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UNP condemns religious attacks

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Says it will uphold founding secular principles to ensure religious harmony and rule of law is upheld

The United National Party (UNP) yesterday expressed concern over the recent spate of attacks against minorities but insisted it would not allow “subversive elements” to undermine reconciliation efforts backed by the Government. 

“The UNP notes with deep concern the recent attempts by subversive elements to sabotage the reconciliation efforts of the national unity government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,” said the statement released by UNP Chairman and International Investment and Development Strategies Minister Malik Samarawickrama. 

“Since its founding, the UNP has remained a secular political party fostering unity while building a truly Sri Lankan identity,” it added. 

“The UNP welcomes the statement of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Prime Minister and the President to use the full force of the law against those causing religious tensions, racial hatred and undermining the efforts at reconciliation since the new Government came to power.  

“At the January 2015 presidential election as well as the August 2015 general election, the UNP and its allies received a mandate for their reconciliation efforts. The UNP will not waver in ensuring that ethnic peace, religious harmony and the rule of law are maintained,” the statement said.  

A cornerstone of every religion is non-violence and respect for others. Those who spread hate and instigate violence are only undermining the faiths they claim to protect, it added. 

The UNP said it joins the President and Prime Minister in urging law enforcement authorities to bring to justice those responsible for hate crimes. It said there was no place for religious intolerance and racial hatred in the 21st century Sri Lanka as it emerged as a peaceful and stable country with a strong economy which was “a beacon of hope for democracy.”

“No individual or organisation causing religious tensions should be allowed to escape prosecution. Sri Lanka cannot be pulled back to the dark days of war when tens of thousands of lives were lost. The economic stagnation and international isolation are things of the past.”

The statement referred to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as being responsible for creating racial tensions with a focus on narrow political agendas but stressed the UNP would not allow disharmony.   

“However, political forces relegated to the dustbin of history are attempting to exploit extremism and extremists in the hope of returning to power. The UNP, with its strong commitment to national unity and harmony, will resist such bankrupt political opportunists and urge the authorities to swiftly bring them to justice. They will not prevail.

“The UNP has faith in the vast majority of Sri Lankans to protect the freedoms they enjoy under the new unity government of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.” 

Monk, policeman arrested over nationalist hate crimes 


AFP: Sri Lankan authorities on Sunday arrested a police officer and a Buddhist monk accused of leading an arson attack against a mosque and a Muslim business amid a wave of religious violence.

Deputy Inspector-General Priyantha Jayakody said the policeman, a monk and two others were caught on camera torching the buildings in Panadura just outside the capital Colombo.

“They were taken after analysing CCTV footage which showed them setting fire to a mosque and a Muslim-owned book shop at Panadura last month,” Jayakody told reporters in Colombo.

The arrested policeman, a constable stationed in Colombo, was accused of stoking racial and religious tensions, Jayakody added, describing the arrests as a “breakthrough” in efforts to curb the outbreak of violence.

Police say the four accused are close associates of Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, a Buddhist extremist who heads a group of radicals blamed for a slew of arson attacks against Muslim businesses, cemeteries and mosques.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Gnanasara, who went underground in May after police linked dozens of alleged hate crimes against Muslims to his radical Buddhist Force, or BBS. 

Police have warned that anyone harbouring or aiding the fugitive monk in any way will face prosecution.

Gnanasara maintains close ties with Wirathu, an extremist monk in Mandalay whose hate speech has galvanised religious tensions in Myanmar.

Wirathu visited Sri Lanka as a guest of Gnanasara in September 2014, shortly after anti-Muslim riots at the tourist resort of Aluthgama left four people dead and hundreds of Muslim homes destroyed.

The arrest warrant issued for Gnanasara dates back to April 2014, months before the outbreak of violence, when he was accused of insulting the Koran.

The Government has vowed to protect Muslims in the Buddhist-majority nation and prevent the violence from escalating. Legislators have promised tougher laws to crackdown on hate speech.

Earlier this month, foreign diplomats urged Sri Lanka to take action to stop the violence from escalating.

In a video message released last week, the BBS denied any involvement in the attacks, but accused the Government of allowing Islamic extremism to flourish in Sri Lanka.

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