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‘Banning extremist organisations will not solve problems’

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Why did Easter PCoI report say ‘Buddhist’ extremists and ‘Islamic’ terrorists?

A group of Muslim civil society activists, led by former PA National List Parliamentarian M. M. Zuhair has questioned the rationale in the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that probed the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage in naming those who resorted to violence as ‘Buddhist’ extremists and ‘Islamic’ terrorists.

The following is the text of the statement issued by M. M. Zuhair PC, former MP, Latheef Farook, Journalist and Author, Mass L Usuf, Attorney-at-Law and Advocacy Columnist and Mansoor Dahlan, Theology Scholar: “The Presidential Commission on Easter Sunday attacks has referred in its report (page 464) to the ‘rise of Buddhist extremism’ in Sri Lanka “from 2012, due to the actions of the BBS”. It has also referred to Sihala Rawaya, Mahasohon Balakaya, Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa and Sinhale Jathika Sanvidanaya among others as “anti-social Sinhala Buddhist movements”. We are deeply concerned as to why these organisations should be called “Buddhist”, when some of the actions attributed to these entities, as detailed in the report are clearly outside the teachings, philosophy, ethics and lifestyle laid down in the 2500 year old respected religion, Buddhism.

“The report has also referred to the Siva Sena Movement in Batticaloa as a Tamil Hindu organisation as well as National Thowheed Jamaat of the key suicide bomber Zahran Hashim as Islamic entities. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity have throughout the past several centuries governed the lifestyle of virtually the entire humanity of ordinary beings, though Kings and rulers have often hijacked religions for their political purposes. Why discredit Buddhism or the other religions for the ultra-nationalist, racist or communal actions of the majoritarian or minoritarian groups or persons? Why did the Easter Commission report name the extremists as ‘Buddhist’ extremists and terrorists as ‘Islamic’ terrorists?

“When it came to the LTTE, we never called them Hindu terrorists or Christian terrorists! We called them LTTE terrorists even though they massacred Buddhist monks at Arantalawa and Muslims at worship in four Mosques in Kattankudy? Why not call them as majoritarian extremists or BBS extremists or Sri Lankan Jihadists or NTJ terrorists?

“Bringing the religion to the forefront is part of the agenda of the West and NATO countries at war, from the 1950s against communism and since 1990 against Islam. West was at peace with Islam until the so called collapse of communism in the late 1980s! Why bring these ethno-religious wars into our country and open the flood gates for Western R2P interventions in our internal affairs? That is exactly what the Commission report will unwittingly achieve!

“We find it unacceptable to give parochial extremists, criminals or terrorists any form of refuge in any religion as was damagingly done some-time ago by Time magazine displaying to the world in its front cover titled the “Buddhist Face of Terror”. We believe that it is a part of Wester’s long term agenda to set up platforms for conflict creation in third world countries for the benefit of their powerful arms industries even while their governments argue and demand compliance with human rights and humanitarian norms.

“The report is Western inspired. That too at a time when the West is seeking to slit Sri Lanka’s throat at the UNHCR if not this March, at least in September. The report overlooks the dangerous reality that Western interests are in direct conflict with Sri Lanka’s interests of establishing unity, peace and harmony amongst the Sri Lankan people. Peace is essential for the country’s economic advancement.

“There are sufficient laws and institutions in Sri Lanka to deal with violent extremism and terrorism. Some of our laws are excessive or draconian. The Commission has rightly recommended a revision of the controversial Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1979 the abuse of which made the LTTE a more dangerous organization. As pointed out but not duly highlighted in the report, the failure of the state to take effective action to deal with anti-minority hate campaigns which commenced in 2012 and the lenience shown by the police and the courts in dealing with majoritarian extremists involved in anti-minority hate campaigns led to racist attacks on minority Muslims in Aluthgama in 2014, Galle 2017, Ampara (February) 2018 and Digana (March) 2018.

“Banning BBS or other organisations as recommended in the report is not the solution. It will only send them underground. They may mutate into more dangerous forms. Proscribing NTJ is understandable. Its leader Zahran Hashim led a gang of terrorists.

“It happened to the pre-1989 JVP! Former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, though he reduced the electoral cut-off point from 12½% to 5% at the request of M.H.M. Ashraff, Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, President Premadasa did say at a late night meeting with Ashraff attended by (one of) the undersigned M.M. Zuhair, that he wanted JVP to give up violence and enter Parliament. Today the JVP is an active, mature and non-violent political party.

Firm action to eradicate hate speeches and violence without discrimination coupled with promoting reconciliation and national integration while respecting diversity is the way forward in the Sri Lankan context. Getting guidance from Western arms industry agents in the country will only help in radicalising all sectors of the country’s population. The Commission is on the wrong track.”



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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