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‘Banning extremist organisations will not solve problems’



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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Overtime gravy train for public sector back



Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.

The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.

Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.

Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.

Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.

Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.

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Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee



Prof G L Peris

Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.

Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.

Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.

Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.

The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)

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Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.

The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.

They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.

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