splitting the LTTE.
Another notable figure was Col. Fazly Lafir, one of the founding officers of Sri Lanka Special Force, who died while leading a rescue mission after the LTTE over-ran the Mullaitivu military garrison in 1996. He was posthumously awarded Parama Weera Vibhushanya, the highest award for military valour. Colonel Lafir was a key figure behind the evolution of SLA Special Forces, which played a key role until the very last minutes of the Eelam war.
Colonel Tuan Nizam Muthaliff and Col. Fazly Lafir who paid the supreme sacrifice to the motherland too would be turning in their graves to note that fellow Muslims are being routinely rounded and hounded by racists and even their dead bodies are being desecrated.
If Dr. Meththika Vithnage, Dr. Channa Perera Dr. Anil Jasinghe and other Ministry of Health’s Technical committee members who are vehemently opposing burial despite the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines that categorically permits both cremation and burial for the disposal of Covid-19 related death bodies, are so confident of the ground-water contamination theory, why cannot they openly challenge Prof. Malik Peiris, Prof. Vitharane, Dr. Paba Palihawadana and Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe for an open debate to nail down the issue?
It is by now a known fact that neither is there scientific data to support the claim that COVID-19 can spread through dead bodies nor is there any credible evidence of microbiological contamination of groundwater from burial which causes health hazards to the living.
Sri Lanka’s economy is in tatters due to mismanagement and the Fitch International Rankings has downgraded Sri Lanka from B- to CCC in international transactions. A pandemic with no end in sight, the poor people impacted by lockdown, are now out of employment and struggling more than ever, to survive without any means of sustenance.
To deflect the public attention from these socio-economic woes, the government is simply playing politics with the dead to agonize the Muslim community despite the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations office in Sri Lanka, United Nations special experts and regional human rights groups including 58 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), separately writing to the government calling for the policy to be changed to ensure COVID-19 victims are handled with dignity and human rights of all are protected.
Moreover, the influential Chapter of Buddhist Monks, Amarapura-Ramanya sects too requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to permit the burial of the remains of Christians and Muslims who die of Covid 19.
Be that as it may, all international organizations’ appeals and public demonstrations staged against the forced cremation both locally, and in America, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Australia, Japan, Geneva and Qatar, and elsewhere have fallen onto the government’s deaf ear. It is akin to playing the violin to a deaf elephant. In Tamil there is a saying, “you can wake up a sleeping person, but you cannot wake up one that is pretending to be asleep”. So be it.
The mental anguish and trauma of the victim’s families will indelibly be etched in their minds and will certainly remain forever. Nearly 100 dead bodies of Muslims have been forcibly cremated so far and their family members’ curses will befall sooner or later on all the perpetrators who will definitely meet the consequences and severely experience what he or she has viciously done to others. This is the Universal Law of Karma!
In conclusion, I feel it would be Kala Suri Mohideen Baig who sang an innumerable number of Buddhist devotional songs that would be affected the most, and would no doubt like the rest be turning in his grave at Kuppiyawatta Muslim Burial Ground in the knowledge of the 20 day old Muslim baby boy Shaykh who was heartlessly and inhumanely denied further testing, and was later incinerated. He may well be contemplating lines from his immortal song – the famous Buddan Saranan Gachchami: “Minisa Thirisan Wayeedho”, Will man transform into beast?