By Hilmy Ahamed –
Postwar Sri Lanka saw Buddhist extremism targeting the Muslim community with the euphoria of the victory over the Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam (LTTE). The Mahinda Rajapaksa government allowed these extremists a free reign and cause extensive damage to the Muslim economy, which resulted in the Muslims voting en-block to overthrow the once indispensable Rajapaksa regime.
The regime change brought about a lull in Buddhist extremist activity but restarted with the Mussali Muslim issue claiming that the returning Muslim IDPs from the 1990 eviction by the LTTE were being settled within the Wilpattu reserve. Even President Maithripala Sirisena made public statements claiming that the former Minister Basil Rajapaksa who headed the Presidential Task Force for Northern Development had allocated Wilpattu land. Later he retracted and said not a single inch of Wilpattu reserve has been encroached. The extremist continued their racist campaign to deprive the Muslim IDPs of their right to return.
This led to a build up of the racist campaign of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). Sinhala Ravaya and Ravana Balaya. Soon, they were joined by few more facebook warriors of Mahason Balaya, The Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa (SJB) and Dan Priyasath’s who have used the freedom new media technologies offer, as a destructive force to create hate and cause violence. Most of these groups found this as a lucrative business to hoodwink Buddhist corporates and Sinhala Diaspora in South Korea, Australia, Europe and America to fund the saviours of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is tragic that anyone with a smart phone has become the saviour of their community.
In the absence of stern action by the Government or the Buddhist hierarchy of Mahanayake’s, Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara and company went on a major racist offensive against the minorities. Did Yahapalanaya consider these racist assaults as freedom of expression or did the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government of good governance provide subtle support to these extremists in the hope that they could break the dominance of the Sinhala Buddhist vote bank by the Rajapaksa’s joint opposition. Evidence proves to be the latter as no action has been taken despite numerous police complaints and legal action instituted by Muslims.
End of the Sinhala and Tamil New year celebrations saw the renewed assault on the Muslim community by extremist Buddhist forces. Since the dawn of April 16th, at least twenty incidents of violence or attempted violence, hate, intimidation and threats to the Muslims, their places of religious worship and business. These renewed threats are from Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Ravaya, Sinhale, Mahason Balaya to name a few.
The Secretariat for Muslims (SFM) a Muslim civil society organisation documented 538 incidents against the Muslims from 2013 to 2015.
The following is a documentation of the violence against Muslims during the last 5 weeks:
1 16th April, 2017 – Petrol Bombs thrown at shops in Godapitiya
Four shops owned by Muslims were attacked with petrol Bombs in Godapitiya, Porruva,. This incident went unreported due to the pressure brought in by the local police. This was not even reported in the social media by local residents, fearing further police intimidation. Even after a month, the police have still not been able to investigate and apprehend the perpetrators of this act of violence.
20th April, 2017 – Land Grab at Irrakamam in Mayakkali
2 1/2 Acres of Muslim land was forcible taken over in Irrakamam in Mayakkali. No police action has been taken even after complaints have been lodged.
25th April 2017 – Incitement by Ven. Gnanasara Thero in Irrakamam.
Ven. Gnanasara thero visited Irrakamam and made a very provocative speech violating his bail conditions. Police complaints have been made and no action has been taken up to todate.
8th May 2017 – Myanmar Boat People
Ven. Gnanasara Thero claimed at a press conference that refugees from Myanmar had arrived in Sri Lanka with the intention of invading our land. These refugees were arrested at sea by the Sri Lankan navy while they were attempting to flee to Australia by boat due to the astrocytes of the racist Myanmar government. This statement was purely meant to provoke the Sinhala Buddhists.
10th May 2017 – Vesak celebrations
Vesak celeberations with Bodhi pujas were undertaken in Irrakamam in Mayakkali which is a predominantly Muslim area to provoke them, but the Muslims showed much restraint and no untoward incidents were reported.
May 14th 2017 – Theratening Muslims in Onegama in Pollonaruwa
A group of Buddhist monks led by Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero threatened Muslims in Onegama in Pollonaruwa and broke their huts and livelihood means. The Police who were present did not attempt to stop this mob from causing this violence. Hiru TV showed the destruction of the huts of the Muslims. Here again, Ven. Gnanasara Thero insulted Allah subahanauwa ta’aala in the most demeaning words by talking about Allah’s balls. His exact words were, ” They have placed Allah’s Balls here. They say there is no physical being called Allah and yet, they have kept his balls here”. Defaming of Allah subahanauwa ta’aala, is the most blasphemous insult that no Muslim will tolerate. Police complaints have been made with video evidence and the they have failed to take any action yet.
15th May 2017 – Attack on the Muslim Village of Selvanagar in the Trincomalee District.
The entire Muslim population of Selva Nagar in Thoppur (Tricomalee District, bordering Seruvila and Muthur electorate) has been threatened by a mob from outside led by Buddhist monks. A large number of Muslims have fled the area due to this intimidation. The local temple (Pansala) currently owns six acres and they are now attempting to claim 49 acres of Muslim lands insisting that these are archeological sites. Muslims have been living and in possession of these lands for over a hundred years. Residents claim that these extremists are trying to drive them out as the LTTE did during the ethnic conflict.
15th May.2017 – A fire had broken in Panadura Mosque .
It is suspected that extremist elements may have attempted to set the mosque on fire using a petrol bomb. This is the second petrol bomb attack. They had also set alight a garbage dump close by. No police action has been initiated.
15th May 2017 – Masked men attack Kohilawatta Ibrahim Jumma Mosque –
Unidentified men had arrived on motorbikes and attempted to attack the mosque. When some workers who were doing some renovations came out, they had left on their bikes..
16th May 2017 – Insults Allah:
Once again, Ven. Gnanasara Thero insults Allah subahanauwa ta’aala in the most demeaning way at a press conference.
16th May 2017 – Attack on Muslim Selva Nagar in Thoppur
A large group of Buddhist extremists numbering about 200 had gone to Selva Nagar in Thoppur with clubs and swords and caused extensive damage to 16 houses and property. No police action has been taken despite several complaints.
16th May 2017 – Gang Attacks Kohilawatte Mosque
The Kohilawatte Mosque, in Sedawatte, was attacked with stones and clubs, around 1:30 p.m. by an unidentified gang, resulting in extensive damage, Wellampitiya Police has been provided CCTV footage of the attack and no arrests have been made as yet.
May 17 2017 – Two Shops In Panadura Attacked
Two Muslim owned shops were attacked in Panadura and extensive damage caused to its furniture, equipment and fittings. One was a bakery and the other was a communications facility.
May 18th 2017 – Last Chance Electrical showroom burnt
The Last Chance show room in Wennappuwa has been set on fire and burnt down completely on the night of 17th May. The losses are estimated at several millions.
21st May 2017 – Mallawapitiya mosque in Kurunegala Attacked
A procession led by Ven. Gnanasra, which was going to Ibbagamuwa, was stopped by police. There after, Ven. Gnanasara and other Buddhist extremists claimed that they were being stopped at the call of the Muslims and abused in raw filth. They called on the crowd that had gathered to attack the Muslims. Six petrol bombs had been hurled at the Mallawapitiya mosque causing damage. Police have not arrested anyone yet.
21st May 2017 – A Cosmetic Shop in Elpitiya burnt.
A cosmetic store owned by a Muslim has been set on fire causing extensive damage and millions in losses. Police have still failed to make a comprehensive investigation.
22nd May 2017 – A leather Store in Wijerama Junction, Maharagama set on fire.
A leather store belonging to a Muslim at Wijerama Junction, Maharagama has been set on fire during the night and completely burnt. Losses are estimated to run in to millions.
22nd May 2017 – A shop been set on fire in Kahawatta.
It is very clear that Ven. Gnanasara is attempting to disrupt his arrest over the Homagama magistrates complaint of contempt of court and intimidation of witnesses. He is attempting to generate protests from the majority Buddhist claiming that he is being arrested on the charges filed by the Muslim community. He has continued to violate his bail conditions, and is aware that he has very little chances of being outside the remand prison. Majority of the Sinhalese who does not subscribe to Ven. Gnanasaras extremism will not move a finger if this racist is arrested. It should be noted that he commanded a mere 27,000 Island wide votes at the last general elections.
The Government of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe need to deal with this major crisis which will destabilize their hard earned victory in January 2015. The Muslim parliamentarians, civil society, business community and academia have requested the government to act with a strong resolve to ensure that rule of law prevails. A peaceful environment will ensure the rapid reconciliation of all peoples of Sri Lanka