To counter escalating religious and ethnic tension in the country, the Government yesterday emphasised that action will be taken against all forms of religious and ethnic violence.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Cabinet of Ministers issued separate statements condemning the escalating trend of hate crime in the country.
Action is being taken to set up new district level and national committees to counter such violence at the local level.
Highlighting the urgency in the need to address the escalation of widespread religious and ethnic tension in the country given the increase in such reported incidents, President Maithripala Sirisena, as Minister of National integration and Reconciliation, set up district level reconciliation committees with the representation of religious leaders as a reconciliation mechanism to mediate, negotiate and resolve conflicts to ensure sustainable peace.
The committee convened by the District Secretary will see the representation of inter-religious groups and the Superintendent of Police and co-opt relevant officials and other observers to address the incidence of interreligious and inter-ethnic tensions and promote integration and reconciliation, the Cabinet paper said.
The committee is to meet on a quarterly basis unless there were incidents. Further, the Government will also appoint a reconciliation committee to address the unresolved issues raised by the District Level Reconciliation Committees.
Condemning the attacks, the Prime Minister said that instructions have been issued to take action against perpetrators and that a new law will be introduced if needed. The action comes as the diplomatic community urged the Government to take action against escalating religious tension in the country.
“The Police has been assigned to carry out a full investigation on the attacks on several mosques and Muslim-owned shops,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said, making a statement at his official residence at Temple Trees.
Police last week said that 16 separate hate crimes have been reported since last April. On Sunday the Police announced the first arrest in relation to the reported hate crimes.
“If any person is working against any religion or ethnic community, or engaged in violence against any community, the authorities will investigate and take necessary action against such persons. The Police is engaged in investigations. In some cases action has been taken,” the Prime Minister said.
Reminding the country about the violence and destruction that was caused by religious tension in 2014, the Prime Minister said that the country would not face such a situation again.
“We do not want to stoop to such low levels. We will not permit such action again,” Wickremesinghe said.
Issuing a separate statement the Cabinet of Ministers also condemned the attacks on places of worship, businesses, shops and houses. Denouncing hate speech by certain individuals and groups aimed at inciting violence against different ethnic and religious communities in the country, the Ministers urged law enforcement authorities to take action against the perpetrators.
“We regret the destruction of property and loss of livelihoods as a result of recent incidents, and the pain of mind and fear caused to individuals by the incidents that occurred.”
Highlighting that such actions have no place in Sri Lankan society, the Ministers appreciated civil society groups and religious leaders who have come forward to help maintain peaceful co-existence.
“We take this opportunity to urge the active participation and leadership of all Sri Lankans in efforts aimed at reconciliation and fostering peaceful co-existence in our country, without which the stability and economic growth and progress that our nation so richly deserves will continue to elude us,” the Ministers stated.