Apr 3, 2018

Buildings Can Be Rebuilt, But Not Broken Hearts

A. M. Majeed Muzammil

There has been a vicious campaign to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment and unrest among Sinhalese over the past few years by Sinhala Buddhist ultra-nationalist groups. The aim is to create racial discord between the Sinhalese and Muslim communities.

There had been more than two hundred recorded incidents of intimidation, violence and arson attacks and tens of police complaints made against the aforesaid groups by Muslims. Had the government enforced law and order and brought perpetrators to book , this Ampara – Teldeniya violence against Muslims could have been averted.

Following the death of a Sinhalese lorry driver ten days after hospitalization due to a road rage incident, extremist Buddhist bigots had wreaked havoc in a dozen towns. Over 300 houses, nearly 250 businesses establishments and over 90 vehicles were attacked and torched over a period of three days and nights. Scores of mosques were vandalized and desecrated.

Ironically, houses and businesses were burnt in front of law enforcement officials. The body of an innocent 27-year-old Muslim youth was found inside a shop at Kengalle in Digana. The riots were similar to the events that unfolded in Aluthgama and Beruwala in 2014.

It was distressing to witness a Sinhalese doctor at the Teldeniya hospital refusing to treat the bleeding head wounds of Abdul Saleel Mohamed Fazil, a local councilor who was mercilessly assaulted by the Special Task Force.

Be that as it may, it is pleasing and heartening to hear that there were many instances where Sinhalese families gave shelter and protection to their besieged Muslim neighbours and friends. In most cases, they were kept hidden in their homes, and there were several cases of people standing up to the mobs and refusing to let them go on the rampage in their vicinity.

This clearly proves that, the majority of the Sinhalese do not condone these types of violence against another community and with deeper feeling and affection towards Muslims, have expressed their dissatisfaction about the acts of violence unleashed against the Muslim community.

The finest couple of examples to be cited for their benevolence details the young Buddhist monk Ven. Waturakumbure Dhammaratana Thera, and a group of Sinhalese students patrolling the streets of the Muruthalawa village in Yatinuwara, to prevent violent incidents against its Muslims residents and slept in the Muruttalawa mosque along with their Muslim brethren.

In another instance, Madeena Muslim Hotel at Anamaduwa, was burnt down by a petrol bomb attack. A majority of those who came to assist in the repair of the hotel were from the Sinhalese community living in the area. The renovation was completed within 12 hours after the attack and the hotel resumed business the very same day.

The initial police inaction and reported connivance of some sections of STF with the mobs have undoubtedly added fuel to the communal flare which spread to Katugastota, Aladeniya, Digana, Abathenna, Akurana and other parts of Sri Lanka. It is akin to Bollywood movies where the cops always come after deaths and wanton destruction to the scene.

We cannot allow a few fringe extremist elements to premeditate another anti-Muslim pogrom. Law enforcement officers must take stern action against the perpetrators irrespective of political affiliations or status and prosecute under Chapter XV of the Penal Code as well as section 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act No. 56 of 2007.

The government must share equal responsibility in failing to act swiftly and allowing a manageable situation to get out of hand. The President has currently appointed a panel of three retired judges to probe the breakdown in law and order and it should not end up  like the Justice A C Alles’ Commission of Inquiry into the Galle anti-Muslim riots of July 1982.

It has transpired that the Mahason Balakaya, or Devils’ Force, under the leadership of Amith Weerasinghe had masterminded the spread of violence and mayhem on social media, specifically on “Face book” in which his page has over 143, 000 followers.

The primary objective of the so-called ultra-nationalists was to cripple and undermine the economic power of Muslims and their livelihood; hence Muslim owned business establishments were precisely targeted. “Fashion Bug” and its head offices in Colombo, “No Limit” at Maharagama, “Last Chance Electrical Showroom” in Wennappuwa, a cosmetic shop in Elpitiya, a leather store at Wijerama Junction – Maharagama, are just a few examples. Losses are estimated to run in to millions.

Most of the Muslim traders sweat blood and earn money. It takes a whole lifetime of hard work to build a business, just for it to be burnt in a few seconds. How traumatized will the owners be to witness their business establishments ransacked and set ablaze?

Why are Ven.Gnanasara Thera, Ven. Ampitiye Sumanaratna Thera, Ven.Akmeemana Dayarathana and their cohorts like Amith Weerasinghe, Dan Priyasath and Saliya Ranawake spewing venom and inciting hatred and religious fanaticism against Muslims? 

Four sublime states of mind have been taught by the Buddha: Loving-kindness (metta); Compassion (karuna); Sympathetic Joy (mudita); Equanimity (upekkha). Do these hate-mongers truly know the meaning of the aforesaid as well as Dhammapada Verse 5 which states,” Na hi Verena Verani”– Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.

It seems that instead of following the path of peace and beautiful values taught to them by the Buddha, they have created for themselves a new way to attain Nibbana by torching and desecrating mosques, and vandalizing and trying to terrorize a community.

Where were these so-called pseudo patriots during 30 years conflict with the LTTE? Did they fight valiantly with our “Tri Forces heroes” against the marauding Tigers? Have they forgotten how Muslim officers did their duty to their nation by playing a pivotal role in defeating terrorism?

How can anyone forget the names of Captain Shahul Hameed, Commanding Officer, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), Colonel Tuan Nizam Muthaliff, Commanding Officer, Military Intelligence Corps, Col. Fazly Lafir, one of the founding officers of Sri Lanka Special Force or Chief Inspector N.M. Nilabdeen, who is probably the best counter-terrorism officer Sri Lanka has ever seen.

Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne rightly stated that “It is Muslims who led our long-range reconnaissance patrols at the risk of losing their lives. In the process, some of them were killed by the LTTE. We are alive today, because of our brave Muslim brothers. The LTTE attacked and chased the Muslims away from areas which were under its control in the North and East because they did not support their cause. Sinhalese who unfairly harm Muslims are traitors. We have a duty to protect the Muslims.”

What a profound statement!

The Muslim community is still reeling in shock and the people of Digana and Teldeniya have become disillusioned due to the failures of law enforcement. Buildings can be rebuilt, but not broken hearts. Compensation can be given but the mental anguish and trauma of the victims will indelibly be etched in their minds and will certainly remain forever.

An individual will definitely meet the consequences and severely experience what he or she has viciously done to others.  This is the Universal Law of Karma!



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