COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted on Saturday that he will be appointing a “high level” panel to investigate the recent Muslim-Buddhist riots in Aluthgama and Beruwela.
But on Friday, Sri Lanka had made a statement at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, which virtually blamed the Muslims for the riots. It totally ignored the pernicious role played by the Sinhalse-Buddhist extremist outfit Bodu Bala Sena (BBS).
The Lankan statement at the UNHRC referred to a Muslim assault on a Buddhist monk and an incident of stone throwing by Muslims on a group of monks and laymen, but made no mention of the hate-speech made by a high profile Buddhist monk, the BBS General Secretary Venerable Gnanasara Thero, at a rally in Aluthgama on June 15.
According to eye witnesses, it was after the monk’s speech that Sinhalese-Buddhist mobs started attacking Muslims and their properties on an unprecedented scale.
Made in response to references made by Germany, Norway and Canada, the Lankan statement said that on June 12, a Buddhist monk was assaulted by three Muslim youth. The three suspects were remanded by a magistrate, while the monk was admitted to a hospital. On June 15, the Buddhist monk was proceeding to a temple accompanied by some other monks and lay persons, when stones were thrown at them near a mosque in Darga Town. The latter incident led to rioting which spread to Beruwala by June 16, the statement said.
Two Muslims and one Tamil were killed. Thirteen Sinhalese, including 6 policemen, and 13 Muslims were hospitalized. Altogether, 69 houses, 83 shops and 11 vehicles, belonging to people of both communities, were damaged. Forty three people ( including 28 Sinhalese) were arrested.
On June 18, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, immediately on return from Bolivia, rushed to Beruwala and met around 50 Muslim and Buddhist religious leaders. He assured that all damaged properties will be repaired and that those indulging in hate speech will be taken in for questioning ,the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of External Affairs, GL Peiris, told the visiting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Atul Keshap, that the trouble was caused by “extremists on both sides.”
At a cabinet meeting chaired by president Rajapaksa, Muslim ministers demanded a ban on the BBS and other extremist organisations. But President Rajapaksa ruled out such a ban saying he did not want the leaders of these outfits to become “heroes”.
Hardline Sinhalese-Buddhist Ministers like Champika Ranawakka of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and Wimal Weerawansa of the National Freedom Front (NFF), blamed Saudi Arabia-inspired Wahabi elements among SL Muslims as well as the US and Norway. The US and Norway are trying to dismember SL by creating conditions for an alliance between Lankan Wahabi Muslims and Tamil separatists, they charged.
TNA Meets Taranco
On Saturday, TNA leaders R.Sampanthan and Suresh Premachandran, accompanied by the Northern Province CM C V Wigneswaran, briefed the visiting UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez Taranco, on the abridgement of rights of the Tamils in the North and East; increasing militarization of Northern administration; and the whittling down of constitutional provisions for devolution of power.
“During our one and half hour meeting, Taranco said that Sri Lanka has become the centre of attention at the UN,” Premachandran told Express.
On Friday, Taranco had met the SL Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader and Justice Minister, Rauff Hakeem, who briefed him on the recent anti-Muslim riots.