Colombo, May 22 – More focused on his very own political survival and foreign jaunts, President Maithripala Sirisena appeared to have no time to discuss the increasing attacks against the Muslim community, and had shot down a request by Muslim MPs to meet him and had instead directed Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka to preside the meeting scheduled for today (Monday).
Sirisena who is off to Australia today on a four day state visit, was too busy with the cabinet reshuffle and his impending Australia tour, and had little or no time to focus on the fact that the Muslims in the country were coming under increasing attacks once again by the Bodu Bala Sena(BBS) with a mosque and Muslim owned shops in several parts of the country being attacked or torched.
Even at the time this news report was published, several more establishments owned by Muslims had reportedly come under attack. Since mid-April this year, there has been at least 15 such incidents in various parts of the country. However, no action appears to have been taken by law enforcement officers apart from the customary ‘we will look into this.’ The government is yet to make an official statement on this issue despite growing tension as well as fears within the Muslim community of yet another BBS sponsored Aluthgama riot which left people killed, injured and houses and shops burnt.
Despite back to back attacks allegedly launched by the BBS led mobs against Muslim owned establishments and mosques in several parts of the country, the police are yet to take any serious steps to apprehend the culprits, including Bodu Bala Sena’s General Secretary Galagoda Atte Gnanasara who has been making anti-Muslim statements as well as hate mongering against Muslims at various meetings attended by large groups of Buddhist youth.
Since coming to power in January 2015, Sirisena has been busy globe-trotting and has been overseas at least 25 times. Sources pointed out that before strengthening Sri Lanka’s relationships with the outside world, it was important for leaders to focus on building strained relationships within the communities in the country.
In his election manifesto, Sirisena promised to ensure freedom of religious belief for people belonging to all religions in the country. “Religious disturbances are developing in the country due to the activities of extremist religious sects. In this situation the extremist groups mutually nourish one another and are expanding their activities. In order to control this situation, I will establish regional and national councils comprising religious leaders who will boldly work for religious coexistence and against extremism, without giving room for extreme elements of all religions. These Councils will be empowered to investigate into all problems associated with places of religious worship and arrive at final conclusions. Issues unresolved at regional level will be referred to the National Council,” he said in the 62 page manifesto which was released during the presidential election. However, no such councils have been appointed despite Sirisena been in office for over two years.
(By Munza Mushtaq for Colombo Telegraph)