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



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. eases restrictions on foreigners as Covid-19 rips through country



DGHS, IGP informed of SLTDA decision

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In what many thought was a shocking decision, the Tourism Ministry yesterday (16) declared that tourists would be able to travel across the country despite movement restrictions in force since last Thursday (14) to control the rapid spread of Covid-19.

 Tourism Ministry, in a statement issued yesterday afternoon (16) quoted Director General of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Dhammika Wijesinhe as having said that the foreigners in the country could travel in what she called a bio bubble. Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr Asela Gunawardena and IGP C.D. Wickremaratne had been informed of the arrangements, she said.

The announcement was made as the government struggled to cope with an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 positive cases as well as deaths. It came close on the heels of Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga declaring that the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) wouldn’t be closed. When The Island sought an explanation from the Tourism Ministry how such a decision was taken regardless of tough quarantine laws and health guidelines in place to control the spread of rampaging Covid-19 epidemic, an authoritative official said that the Ministry issued a statement received from the SLTDA.

DG Wijesinghe said that those individuals and firms responsible for bringing in tourists had been instructed to strictly follow health guidelines or face the consequences.

Declaring that tourism has been categorized as an export industry, DG Wijesinghe said that the SLTDA stepped in the wake of complaints that foreigners experienced difficulties as a result of travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the latest Covid-19 eruption.

The Tourism Ministry further quoted the official as having stressed that arrangements were now in place to ensure tourists could travel in a bio bubble without hindrance.

Police headquarters said that after the lifting of ‘lockdown’ on Monday at 4 am, travel restrictions from 11 pm to 4 am on a daily basis during May would continue.

GMOF (Government Medical Officers’ Forum) spokesperson Dr. Rukshan Bellana said that the government seemed hell-bent on causing further chaos. Having allowed influential parties to bring in foreigners for quarantine in the country, the government caused the deterioration and now restrictions were done away at the risk of further intensification of the spread of the virus.

Dr. Bellana recalled how the government permitted the England cricket tour of Sri Lanka to go ahead in January this year at a time the UK was in a grave crisis over a new deadlier variant of Covid-19 spreading there and also allowed groups of Ukrainians in when Ukraine was in lockdown.

Responding to another query, Dr. Bellana pointed out that the shocking declaration that restrictions would not apply to foreigners meant that the government was yet to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

Dr. Bellana said that the government seemed to be blind to the fact that the death toll was on the verge of passing 1,000 and the cases nearing 150,000. If those at the helm of administration really believed tourists could move across the country safely in bio bubbles let them create the same for others, Dr. Bellana said.

According to the GMOF, the government was pulling in different directions in the absence of a cohesive strategy to meet the daunting Covid-19 challenge. The failure to understand the need to apply the same set of quarantine laws and health guidelines to all was one of the primary reasons for the deterioration of the problem.  Dr. Bellana asked how the government did away with restrictions while the doctors reported the detection of at least six Covid-19 variants.

Dr. Bellana said that he expected experts would oppose the government’s short-sighted policies.

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Gaza conflict: Parliament calls for truce; govt. silent yet



By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Dr. Suren Raghavan, on behalf of the Sri Lanka-Palestinian Parliament Friendship Association has urged the government and the Opposition to join the international community in calling for an immediate cessation of violence in the latest conflict involving Israel and Hamas.

The recently formed Association in a statement issued on May 13 called for cessation of hostilities in Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Association represents both government and the Opposition.

Citing international media reports, the Association expressed concerns over suffering of civilians on both sides due to military action during the month of Ramazan. Dr. Raghavan, the only SLFPer accommodated on the SLPP National List made reference to indiscriminate rocket attacks carried out by Hamas and Israeli air strikes.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday (16) acknowledged the government was yet to issue a statement on the situation in Gaza.

According to international media reports, an Israeli airstrike on Saturday destroyed a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press offices in the Gaza Strip. The airstrike came about an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to leave the building. The building houses the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments.

Meanwhile, Israel Solidarity Movement (ISM) strongly condemned Hamas for attacking civilian targets in Israel. Calling Hamas a terrorist organization, the ISM pointed out that terrorists used Palestinians as a human shield while attacking Israeli civilians.  Pointing out that Hamas actions had placed the Palestinian community in peril, the IMS recalled how Sri Lanka suffered during the war against the LTTE. Making reference to sufferings caused by 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, the ISM stood solidly with those who backed whatever Israeli action taken to neutralize the Hamas challenge.

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Central Bank: No immediate threat of inflation rise from monetary expansion



By Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka was currently experiencing high monetary expansion, but the Central Bank did not expect an acceleration of inflation in the near future, Economic Research Director at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara told The Island yesterday.

Answering a query on the broad money growth and its wider implications, Dr. Amarasekera said, “At the end of 2020, broad money expanded by 23.4% compared to the end 2019. The extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic required increased credit to the government from Sri Lanka’s banking system, and the historically low interest rate structure also resulted in a pickup in the growth of credit to the private sector in the second half of the year. This policy driven expansion in broad money supply was essential for the country to dampen the effects of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.”

“As the Sri Lankan economy is operating below its potential, we do not project a demand-driven acceleration in inflation in the near term. Even the relatively high economic growth projected for 2021 will be partly driven by the low base in the previous year, and therefore, it is unlikely that there will be an overheating of the economy in 2021 as well, although we envisage a monetary expansion of 21%.”

“However, as the authority responsible for the money stock of the country, the Central Bank remains cautious about any excessive expansion in money growth. Nevertheless, the close relationship between money and inflation that we used to see in the past is no longer in existence. For example, during the most part of a period of single digit inflation that Sri Lanka experienced since 2009, broad money growth has remained above 15%. The breakdown of the close relationship between money growth and inflation is also one reason for the Central Bank to move away from a monetary targeting framework towards a flexible inflation targeting framework to conduct monetary policy. Anchoring of inflation expectations has also helped curb the inflationary effects of exchange rate movements as well. Many other countries have also experienced similar situations.”

“When the economy recovers and demand conditions improve, the Central Bank will take appropriate action to make necessary policy adjustments to ensure the continuation of inflation at the desirable levels of mid-single digits without disrupting the growth process,” Dr. Amarasekara said.

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