- Insists Presidential probe of communal unrest must take priority over investigation of SriLankan Airlines
- Stresses the need to monitor social media platforms
- Says elements of both Sinhalese and Muslim racism involved
By Skandha Gunaekara
State Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Dr. Harsha De Silva in Parliament yesterday called for the appointment of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate the incidents in Ampara and Theldeniya.
Participating in yesterday’s adjournment debate, Minister De Silva was responding to remarks made by JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake, who had spoken before.
“MP Rathnayake made a good point earlier. He said that there was someone who was igniting these racist fires and others who were fuelling these fires. Who is doing this?Who is igniting these fires? We must find out.On the ‘UPFA – A Brighter Future’ Facebook page there was a post claiming that a protest had taken place in the North when the actual picture and the story was of a protest that had taken place in Tamil Nadu. Don’t those who put up things like this realise that it fuels the fire of extremism?”Dr De Silva said.
The Minister then highlighted the need to monitor social media platforms for ‘trolls’ and ‘bots’ that disseminate misinformation.
“Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp can be and is used to the spread fake news and extremist propaganda. Even in the current situation, we found out that as soon as we blocked those social media platforms the riots died down and the crowds began dispersing. Their organisational capabilities were hindered,” he said.
The Minister went on to say that it was not only Sinhala racism, but Muslim racism too was involved.
“We must find out who is behind the repeated communal unrest. This is not only Sinhalese racism but Muslim racism also. It is a very small part of our society but we must find out who it is. After the war, the issues towards the Tamil people havebeen reduced but racism against Muslims rose.”
The Minister said that a Presidential Commission of Inquiry must be established to probe the incidents of Ampara, Digana and Teldeniya as well as investigate how the Sinhala and Muslim extremist groups operated, particularly through the monitoring of Social media.
“The President has appointed a Presidential Commission to investigate SriLankan, but this is more important. He should appoint one for this issue immediate. This must take priority as it is a threat to all our peoples. It is a threat to our democracy. We cannot allow our country to go back to the suffering it endured for 30 long years.”