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Civil society questions PCoI blaming majority community extremists ‘nourishing’ Islamic extremists

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The Easter Sunday Commission has incorrectly and inappropriately labelled majoritarian extremism as well as minoritarian extremism as “Islamic” and “Buddhist” extremism, argues a group of Muslim civil society activists.

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, issued the following statement in this regard: “The Easter Sunday Commission has said (at page 471) that “The thowheed (Wahhabis) ideology is at the core of the Islamic extremism prevalent in the country. This was further fermented by Buddhist extremism which was not checked at an early stage”. In our view these are unacceptable observations, because as pointed out in our earlier statement we do not subscribe to the Western right wing extremist propagandist narrative of naming and shaming Islam or Buddhism for the extremist views or conduct of a few amongst their respective followers. Erroneous narratives such as “Islamic” extremism or “Buddhist” extremism will be wrongfully exploited before international fora for attack by anti-Sri Lankan interest groups.

“There are in our country, majoritarian extremism as well as minoritarian extremism, adverted to in the Commission’s report but incorrectly and inappropriately stereotyped as “Islamic” and “Buddhist” extremism.

“We also do not accept that ‘thouheed’ or ‘thouheed ideology’ is at the core of extremism prevalent in the country. No doubt there had been differences of opinion within the Muslim community on methodology and ritualistic practices at different times in the country. There had been similar rifts amongst followers of other religions as well. This is a common phenomenon amongst followers of all religions.

“But it is noteworthy that the 21/4 attacks were never against any segment of the Muslims by other Muslims! Majoritarian extremism, intolerance and inciting anti-minority hatred and failure on the part of the authorities to prosecute according to law, some of which have been referred to though inadequately in the report, had led to the violent extremist terrorist attacks of 21/4.

“We do not accept the Commission’s observations above referred to for the reason that incorrect reasoning and erroneous actions thereon may not help the country to avoid a recurrence of similar attacks. Blind implementation of some of the recommendations, we fear may provoke radicalization and communal conflicts. On the other hand actions to be taken, must prevent and not be the new causes for the recurrence of another despicable 21/4!   

“It must be pointed out that the composition of the five-member Commission was exclusively pan-Sinhala. The 32-member Commission staff was pan-Sinhala. The Attorney General’s team which assisted the fact finding Commission erroneously described in the report as the “Prosecution” team was pan-Sinhala. The investigation team of 44, except for one retired SSP was pan-Sinhala! Nevertheless the Commission had been forthright (A) to blame (at page 15) extremist groups in the majority community for ‘nourishing Islamic’ extremist groups; (B) to pointedly refer (at page 464) to the rise of “Buddhist” extremism between 2012 and 2015 though blamed only on the BBS; (C) to advert to (at page 361) Buddhist extremist organisations such as BBS as “vocal critics of Islamic extremism and wahhabism in particular”; (D) that the BBS “went beyond targeting the Muslim community in general with hate speech” and identifying two speeches one at Maharagama on 17th February 2013 and the other at Aluthgama in June 2014 containing “without any doubt hate speech”’ (E)  that the Attorney General file charges against the hate speech maker; (F) in naming Sihala Rawaya, Mahasohon Balakaya, Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa and Sinhale Jathika Sanvidanaya among others as “anti-social Sinhala Buddhist Movements” and recommending action.  

“Furthermore the Commission report states (at page 29) that the Sufi group “believes that one of their leaders is God”. This is shockingly false. Sufis believe Allah alone as God. We need to remember that Sufism is a well-recognized facet of Islam. So is ‘Thouheed’ which means monotheism or ‘oneness’ of Allah. It is clearly distinguished from the Christian concept of ‘trinity’. Every Muslim believes in the oneness of Allah.

“Sufis as well as ‘Muwahhideens’ who are called by their critics as ‘Wahhabis’ too believe in the oneness of Allah (as opposed to multiple Gods). Though every Sufi and ‘Muwahhideen’ (‘wahabi’) is a believer in the ‘oneness’ or ‘singleness’ of Allah or ‘thowheed’, not every Muslim is required or compelled to practice Sufism or follow the 18th  century (1703-1787 ) scholar Muhammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s thoughts. Muslims follow the Quran and the Sunnah, meaning the sayings and practices of the Prophet Mohammed. The views of Islamic jurists and scholars may be followed, in given situations, if they are not in conflict with the Quran. We must take care to avoid attacks on Islam, because that will be globally resisted and exploited by interest groups at international fora.”



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Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill

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… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory

Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.

Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.

Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.

The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.

Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.

Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.

The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties

Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.

Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.

 

 

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Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander

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An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.

Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.

“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.

The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.

“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.

Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”

 

 

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Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period

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Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.

Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.

DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.

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