Colombo, Jun 14 (newsin.asia): The Sri Lankan government will arrest and punish those who spread religious hate, if necessary armed with new laws, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declared here on Wednesday.
“One cannot be a Sri Lankan if that person either hates or condemns other religions and cultures,” Wickremesinghe said in a special statement after the cabinet on Tuesday decided to crack down on Buddhist extremists.
Buddhist extremists led by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) have been spreading hate against minority Muslims for the past 20 days, burning shops and attacking mosques and houses in various parts of the island.
“Laws will be strictly implemented against them and if required we will introduce new laws,” the Prime Minister told reporters.
Meanwhile, the cabinet issued a statement which said: “Communal, ethnic and religious hatred and violence and impunity, have no place in the society that we are striving to build. We are deeply concerned by the recent incidents of violence targeting places of religious worship, shops and business enterprises, and houses.”
“ We denounce in the strongest terms, these acts of violence and hatred, including incidents of hate speech by certain individuals and groups aimed at inciting violence against the different ethnic and religious communities in our country.”
“ We are deeply saddened by the destruction of property and loss of livelihoods as a result of recent incidents, and the pain of mind and fear caused to individuals.”
Blaming vested interests for the incidents, the cabinet said: “We direct the law enforcement authorities to immediately take all necessary steps in accordance with the law of the land, against instigators and perpetrators of violence and hate speech targeting any religious and ethnic group in the country.”
“ The strictest action must be taken without delay, in accordance with the law, against all persons or groups who act to incite violence, and engage in acts of violence. The law must be applied to all regardless of social status, ethnic or religious background or political affiliations of perpetrators of such acts.”
“ We also direct the law enforcement authorities and the Hon. Attorney General to expedite action against those responsible for all atrocities committed, as impunity holds the dangerous possibility of our country receding into conflict.”
“Gautama Buddha’s teachings emphasize the importance of co-existence, tolerance, respect and compassion. This nation is blessed by the teachings of the four great religious traditions in the world– Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam – which provide us the guidance required for peaceful co-existence, upholding human values.”
Perpetrator On The Run
The perpetrator of the recent spate of violence, Ven. Gnanasara Thero, a Buddhist monk who leads the anti-Muslim Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), has been evading arrest in a contempt of court case. He is also being investigated for hate speech against Muslims.
His lawyers say that he is afraid of being assassinated in court and that is why he is in hiding. The Court of Appeal has given a fresh date for surrender and has warned that if he does not surrender before that, an arrest warrant would be issued against him. In the meanwhile he has filed a Fundamental Rights petition in the Supreme Court saying that he is being hounded by the police even as investigations are on in some cases against him.
The Sri Lankan government has had to act because Western diplomats stationed in Colombo have condemned the violence against the Muslims. And the UN Human Rights Commission is in session in which there was a discussion on a report which was highly critical of the Sri Lankan judiciary.
(The featured image at the top is that of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe)