Wednesday, March 21, 2018

'Where is our Rector?' - protests in Jaffna as Sri Lankan President visits disappeared priest's former school

Home20Mar 2018

The Sri Lankan President was met by protestors in Jaffna on Monday where he had travelled for the inauguration of a new school building.
President Sirisena was in Jaffna to open a new technology centre at St Patrick's College, where old students and families of the disappeared protested demanding to know the whereabouts of Father Francis Joseph, the school's former rector who was disappeared after surrendering to the Sri Lankan Army alongside hundreds of LTTE cadres and high-ranking LTTE officials in May 2009.
St Patrick's old students were angered by the decision to invite the President who was acting defence secretary at the end of the war, to inaugurate a facility which had been entirely funded by alumni contributions.
On top of the president's huge security detail, police packed the streets in response to the protest with reports of police officers aggressively pushing back protestors, including elderly women, and ripping up placards.
Protestors also reported that some families of the disappeared were invited inside on the pretense of a meeting with the president, in order to disperse the protest, but that the president left without seeing them.


Sri Lanka BriefMeera Srinivasan.-20/03/2018

Senior leader Sampanthan reminds Sirisena theTamils “unstinted support” to him in 2015.
Reminding President Maithripala Sirisena of the “unstinted support” that Tamils extended to him in 2015, senior Tamil politician and Leader of Opposition R. Sampanthan on Monday urged him to “rise as a statesman” and resolve Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem.

“We want a statesman to rise in this country who can say, ‘I resolved the country’s national question and we think you can do it, we think you should do it and it is our expectation that it will be done,” he said, speaking at an event in Jaffna, where he shared the stage with Mr. Sirisena.

The veteran Tamil leader’s remarks come at a time when Mr. Sirisena’s national unity government is dealing with a major blow in the island-wide local government elections held in early February.
Severe criticism

The Colombo government also faces severe criticism from the Tamils for its delayed efforts in fulfilling promises President Sirisena made in 2015, in regard to war-time accountability and reconciliation. Political observers have said the government, fragile and significantly weakened after the polls, is unlikely to address concerns of the Tamils.

Referring to the crucial minority vote in 2015, which propelled Mr. Sirisena’s alliance to victory, Mr. Sampanthan said the Tamil people supported him to achieve the objective of a political solution. “We know that you want to do it. I know that you want to do it. But your efforts are being stymied,” he said, adding that Mr. Sirisena must overcome the impediments and be recognised world over as a statesman who resolved the Tamil question.

President Sirisena in his address that followed said it was because he remembers and values the support extended by the Tamils that he felt indebted to the community. Pointing to political challenges that have emerged recently, he urged the people to be mindful of politicians serving their own interests and others committed to the people. “I have not betrayed the trust people have in me, I have not changed any of my principles, and I will not change them,” he said.
The Hindu.

Sri Lanka: Little Action on Promised Justice, Reforms

Time-Bound Action Plan on UN Human Rights Council Pledges Crucial
Sri Lankan Tamil women hold up photographs of their missing family members as they wait to hand over a petition to the U.N. head office in Colombo March 13, 2013.
Sri Lankan Tamil women hold up photographs of their missing family members as they wait to hand over a petition to the UN head office in Colombo on March 13, 2013. 
© 2013 Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters
March 20, 2018 3:45AM EDT

(Geneva) – The Sri Lankan government should announce a time-bound plan to carry out its pledges to the United Nations Human Rights Council since October 2015, Human Rights Watch said today. At an interim update before the Council this week on progress towards fulfilment of its human rights commitments, UN member countries should press Sri Lanka to ensure justice and accountability for the tens of thousands of victims of the country’s brutal civil war.

In October 2015, the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 30/1 by consensus in which Sri Lanka pledged to set up four transitional justice mechanisms to promote “justice, reconciliation and human rights” in the country. These included an accountability mechanism involving international judges, prosecutors, and investigators; a truth and reconciliation mechanism; an office of missing persons; and an office for reparations. Thus far only the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) has been set up – just ahead of the current session in Geneva. The high commissioner for human rights, in a report to the Council, expressed similar concerns. The Council will discuss the high commissioner’s report this week.

“The Human Rights Council needs to make it clear to the Sri Lankan government that it expects it to stop playing games and start delivering on its commitments,” said John Fisher, Geneva director. “The Sri Lankan government needs to move beyond pre-session PR and present a meaningful and concrete plan to deliver results for the victims who have been awaiting justice for far too long.”

Human Rights Watch welcomed the December action by the government to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

Creating the Office of Missing Persons, while a positive step, is just the latest body set up in Sri Lanka to look into enforced disappearances. Reports of prior government-established commissions, some of which have been made public in recent years, have not led to accountability.

“The Office of Missing Persons now represents their last best hope to learn the fate of their loved ones,” said Fisher. “It must do its work quickly and properly. Families of the disappeared have appeared before commission after commission, and many have camped out in the open over the past year in protest of government inaction.”

The justice and accountability mechanism in the 2015 resolution is a key demand from victims and families affected by Sri Lanka’s 27-year civil war between the government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Both sides to the conflict, which ended in May 2009 with a decisive government victory, committed serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including extrajudicial killings, deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, enforced disappearances, and torture. The government should publicly set out when this mechanism will be set up instead of hiding behind various politically expedient excuses, Human Rights Watch said.

The government has also failed to deliver on its other pledges under the 2015 resolution. A government-commissioned task force led by independent activists carried out a nationwide consultation down to the grass-roots level and delivered a detailed report on the expectations of victims and affected communities. However, the report and its recommendations have languished and it is unclear whether the government will take them into account in either the Office of Missing Persons or the other transitional justice mechanisms.

Another key outstanding pledge, namely security sector reform including the repeal of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), also remains unfulfilled. Sri Lanka has a long history of abuses by security forces, both during and after the civil war. The security forces have long used the PTA to detain suspects for years without charge, facilitating torture and other mistreatment. The government’s claims to be working on repealing and replacing the PTA with a rights-respecting law have yet to come to fruition.

Additionally, Sri Lanka’s state of emergency laws and regulations under the Public Security Ordinance (PSO) create a legal framework for abuse by the security forces in the name of national security interests. The government recently resorted to emergency rule in response to anti-Muslim riots in the Kandy district. The government was largely successful in quelling the riots, arresting dozens of people suspected of instigating and participating in the violence, but the episode highlighted the lack of action in limiting the PSO’s broad powers. The government had pledged to review these regulations under Resolution 30/1 but they still permit the authorities to detain people for up to 14 days before being produced in court.

“A lack of justice and impunity for past abuses fuels current abuses in Sri Lanka,” Fisher said. “The government’s delay in undertaking promised reforms is a slap in the face to the victims and their families who have waited for years for answers. The government should stop hiding behind politically expedient excuses and act on its pledges.”

UK on Sri Lanka at Human Rights Council 37

This UK Statement was delivered at the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review adoption for Sri Lanka, held 19 March 2018.

( March 20, 2018, Geneva, Sri Lanka Guardian) The UK welcomes Sri Lanka’s continued engagement in the UPR process.
We also welcome Sri Lanka’s acceptance of a number of our recommendations. This includes its accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, following the voluntary commitment it made at the Universal Periodic Review in November 2017.
We welcome Sri Lanka’s commitment to design and implement strategies to tackle sexual and gender-based violence, including addressing related stigma towards victims and survivors, as per the National Human Rights Action Plan, the National Plan of Action to address Sexual and Gender Based Violence and the Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.
We call upon Sri Lanka to introduce legislation requiring businesses to report publicly on efforts to ensure transparency in supply chains, as part of Sri Lanka’s national action plan to combat human trafficking.
We continue to urge Sri Lanka to fully implement the commitments made in resolutions 30/1 and 34/1, as the best way to ensure human rights and reconciliation and the long term peace and prosperity that is in the interests of all Sri Lankans.


Sri Lanka Brief20/03/2018

The United States welcomes the delegation from Sri Lanka.

We welcome the Government’s decision to accept our recommendations on full implementation of HRC resolution 30/1 and on accountability for the government’s, including the security forces, human rights violations and abuses, as well as accountability for those responsible for harassment and violence against members of religious minority communities.

Although we are pleased with the Government’s support for these recommendations, we are concerned by ongoing reports of human rights violations and abuses by members of the security services, and recent attacks targeting members of religious minority communities.  We urge the government to hold accountable all those responsible for human rights abuses and violations and to protect religious minorities and their places of worship.  We further urge the government to take additional steps to fully implement the commitments it made in HRC resolution 30/1 and reaffirmed in HRC resolution 34/1.

We look forward to seeing Sri Lanka’s progress on implementing the UPR recommendations accepted by the government over the next five years,

U.S. Statement as Prepared for Delivery,
Human Rights Council 37th Session.
Geneva, March 19, 2018,


Part A

Ranil Wickremasinghe (RW) corresponds closely in style to his ‘Right-Royal’ classmate with a keener sense of impish humour – amiable late Anura B (AB). Two buddies were’ loyal to Royal, more than to their voters? Hallowed ‘hollow’ traditions of overgrown masonic schoolboy networks are still alive.   

Governor Indrajit – Shameful To Avoid Response On Money Laundering


Amrit Muttukumaru
Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy was appointed Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) with great expectations to ‘clean up’ and give it credibility after its ignominious conduct in recent times where the egregious Bond Scam (prior to him assuming office) figures prominently. One wonders whether the CBSL has learnt anything from the Bond Scam and other misdemeanors going by the example of the European Union designating Sri Lanka as a ‘high risk country for money laundering’ subsequent to the ‘Financial Action Task Force’ (FATF) placing the country on its ‘grey list’ reportedly from NOVEMBER 2017 for which Dr. Coomaraswamy who assumed office as Governor from 3 JULY 2016 must bear some responsibility.
The EU stricture confirms what discerning persons long suspected. Even before the stricture, the country was attracting questionable FDIs which include the non-existent Volkswagen AG assembly plant and the controversial tyre factory in Horana. The large Chinese investments are mainly geo-political in nature connected to big power rivalry in the Indian Ocean which could haunt us in the future.
It is shameful that even after two weeks the CBSL has failed to respond to my article published in the ‘Colombo Telegraph’ on 4 March and subsequently in the print media:
The issues being avoided include:
1) Money Laundering/Tax Evasion?
What action has CBSL taken in relation to:
i) Kaushitha Rathnaveera, a Senior Dealer of PTL (Perpetual Treasuries Limited) disclosing to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the Bond Scam that “millions” encashed by him were “several times” left on “PTL CEO Kasun Palisena’s chair”.
ii) Nuwan Salgado, Chief Dealer of PTL disclosing to the PCoI that on the “instructions of PTL CEO Kasun Palisena” he maintained a record of payments to “informants” code named as ‘Charlie’, ‘Tango’ and others.
iii) B.R. Sinniah, Chief Financial Officer of GTLPL said to be controlled by former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s family in his testimony to the PCoI disclosing:
“Chairman ‘Lakshmi Kanthan’ who resides in Britain had arrived at the Company on two occasions in February 2016 and 2017 and dumped cash amounting to Rs.145 million in the Chairman’s safe”
“it had not been supported by any documentation or receipt issued to Mr. Kanthan neither were there any entries in the GTLPL accounts books regarding these two cash inflows”
How can the CBSL ignore this?
2) PEPs as Bank Directors 
i) In the context of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) being at the centre of the worldwide efforts for the prevention of money laundering, the CBSL continues to ignore ‘directors’ of banks who are obvious PEPs as per its own definition.
It begs the question when even the mere “Opening of accounts” in banks by PEPs is under scrutiny in Sri Lanka, how the Director of Bank Supervision could advise me there is “no restriction for appointments of PEPs as Board members of licensed banks”?
ii) The situation is so HOPELESS in Sri Lanka that it was revealed at the PCoI that B.R. Sinniah (said to be CFO in Karunanayake’s family company) was “appointed to the Board of Directors of the BoC” by Minister Karunanayake.
Although B.R. Sinniah had presumably ceased being a bank director when Dr. Coomaraswamy assumed the position of CBSL governor, the fact of the matter is that under his watch too there are PEPs who are bank directors.
iii) During the tenure of former CBSL Governor – Nivard Cabraal, his sister Siromi Wickramasinghe – clearly a PEP was a bank ‘director’ which included being Chairman of ‘State owned’ entity HDFC Bank (Housing Development Finance Corporation).
It must be flagged that although all PEPs are not involved in money laundering or unlawful activities, the high risk they pose cannot be ignored. Should not laws and guidelines which are there for a purpose be adhered to?

Read More

Ethnic harmony in flames

Monday, March 19, 2018
The recent incidents of racial violence in Kandy area obviously have created new challenges to the Yahapalanaya government locally and at the international level. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe admitted “We thought the major challenge which the country had to face was the drought which crippled the agriculture sector but incidents in Kandy have posted challenges in the international levels as well.” The Prime Minister said thus while highlighting that country's image has been tarnished. Also, he was worried about the effect on the tourism industry.
He said, “We don't know whether we could achieve it as expected.” He said revenues of tourist industrialists could decline. In addition, one has to look into repairing the damages. The state has to repair the damages while assuring that compensation will be paid to the families of those who were killed in the clashes and those whose houses and business establishments were damaged. Such is the burden on the country created by fascistic political violence; also it adds to the cost of maintaining religious freedom in the country.
All those who are familiar with Buddhism will agree that there is no greater perversion of Buddhism than killing in the name of Buddhism. In the Buddha’s teachings, there is no place for any kind of violence, no concept of holy war or just war, no room for revenge, whatever the crime.
If the Maha Nayaka Theras are true followers of the Buddha, they would have walked going among the rioters, pleading for calm. But the only monks visible and audible in Kandy at that time appear to be those who are feeding the fires. Of course, the Maha Nayaka Theras and other leading monks came out with word of condemnation and plea for sanity and peace. Still, Kandy-burning symbolizes the failure of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. That is the humble verdict of the democratic people.
The argument that the violence, be it in July 83 or today, is the work of a fanatical minority is true. But it is also irrelevant. The majority of Sinhala did not take part in Black July. They didn’t have to. Indifference is neither neutral nor benign. Indifference kills and destroys.
Myths and fake news
In 1983, the silence of the silent majority (together with the leniency of the government and the collusion of the police and the military) created the enabling environment in which a minority of extremists could set fire to an entire country. That collective indifference was fed by inherited myths and fake news about encroaching Tamils ‘dominating our universities by cheating at exams, taking away our jobs and our land, planning to overrun our only country by breeding like rabbits...’ Ancient tales and false statistics were used to lend this demonization an air of sanctity, authenticity and objectiveness. Without that seeding, Black July wouldn’t have happened. Those same lies are being repeated about Muslims now.
The BBS started the madness in 2012, under the patronage of the Rajapaksa regime, pouring lurid stories into willing ears, turning Muslims into the next enemy, the new ‘other’. Without that seeding, Ampara and Teldeniya wouldn’t have happened and Kandy couldn’t be happening.
Intelligentsia here, Sinhala or otherwise, were not serious about sterilization pill; the doctors were mostly silent. A few brave souls from the left spoke out but the absolute majority said nothing. The various medical associations (including the GMOA) did not bother to explain the truth to the country. Their silence directly or otherwise fed the fires of misunderstanding. More than a month later, they are still silent. Obviously, it is dangerous and irresponsible to allow extremists to dominate the subject and own the initiative.
The danger becomes a crime when leading extremists are granted de facto impunity on the strength of a yellow robe. These traditions and practices were supposed to regularize by Yahapalanaya. The latter was supposed to, expected to, end the impunity enjoyed by robed thugs and also adopt a rational firm policy towards every kind of racism. The government, in spite of pro-racist interventions by the president, was not racist. But during its tenure, especially the last two years, it has displayed an incapability to counter fascistic conspiracies hatched by the Rajapaksa group.
It was distressing for democratic masses to watch the absence of political and moral courage of Yahapalanaya. Instead of standing up to every form of extremism, it developed a habit of succumbing to monks, priests and mullahs. Of course, the government did not create extremists.
The Rajapaksa group was responsible for most of it. But Yahapalanaya pandered to extremists probably in the hope of disarming extremism. This political weakness only enhanced the Rajapaksa group; it helped turn the teeth into fangs. All minorities voted for the government in massive numbers, hoping for peace and security. The government failed them. Now they have to turn left and search for an alternative.
Trivial incidents
Lanka celebrated her 70th independence day just a month ago. However, still there is no stable, consolidated country with unity. Hence, in reality, there is nothing much to celebrate. Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim identities are still powerful, undermining the Lankan nation. We are Lankans in name only. Unity is just a word; coexistence a precarious state that can be destroyed by the most trivial of incidents. On the other hand, we are a country of Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims who know very little about each other’s religions. Most of us study in schools which are de facto segregated, even though there is a rule to give 5 % to other communities. We live in neighbourhoods with invisible walls. A fog of misunderstanding almost deliberately made, divides the nationalities and religious communities, who call this island home. Comparative religion is not a subject seriously taught in our schools. What we read in the media strengthen the prejudices we learn at home and relearn in school. Lanka is still a partial democratic society. Yahapalanaya was created to carry out the democratic revolution to the last. Revolution started but enlightenment is yet to come. Where ignorance and fear rule, violence is never far away. Anything can ignite it – a misplaced food order, the myth of a sterilization pill, a brutal crime.
One of the tasks of the new government was to carry out a systematic effort to dent this fog of misconception. Even that task, which did not require standing up to mad monks, priests or mullahs, was not done. In the absence of any counters, lies continued to flourish. For example, a website recently carried a news item claiming that the proportion of Sinhala Buddhists which had been at 72% a few decades ago has come down to 67% now. The statistics were a total fake. According to census figures since the first census of 1881, Sinhala-Buddhists never exceeded the 70% mark until 2012. 2012 was the last census and according to that census, Sinhala-Buddhists comprise 70.1% of the populace and Sinhala all is 75%.
So the ‘news’ about a rapid decline in Sinhala-Buddhist numbers is fake news, a lie fabricated to make Sinhala-Buddhists feel insecure. More worryingly, the website attributes this incendiary canard to the governor of the Southern Province.
The government must investigate and wipe out such crimes. If these crimes are not suppressed sooner rather than later, the contagion of anti-Muslim violence will spread to other areas, including Colombo. If that happens, Lanka will not be able to escape the scourge of a religious war. Black July promoted the LTTE to gain the upper hand within the Tamil liberation struggle.
The triumph of criminal Sinhala racism in the South led to the armed liberation struggle of Tamil people. Now we are about to recreate that historical crime with Muslims.
There can be no peace in a country where the extremists set the national agenda. Talking about the rule of law is a joke when robed thugs are above the law and can command senior DIGs. It is a dangerous game, allowing extremists to ply their deadly trade, irrespective of which race they belong to, which religion they espouse or which political party they claim to support.
As multi-nationality, multi-religious country, our greatest enemy is racism; and the most dangerous is the extremism of the majority community. When Sinhala-Buddhist fanatics are given a free hand, they set the country on fire, endanger innocent lives and strengthen communalists in minority communities.
The habit of allowing extremists to shape the national agenda and set the national course must end if Lanka’s future is to be better than her past. 

Sri Lanka: Be Just Even to the Enemy — Why did not the Muslims attack?

The meaning of the word ‘Islam’ is ‘Peace’.  Islam teaches several moral and ethical values which guides human beings towards living in society with peace and tolerance. Muslims believe that Allah is the Most Merciful; that Allah is the Most Forgiving; That Allah is the Pardoner of sins. 

by Mass L.  Usuf-
Viewes expressed in this article are author own
( March 20, 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Very unexpectedly a close Sinhalese friend of mine asked me why did not the Muslims retaliate when they were attacked? I was perplexed.  Firstly, because he is a Sinhalese and, secondly, the thought of attacking people never occurs in the mind of a practising Muslim. Out of curiosity, I asked him “What do you mean by retaliate?” He said, “You all should have attacked business premises of the Sinhalese people in areas where you all are in majority.”  Now, I became curious, since this is a Sinhalese speaking about attacking the Sinhalese. I asked him “What the hell is wrong with you and why are you talking like this?” He replied, “I am disgusted with these fellows. Believe me, after university I have never stepped into a temple.”  Him mentioning ‘temple’ reminded me of our youthhood.  I humorously reminded him how both of us used to hang around in the temple compound to catch a glimpse of his girlfriend. I said “Machan api bodhi pooja atha gaanawa mathakada,  hebai esdeka wena kohedo neda.” He replied, “Those days are now gone.  I really feel sorry for our growing up kids”
The question as to why the Muslims did not retaliate by attacking Sinhala houses or business premises requires an explanation. I have to distinguish here between a practising Muslim and a non-practising Muslim. The majority are generally, practising Muslims.  In fact, the only religion in the world which has the largest number of practising followers is Islam.  Anyway, we have our quota of black sheep like in any other community.  A realistic comparison would be the Sinhalese racists who perpetrated the recent violence.  They do not represent the majority of the respectable Sinhalese people. In fact, their criminal behaviour has embarrassed many Sinhalese people who feel ashamed.
Be Just Even To The Enemy
Self-defence is a religious obligation in Islam. Also, retaliating when attacked or repulsing an attack form part of this obligation. However, this obligation is restricted by several conditions. According to Islamic teachings, it is strictly prohibited for a Muslim to harm another innocent person for no reason. It is, also, strictly prohibited for a Muslim to wantonly take the life of another human being, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.  Therefore, in response to the attack on Muslims in Digana, one cannot attack an innocent Sinhalese person in the streets of another part of Sri Lanka. Just because that person happens to be a Sinhalese. In the same manner, a Muslim cannot burn a house or a shop of an innocent Sinhalese person elsewhere. He would be committing a grave sin according to the teachings of Islam.  Even at times like this Islam teaches equity and justice to be applied to all including the enemy.  This partly explains why there were no such reprisals.  The Quran states:
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well Acquainted with what you do.”   (Chapter 5 Verse 8).
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor,…”  (Chapter 4 Verse 135).
‘Islam’ Means ‘Peace’
Islam also enjoins the Muslims to respect the law of the country in which they live so long as it does not violate the teachings of Islam.  On that basis, Muslims as citizens of this country would expect the law enforcement authorities to establish law and order, prevent violence against persons and property and provide protection to the public.  The requirement of taking the law into one’s hand does not arise under these circumstances.
The meaning of the word ‘Islam’ is ‘Peace’.  Islam teaches several moral and ethical values which guides human beings towards living in society with peace and tolerance. Muslims believe that Allah is the Most Merciful; that Allah is the Most Forgiving; That Allah is the Pardoner of sins.  Therefore, a good Muslim is never revengeful, is never unforgiving or is never unpardoning. On the contrary, a Muslim goes on the premise that when Allah, the Almighty is the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful why should not I be merciful and forgiving towards another human being. After all, according to Islam it is our belief that Allah is the Creator of all mankind which obviously includes the Sinhalese people too.
“O mankind, worship your Lord who created you and those who lived before you, so that you may become righteous.”  (Chapter 2 Verse 21)
Patience An Exalted Quality
A practising Muslim always strives to be patient to the best possible extent in any given situation. This also constitutes the part of the Islamic ethics which exalts the conduct of patience in a Muslim. The behaviour of the Muslim is what it is because of the act of forgiveness, mercy and the practise of patience at times of trials and tribulations.  The Quran states:
“We shall test you through fear, hunger, loss of life, property, and crops. Give glad news to the people who have patience.”   (Chapter 2 Verse 155)
There is a misconception amongst the Sinhalese racists who always alleges especially, in the social media that the Muslims act innocent and harmless when they are weak but will not hesitate to kill someone if they are in power. Therefore, the Muslims cannot be trusted. This is an utterly false statement and by this these racists are deceiving the Sinhalese people.  They want to sow the seed of hatred in the minds of people and to this end would not stop at anything good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral. Shameless creatures, aren’t they?
Boastful Cowards
A distinction has to be drawn between being a coward and being an individual who practises patience. It is not an act of bravery but absolute cowardism to come in organised groups, armed with weapons and then attack unarmed innocent men, helpless women and traumatised children. Not only that, to solicit the support and complicity of the Police and the Special Task Force, to set alight closed shops, places of religious worship and houses of people who have not done any wrong to anyone. The lack of conscientiousness in these sick people is further amplified by their claim of heroism or boast as seen in Venerable Gnanasara Thero recent statement for example.
On the other hand, a person practising patience should not be misunderstood as being cunning or pretentious or as being a coward.  The Muslims have shown great maturity on the face of the puerile behaviour of the ‘grown up’ racists and some self-deluded racist politicians, who think that they are smarter.  The Muslims would not want to exacerbate a given situation by acting on their own.  These are some of the virtues and values that restrains the practising Muslims from retaliating.  As peace loving and law-abiding citizens, I think the Muslims are a great asset to this island, as part of a community showcasing multi-cultural, multi religious and multi ethnic diversity in unity.
“O you who believe! have patience, help each other with patience, establish good relations with one another, and have fear of God so that you may be successful..”   (Quran : Chapter 3 Verse 200)

How unarmed civilians saved lives during anti-Muslim attacks in Sri Lanka

On March 4th, Sinhala Buddhist mobs began sweeping through Sri Lanka’s Kandy district, hurling petrol bombs at Muslim-owned houses, shops and mosques. The attacks came as a shock, as Sri Lanka has not seen violence on this scale in nearly a decade. The government deployed thousands of security forces, armed with automatic weapons, tear gas and water cannons, but they failed to stop the violence until four days later. By then, mobs had wreaked havoc in a dozen towns and destroyed 465 properties. Yet the death toll was astonishingly low: The mobs ultimately killed just one person.
What accounts for the disparity? Dozens of ordinary civilians and local leaders used a variety of innovative strategies to protect one another and prevent violence from escalating.
Paradise in tears
During Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long civil war, which ended in 2009, it was often referred to as “paradise in tears.” With pristine beaches, ancient Buddhist temples and diverse wildlife all conveniently packed into an island the size of West Virginia, the country seems like an unlikely backdrop to three decades of ethnic conflict. Since the war ended, it has become one of Asia’s top tourist destinations, but the recent violence has led many to fear that Sri Lanka could be on the brink of another war.
The situation has some parallels to Myanmar’s current Rohingya crisis: Hardliners from the majority Sinhala Buddhist population, including several monks, have engaged in a sustained propaganda campaign, using social media to spread anti-Muslim sentiments, proliferate hate speech and organize attacks. In fact, Buddhist monks organized and carried out an attack on 200 Rohingya refugees in Sri Lanka last year. But unlike in Myanmar, anti-Muslim violence is a relatively new phenomenon in Sri Lanka.
Muslims did their best to stay out of Sri Lanka’ civil war, which was fought between the Sinhala-dominated government and a separatist group from Sri Lanka’s other minority population, the Tamils. After the war ended and Tamil separatism no longer posed a threat to nationalist ideals, militant Sinhala Buddhists began to target the Muslim population instead.
Over the last five years, Sinhala Buddhist nationalists have exploited global trends in Islamophobia to bolster myths that the nine percent Muslim minority is plotting to wrest control of the country away from the Sinhala majority and transform it into an Islamic nation. Rumors suggesting that Muslims are trying to stifle Sinhala population growth have become ubiquitous. Accusations that Muslim restaurants are lacing food with pills that cause permanent infertility have motivated attacks on Muslims. They became so prevalent that the government carried out tests on the food. As it turns out, the “pills” were actually just clumps of flour. Sinhala nationalists also frequently use Muslims as a scapegoat for their economic frustrations, as Muslims have traditionally been associated with Sri Lanka’s business sector.
Yet, despite the prevalence of such divisive propaganda, most Sri Lankans have refused to resort to violence. Meanwhile, Muslims have largely responded to attacks with nonviolence.
During the recent attacks, Muslims leaders used mosque loud speakers (which are normally used for the call to prayer) to urge Muslims to remain calm and refrain from retaliating. In many areas, Sinhalese and Tamils stepped in to protect Muslims, using a variety of strategies.
Early warning
When a mob approached a neighborhood in the town of Pallekele, Sinhala Buddhist families called their Muslim neighbors to warn them.
“We were on the way back from a wedding when the attacks began, but we turned around when our neighbors called us and told us it wasn’t safe to come home,” Hassan, a Muslim father of three explained. With their home and all of their belongings destroyed by fire, the family has been subsisting almost solely on the kindness of their neighbors who bring them food and buckets of water and charge their phones for them every day.
In Kengalla, the town that sustained the most damage in the attacks, Nussair’s friend, who had personal connections to some of the organizers of the attacks, called to warn him the day before the attacks.
“We didn’t think it was really going to happen,” Nussair said. He and his son stayed in the house, but he sent his daughter and four-month-old granddaughter out of town, just in case. Nussair and his son were still in the house when the mob began attacking it, but managed to escape. “We were so scared, we ran out the back as fast as we could,” he said.
In at least one other town, ample warning allowed Muslims to evacuate before the mobs began to attack. In a WhatsApp group that was used to organize the attacks, a group member sent a message saying “when we went to attack, there was no one, they had left,” while another member said, “someone had given them the news.”
Providing safe shelter
The mobs systematically targeted Muslim homes, shops and mosques, but other buildings remained untouched. Dozens of Sinhalese and Tamils were therefore able to provide a safe haven for Muslims during the attacks. Some hotels and families even posted invitations on Twitter.
In one particularly organized effort, a Tamil priest went to each of his parishioners’ homes and asked them to provide shelter for Muslims. He then drove Muslim families to each parishioner’s home, where they remained for the next 48 hours. When they returned home, many found that their homes had been burned down, but the community’s actions allowed them to escape unscathed.
Violence interruption
In Rajawella, a Muslim-majority village, men decided they would defend their homes and their families when they heard the mob was heading their way. Fifty men and boys gathered at the village entrance, armed only with sticks and kitchen knives, and prepared to take on the mob of 300 people. When a local monk heard about the developing situation, he feared that it would end in a bloodbath. He came to the town, and stood in front of the men and boys when the mob began to approach. The mob saw him, stopped and retreated.
“The monk protected us. He was the only reason that we weren’t attacked,” said Hassan, a business leader from the community. Dozens of displaced Muslim families are now living at the town mosque, as it is one of the few in the area that remained unharmed.
Protective presence
In the town of Balagolla, the Muslim community was afraid of being attacked during Friday prayers and reached out to Ven. Thalpotha Dhammajothi Thero, a local monk, for help. In response, the monk and his welfare committee stood outside the mosque throughout the prayers to deter any perpetrators.
“When I arrived, [the Muslim leaders] invited me inside, but I told them I am here to guard the mosque”, Dhammajothi Thero said. He insisted that he stay outside so that he was visible if any attackers arrived. As the mobs were carrying out the attacks in the name of Sinhala Buddhism, he knew that they would not attack if a monk was standing in their way.
Civilians protecting civilians
These interventions were remarkable, but not unprecedented. Civilians have intervened to protect each other in previous conflicts, as well. During the holocaust, Danish communities organized to warn Jews of an imminent Nazi plan to roundup and deport them to concentration camps, and then helped them escape. During the Rwandan genocide, many Hutus saved the lives of their Tutsi neighbors by providing them with safe shelter.
Additionally, civilian peacekeeping organizations such as Nonviolent PeaceforcePeace Brigades and Cure Violence use similar strategies to systematically protect threatened civilians. For example, civilian peacekeepers deter attacks by providing visible protective presence to deter perpetrators, just as the monk in Balagolla protected the mosque during Friday prayers. Like the community members in Pallekelle, peacekeepers use early warning systems to help targeted communities flee before attackers arrive. And similar to the monk in Rajawella, they prevent clashes by interrupting imminent attacks.
In the wake of violence, the obvious response is to focus on what went wrong. But equally important is to figure out what went right. Violence is, quite literally, contagious, but so is altruism. When we see someone engage in heroic actions, we often feel inspired to take such actions. And when we help others, we feel good about ourselves and are motivated to repeat such actions in the future. By highlighting civilian peacekeeping efforts — both organic and organized — we encourage others to take similar actions in the future.
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My Brother, the Other

Featured image courtesy Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatta


In the aftermath of further ethno-religious violence in Sri Lanka, stories are shared and explanations attempted, with each person trying to make sense of what is happening around them. People dwell on how ‘in the good old days’ everyone lived together peacefully. The meme ‘Keep Calm We are all Sri Lankan[1] is shared on social media in the hopes of reminding each other that we are united. That what has happened has been a sort of nightmare we can all wake up from. There is general discourse on how Sri Lanka is a multicultural nation, with many different people living together in peace, and how ultimately we are all one Sri Lankan family.

Infographic by Sakeena Razick

This idea of a united ‘Sri Lankan’ identity is presented as the central narrative of relations between different identity groups within the country, particularly, as is the focus of this article, between Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims. Yet, Sinhala-Muslim tensions outside of the North and East[2] and particularly on recent incidents of anti-Muslim violence contribute to a counter-narrative that contradicts this.

These opposing narratives of Sinhala-Muslim relations are reflected in conversations in everyday life. On the one hand, it is said ‘I have many Muslim friends. At Avurudu I share food with them and then at Ramazan they share food with me. We always celebrate our different festivals’. On the other hand, it is also quite normal to hear ‘Sinhalese Buddhists have been pushed to the limit. Why are these Muslims being treated differently?’ or ‘Why should we have to pay extra to buy products that are Halal certified?’

The claim that all individuals in Sri Lanka live together in harmony, despite their differences, is shattered, when in reality, differences between Sinhala and Muslim identity groups have become a focal point. It is in this context that it becomes necessary to investigate how and when such differences between identity groups are viewed. This involves questioning the setting in which a dominant ‘norm’ identity is revered as opposed to an ‘other’ identity. The latter is perceived as inferior to the former, and one that must therefore be subject to control.

Perry, in her criminological theory looks at ‘doing difference’ appropriately and inappropriately and analyses how this is linked to the perpetration of hate crime. According to Perry, ‘doing difference’ appropriately occurs when an individual or group performs their identity in conformity with the dominant norm identity. This ensures that the differences of a particular group, the ‘other’ identity, does not infringe upon the dominant ‘norm’ identity and upholds the existing social hierarchy. Where an individual or group performs their identity by crossing the boundaries that exist to uphold the dominant norm identity there is then ‘doing difference’ inappropriately and existing power relations are threatened. In this situation the differences of the ‘other’ identity infringe upon the dominant ‘norm’ identity.

Where there is ‘doing difference’ inappropriately there is thus a threat to the norm and fear of loss of dominance by the dominant identity group. This threat to dominance may then lead to the necessity for action to reinforce previous power relations that existed. It is in this context that there is the perpetration of violence by the dominant identity group which targets the ‘other’ identity group as a response to fear of loss of supremacy.

It may be proposed that on the assumption that the dominant ‘norm’ identity in Sri Lanka is that of being Sinhalese Buddhist, it is apparent that numerically minority communities, such as the Muslims, are thus placed in the position of ‘the other’ and then expected to perform their identity[3] in a manner that preserves existing relations of power which ensure that Sri Lanka continues as a Sinhala Buddhist nation. However, where the performance of Muslim identity threatens the norm of the ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ identity in instances of ‘doing difference’ inappropriately, it is then that the vulnerability of the Muslim community to violence and loss of life and damage to property[4] is exacerbated. It is in those circumstances that there is perpetration of hate crime against Muslims with the aim of reminding such community of their ‘place’ within the nation.

On the one hand, conformity with the general law of the country and its general banking standards and general standards for certification of food by the Muslim community may be viewed by the Sinhalese Buddhists as ‘doing difference’ appropriately. On the other hand, one of the instances of ‘doing difference’ inappropriately may be interpreted by the Sinhalese Buddhists as Muslim insistence on Halal certification of products. While Halal certification is upheld as a necessity for the Muslim community; it has been argued that this imposes a heavier financial burden on the consumer and as the general consumer is a Sinhalese, for whom it is not a necessity to have a Halal certified product, the Halal certification should be banned completely. The continuation of the Halal certification process, is perceived as an impediment[5] to the way things ought to be in a typically Sinhala Buddhist nation where no Halal certification would be necessary.

Where it is argued that the series of acts of ethno-religious violence against Muslims is the result of non-compliance by the Muslim community with the Sinhala Buddhist norm it may be suggested that these acts cannot be viewed as isolated, extremist acts that do not reflect the will of most of the Sinhala Buddhists. On the contrary it may be argued that the majority of the Sinhala Buddhist identity group may approve of these acts of violence and hate against Muslims who do not comply with the Sinhala Buddhist norm. It is this interpretation that may then explain the silence of the majority of Sinhala Buddhists over acts of violence and hate. This silence is often explained as apathy; the unfortunate result of decades of war and yet when it relates to issues of the economy or corruption, members of the general public may be quite vociferous. The silence of the majority of Sinhala Buddhists may thus be seen as implied approval of the reassertion of the dominance of the Sinhala Buddhists in a Sinhala Buddhist nation.

The inability and unwillingness by the Sinhalese Buddhist, as the dominant identity group, to tolerate differences that challenge the norm, will continue to cause tension and violence, unless differences are perceived not as a threat but as an opportunity to question and redefine the norm. Is Sri Lanka actually a multi-religious and multicultural nation or a Sinhala Buddhist nation? If it is a Sinhala Buddhist nation then what are the principles of such a nation with regard to the relationship between the Sinhala Buddhist identity group and other identity groups? Where other identity groups seek to challenge the Sinhala Buddhist norm what is the response of the Sinhala Buddhists? Is it one rooted in dialogue and collaboration or in violence?

Ultimately, Sri Lanka is faced with several choices. Do we continue to wear our ‘Sri Lanka tinted spectacles’ and live together with our brother as our enemy? Or do we recognise our brother’s role within our family, while questioning, what it really means to be a family?

[1] Roar life, ‘We are all Sri Lankan’ meme, 7th March 2018.
[2] Vijay Nagaraj and Farzana Haniffa, An ICES publication, Towards Recovering Histories of Anti-Muslim Violence in the Context of Sinhala Muslim Tensions in Sri Lanka, 2017, as accessible at:
[3] Mark Walters, A General Theories of Hate Crime? Strain, Doing Difference and Self Control, 2010; as accessible at:
[4] Gulf News, Tariq A.Al Maeena, Neo-fascism on the rise in Sri Lanka, 23rd February 2013, as accessible at:
[5] Sri Lanka Mirror, Bodu Bala Sena gives ultimatum to ban Halal certification, 18th February 2013, as accessible at:
[6]. Daily FT, Dharisha Bastians, Bodu Bala Sena anti-Halal agitation to begin in Maharagama tomorrow, 16th February 2013, as accessible at:
[7]. Barbara Perry, Hate and Bias Crime: A Reader, 2003.