Religious leaders call for restraint and tolerance as clashes leave three dead

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 01:42 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Following violent clashes between the Sinhala Buddhists and Muslims in two southern coastal towns of on Sunday that resulted in the deaths of three Muslims, top religious leaders in the country today urged the public to restrain and observe tolerance to dispel the growing religious intolerance in the island nation. Leading Buddhist monks joined the Muslim religious leaders to stress the importance of consolidating peace and harmony among all ethnic groups without any racial or religious differences after the country has just recovered from a three-decade long ethnic war. The Religious Organisation for National Unity at the press briefing said the unrest among the Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims in the Beruwala and Aluthgama areas should be dispelled immediately. Expressing regret over the loss of life and property suffered by Muslims as a result of the violence at a media briefing organised by the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka today, Venerable Professor Kamburugamuwa Vajira Thero said the Sinhala Buddhists and Hindus as well as the Muslim people have been living in unity in Sri Lanka for many years and what the country needs today is unity among all communities, not the divisions. The violence erupted in the two coastal towns where a large number of Muslims live following an anti-Muslim demonstration by the hardline Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena resulted in the deaths of three Muslims and injuries to over 80 others. Scores of shops and properties owned by the Muslims were damaged or burned in the two towns. The venerable Thero pointed out that the creation of ethnic clashes is tremendously disadvantageous to the country on the international scale. Only the antigovernment forces will take advantage of such situations, he said. He warned that some groups may attempt to use the Aluthgama and Beruwala incident to create tensions and communal disharmony in Sri Lanka and urged the public not to fall prey to such attempts. Rev. Father Sarath Hettiarachchi said that no room should be allowed to create large scale conflicts by making use of such small incidents. All ethnic groups should strive to safeguard peace, he urged. Muslim leader Maulavi Maulana pointed out the need to safeguard peace and inter-ethnic harmony as it is crucial for the advancement of the country. (Colombo Page)  

 Ranil to make a special statement in Parliament today

Opposition and United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe will deliver a special statement in the parliament today on the situation in the Beruwala Aluthgama area where communal clashes erupted between Sinhala and Muslim people. UNP said the government completely failed to control the tense situation in the Aluthgama Beruwala area. The party condemned the government for spreading dissension among communities to claim there is a conspiracy against the government in order to cover up its ineptness.

 UNP runs into trouble in Beruwala

A United National Party delegation that travelled to Aluthgama and Beruwala last evening ran into trouble with the mob stationed at the entrance to one of the towns, Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha De Silva said yesterday. The UNP MP said that the mob had refused to permit the Opposition delegation to pass because it included Muslim MPs, including Kabir Hashim and Western Provincial Councillor, Mujibur Rahuman. UNP Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya, Party General Secretary Tissa Attanayake and MP Eran Wickremaratne were also part of the delegation. De Silva said the group had come ‘face to face’ with an unruly drunk and abusive mob. “They threatened physical harm against Muslim representatives in our group, if we did not turn back. Sad to say, the situation in Beruwala does not seem anything near ‘normal’ as told to us by the Government Ministry of Law and Order,” the UNP MP said on his Facebook page. The group also visited the Chief Prelate of the ‘Kandey Vihare’ temple and requested him to intervene to keep the peace by advising the villagers. “We felt the tension and it was certainly very high. The STF and heavily-armed military personnel were visible everywhere. I sincerely hope the authorities bring the situation under control because a lapse would result in unspeakable mayhem,” the UNP MP said.

JVP asks public not to fall prey to religious extremism

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday asked people not to fall prey to religious extremism and become “stupid victims of extremists”. Expressing the party’s standpoint regarding the communalist and religious clashes that have arisen in certain areas in the country, JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva at a special media conference held at the party head office at Pelawatte yesterday said the communal and religious clashes that have arisen have to be defeated. “We first invite the people in this country to come forward to build national unity. What exists at present is a very serious and inflammable situation,” Silva said emphasising that the media institutions have a big responsibility in quelling the situation. The Party Leader pointed out that as a result of an incident that occurred at Aluthgama a communal and religious conflict is spreading throughout the country. “This is a clash created by extremists making use of a minor incident. Now those who ignited the fire are unable to extinguish it and it is spreading in all directions. The people that lived together in these areas now live in fear and suspicion,” Silva said. Reminding that the Black July in 1983 created a reason for the 30-year war against Tamil terrorists, the JVP Leader said many lessons should be learnt in history regarding such clashes. Silva criticised the Government for backing the extremist groups and using communal and religious clashes instead of preventing them for its advantage. “Conduct of the Government in this situation has sustained extremists’ moves. Communal and religious clashes are intentionally created to get its vote base increased,” he charged. The JVP General Secretary said the religious extremists use the sentiment of the general public for their targets and urged all Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim masses to stop communal and religious clashesand come forward to normalise the situation and create an environment for peaceful living.  

Police Chief rejects rumours over the death of a Buddhist monk

The Police Chief, Inspector General of Police N.K. Illangakoon, issued a statement yesterday dismissing the false rumours spreading on the death of a Buddhist monk during the religious clashes on Sunday in Aluthgama. He confirmed that no Buddhist monk had been killed in the communal clashes that took place in the coastal town last night defying a police curfew. The IGP urged the public not to be misled by rumours and unsubstantiated stories. The rumour on the death of a Buddhist monk was raising tensions across the country and has sparked some anti-Muslim actions in several places. The tension spread to Badulla in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka as the members of Buddhist extremist Bodu Bala Sena pelted stones at Muslim shops. The hardline group staged a protest against Police seeking the release of an activist who had been arrested for attacking Muslim shops. The clashes instigated by the followers of the organisation on Sunday resulted in the deaths of three Muslims.

US condemns, wants justice met

The US Embassy in a statement yesterday condemned the violence that has spread over the weekend in Aluthgama and Beruwela. “We urge the government to ensure that order is preserved and the lives of all citizens, places of worship, and property are protected. We urge the authorities to investigate these attacks and bring those responsible to justice. We also urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law,” the Embassy’s statement added.