Thursday, 16 January 2014 00:00
UNP MP and Chairman, United Leadership Council Karu Jayasuriya in a statement has raised serious concern over the rise in religious violence which he alleged has brought Sri Lanka to the very brink of communal strife yet again.
Following is the full text of the statement:
The upsurge in religious violence in recent times is profoundly damaging to the national psyche and should concern all fair-minded Sri Lankans. Social and religious harmony is the patriotic duty of every citizen, especially in a country that is emerging from 30 years of ethnic conflict.
Last Sunday’s attack on two churches in Hikkaduwa was neither isolated nor accidental. It was merely the manifestation of a greater tragedy that is now engulfing our nation, where religious and ethnic intolerance is being allowed to reign with impunity by the ruling regime, distorting the values inherent to Sri Lanka’s culture, ethos and long respected civilisation.
This orchestration of violence against ethnic and religious minorities is not only a conspiracy against the country but also an attempt to destroy the concept of Buddhism as taught by lord Buddha, who gave the world a philosophy of peace, loving kindness and non violence towards all beings. The actions of certain extremists claim to represent all Buddhists but by their every action they only befoul and denigrate the teachings of the Buddha. The impunity these groups have come to enjoy has brought Sri Lanka to very brink of communal strife yet again.
The greatest tragedy of this moment is not merely the tacit patronage provided to these extremist groups by the State and its agents, but also the fact that Sri Lanka finds herself staring into this abyss once again less than five years after the end of brutal and protracted conflict. No true patriot of Sri Lanka, grateful to have seen the end of war, would have wished to see a repetition of past mistakes so soon again in their lifetime.
Religious intolerance that saw the attacks in Hikkaduwa last Sunday, has reached its climax due to the impotence and inaction of the ruling regime in the face of a dangerous trend that contributes to the insecurity of minority communities and embarrasses the Buddhist majority. While untrammelled hate speech has ruled the day, leading to numerous attacks against religious minorities and a massive spike in inter religious tensions, to date the Government has failed to book a single perpetrator or hold any single person accountable for these crimes.
It is baffling that the police that is tasked with protecting every Sri Lankan citizen irrespective of race or religion has been made to look like powerless bystanders to this unfolding tragedy. This leaves Sri Lankans with no alternative but to conclude that this religious intolerance and violence has the blessing of the present regime.
As a party that believes in studying and learning from the mistakes of the past, the UNP holds firm to the values of pluralism and freedom of conscience. As standard bearers of the country’s oldest party, we will stand for the religious freedoms of all Sri Lankans. If the place of religious worship of any Sri Lankan is subjected to attack, the UNP will raise a voice against it.
If we hold true to the concept of one Sri Lanka, then our reaction to an assault against a mosque, church or Hindu kovil cannot differ in strength to the reaction against an attack on a Buddhist temple, for they all belong to Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka belongs to them all. In this country that has been often called the land of the Buddha, there is space enough, tolerance enough, peace enough for each of these religious communities to co-exist.
Political expediency sought through sowing discord between religious faiths threatens all this.
Against this devilry and short-sightedness, the UNP will take the strongest possible stand. This party places on notice, all those officials who fail in their duty to protect and uphold the freedom of religion in this country and thus lay the building blocks for religious and communal strife that threatens to engulf and destroy the very fabric of Sri Lankan society. It is an unpardonable offence and a crime against the nation.
If the present regime believes that by patronising these extreme movements who wish to create further division they will garner the support of Buddhists in this country, they are making a fundamental mistake. The fanaticism and violence irks the moderate and peace loving Buddhist of Sri Lanka, that I believe still forms the majority, irrespective of their political affiliation. The proof of their repulsion will be known at the next national election.