08 March 2018

Racial Riots: People of Sri Lanka, tell the World the Facts

In Sri Lanka, there is the majority Sinhala Buddhists and there are the minorities that comprise Tamils, Muslims, Christians & Catholics. The people live peacefully but there are many others who do not want them to live peacefully. It is always important to dissect who are the benefactors of racial tensions and it is generally not the party that is being accused. No one brings upon himself global condemnation unless there is a bigger plan. In putting a pattern to the violence, the real mischief makers can be derived.

Let us first run through the events.

22 February Teldeniya – 4 drunk men travelling in a three wheeler attacked a truck driver for not allowing them to overtake his vehicle. The truck driver H.G. Kumarasinghe, a 41-year-old father of two (one child disabled) succumbed to his injuries and died. What right do 4 drunks have to hit a person to the point of death just for not allowing them to overtake him?
It so happened that the 4 drunk men were Muslims and it so happened that the truck driver was a Sinhalese Buddhist. In all probability this was an isolated incident and the incident had nothing to do with racism – a few drunkards were angry that another vehicle was not allowing them to overtake.

More importantly note the dates. The attack took place on 22 February 2018 and Kumarasinghe had been in the hospital intensive care for 10 days. He eventually succumbed to his injuries on 3rd March 2018. Attacks started only on 4th March 2018 with curfew being put in the night in Digana area of Kandy district.

This is what Kumarasinghe’s wife had to say “There is no point in fighting and claiming more precious lives of the people and making more widows like me.”

It is very important for people to understand the incident timelines.

Now came an opportunity for parties looking for ways to aggravate an incident to start mayhem. Anger by people is instigated when authorities do not take action against the initial action but allow reaction & go after the reactions & reactors only. Similarly, ignoring racist sentiments of one party/individuals and highlighting statements by others and claiming only those to be racist invariably contributes to tensions. This was the case in all previous incidents of racial tensions. Actions are ignored & Reaction & Reactors are punished causing further chaos. In this case it warranted action against the 4 drunkards without waiting for a man to be killed 10 days later and riots that ensued by parties that were waiting for an isolated incident to turn it into a racial riot.

The easiest way of inciting people’s emotions was by triggering racial hatred and transferring isolated incidents into major themed issues which benefits all but the actual victims. As people can see the ultimate victims were Sinhalese and Muslims living in the area – the trouble makers who are generally not of the area and those that fund them have the last laugh while others like media and parties that need issues to live & earn by are elated because these are opportunities for them to show their importance! Are you getting the bigger picture now?

Media stands guilty of fanning these tensions with their media headlines and half-truth & exaggerated stories. Here are a few examples,

·      Times of India - “Sri Lanka blocks social media networks to stop sectarian violence”
·      Indian Express – “In Sri Lanka's anti-Muslim violence, an echo of post-war Sinhala triumphalism”
·      Sri Lanka Guardian - “Anti-Muslim violence rears its ugly head again in Sri Lanka”
·      BBC – “Sri Lanka struggles to halt days of Buddhist riots”
·      Al Jazeera - “Muslims say they are being systematically targeted by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.”
·      ABC Australia – “Sri Lanka blocks social media as Buddhist mobs attack mosques”

See the extent of exaggerations, falsehoods and lies the media are spreading – it is not social media but these media entities that need to be blocked!

Who are preaching to Sri Lanka on racial violence it is none other than the countries that create racial violence. US where blacks are still discriminated, US where they fund regime change and import Islamic extremists to create mayhem to justify their troop presence, US which has been the only country to drop the atomic bomb twice and killed thousands of people. UK where half of all mosques have been attacked since 9/11, UK where Muslims live in fear of Islamaphobia attacks. Germany witnesses 10 attacks a day on migrants, less said about the UN puppet envoys and their solutions the better. India, that secretly trained Tamil militants in India, that uses its intelligence to influence various parties & individuals in Sri Lanka and where daily some sort of racial riot is taking place - these are the parties preaching to Sri Lanka on ethnic violence and racism!

The speech by MP Wimal Weerawansa in Parliament clearly brings this out. He declared that one Mohamed Irfan Mohamed in his face book post had said that the police had asked Muslims to stay inside, then electricity was switched off in the area and an unknown group came and attacked. This time a Muslim boy died not killed because he had entered a shop that had been attacked and the smoke caused difficulty in breathing. His name was Samsudeen Abdul Basith.

This is what Basith’s brother had to say “I am requesting all groups not to fight anymore because no good will come out of it. We all are sons and daughters of the same mother and father. We all have the same red blood. We are separated only by religions and races. It is not fair to attack innocent people like us. We are living in Pallekele in peace and harmony. Don’t destroy the unity in our area to fulfill any personal agendas,”

If Kumarasinghe’s wife and Basith’s brother the real victims are saying that violence is not the answer why should others feel need for violence than them? This clearly points to insidious agendas erupting using these isolated incidents.

MP Weerawansa also went on to say that Opposition MP Dilum Amunugama had spoken to the police & informed them to take action as he felt some trouble was brewing. So warnings were given well ahead of time for the police to take action. Did they do so? If they didn’t, were they told not to do so, if so by whom? Police take orders only from their superiors and their superiors take orders only from the Government in power. Who will investigate this?

Let us go back at some of the riots in the past.

1958 riots (lasted 5 days from 22 May to 27 May)
Important to note some key events that led to the riots: British Navy closure of Trincomalee base left Indian laborers without jobs and GOSL agreed to resettle them in Polonnaruwa which the people opposed. Polonnaruwa train station attacked on 22nd & 24th May. On May 26, PM Bandaranaike claimed riots were due to the death of Nuwara Eliya Mayor D A Seneviratne which gave reason to start fresh riots and highlights the irresponsible remarks politicians make. The 1958 riots is one of Sinhalese attacking Tamils, Tamils too attacking Sinhalese. Just as Tamils were killed, Sinhalese were also killed. The victims were the people who ended up killed, those that were injured and those whose properties were destroyed even Tamil kovils and Buddhist temples were attacked. In short there was no one completely innocent party. It was on 27 May 1958 that emergency was declared and ITAK & JVP were banned. It was these same two groups that became key instigators of future bloodsheds.

That riots are planned & manufactured can be seen from the absence of riots from 1958 to 1977. If there was natural affinity between ethnic groups they should be eternally fighting each other – which was never the case especially zero such incident before 1505. An element of state involvement together with other hidden groups is obvious.

1977 August riots is one such case of state terrorism together with political opportunism. A case of a Tamil getting accidentally electrocuted in Jaffna led to the JRJ Govt refusing to conduct an impartial inquiry and cunning Tamil politicians making political mileage out of it. There was nothing anti-Tamil or pro-Sinhalese about this incident. Further proof of state involvement comes in the fact that there was no mass participation. State involvement was confirmed recently when the UNP Leader and PM admitted & apologized for the UNP’s role in burning of the Jaffna library in 1981 where claims of promoting police officers responsible further strengthening the argument of UNP role in fanning ethnic tensions. Months later the constitution was changed and Executive Presidency was created and the Prevention of Terrorism Act came into being. Sri Lanka’s constitution has been amended 19 times. 17 times it has been amended by UNP, the political party that introduced the 1978 constitution!

July 1983 again contrary to misconception this riot too had nothing to do with the general masses in particular the prime accuser the Sinhala Buddhists. In fact it was they who housed Tamil friends and families. Again the UNP Government was in power, the men that came seeking Tamil homes had electoral lists and looted the premises after which the homes were doused. Many of the elite Tamil areas were given police protection and saved from attack. It had all the hallmarks of state involvement.

It was under the same UNP government that terrorism emerged and falsely spread the notion of ethnic-racial conflict when LTTE terrorism victimized all communities including Tamils.

Just ahead of the 2015 Presidential elections took place the Durga Town/Aluthgama riots. Once again isolated incidents were either manufactured or vested groups were lying in wait to create a tension. The incident killed several birds – it lost Muslim vote base for the former President, it added to the case that Sinhala Buddhists were the only violent ethnic community in Sri Lanka and it gave a reason for the entire world and UN to declare Sri Lanka a failed state requiring foreign intervention.

Gintota riots of 2017. Here too an isolated incident of a vehicle injuring a mother and a child led to unnecessary tension. The vehicle was ridden by a Sinhalese and the injured was a mother and child. At no point of time did the vehicle purposely knock the mother or child. In fact the driver paid Rs.25,000 and settled the matter at the police.  However, after the riots ensued locals accused a former UNP Pradeshiya Sabha member Mohamed Kiyaz as leading the mob attack. Another example of UNP involvement in racial riots. Who are these mobs that are attacking? Are they associated to any political party or politician, do they even have links to foreign intelligence and on their payroll, are police also on other payroll – these are the answers we need to know.

There is a major difference in State supported conflict and actual racial riots. This is what people need to understand. Similarly, racism is one thing, racist practices are quite another. Everybody will have some racist attributes depending on their personal experiences but that does not necessarily construe racial discrimination leave alone violence against others. In short Sinhalese cannot be blamed for 1977 or 1983 but the then State Government should be held accountable. The world projection is that Christians hate Muslims and vice versa but it does not necessarily mean all Christians hate or must hate Muslims and vice versa. Similarly, the perception on Jews & Muslims is the same, blacks & whites too.

Let’s put things in political perspective. Like it or not it is slowly emerging that this present coalition government came into being with a lot of foreign help & funding to advance foreign agendas. The people having got deceived once reversed their wrong by giving the coalition government a clear message through the local government elections. The social media that greatly helped the Opposition victory was also highlighting Muslim sentiments that appealed to fellow Muslims to be calm and showcased Government involvement, it was no surprise that with the cat out of the bag the Government quickly decided on damage control by freezing all social media and slowing internet. It showed a desperate government and the desperate measures a desperate government that had lost the publics approval would take.

An isolated incident was enough and came at a time when the PM was facing image catastrophe’s – he was publicly being called a rogue decimating his Mr. Clean image built over the years, he was under public scrutiny for not arresting his close friend Mahendran, he was facing a No Confidence Motion, the election results clearly convened that the people were not agreeable to constitutional changes, the witch hunt against the armed forces, the plans to devolve and divide Sri Lanka and numerous other detrimental decisions the Government was taking in respect to selling national assets and giving stakes to India including allowing Indians to live & work in Sri Lanka.

Therefore, it is important for people to ask themselves – who are the benefactors of ethnic tensions. It is not the ordinary Sinhalese or Muslims who are really the victims. The benefactors are generally those who instigate the worsen the situation.

It is also important for people to be thankful that the PTA is in place. If the PTA had been repealed as the international community and UN are insisting by violating UN Charter & interfering in Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs, the Government would not have been able to declare emergency or curfew and take measures to quell the situation.

If powers had been devolved and tensions emerged the Centre would have been helpless and the devolved politically motivated leaders would have worsened the situation. If ethnic tensions had taken place in North against Sinhala minority what would have been their fate? If ethnic tensions had taken place in East against Muslim minority by Tamils what would have been their fate?

These answers are important and should completely demolish the demands that the foreign interfering governments are making to change the constitution, devolve powers, repeal PTA and other detrimental demands that if implemented would certainly take Sri Lanka into a destabilized state. Is it en route to this that the US forced Sri Lanka to sign deals with Peace Corps to place US military on the ground or agreements with India would also ensure India becomes the decision makers in Sri Lanka? Is this what the people of Sri Lanka want and is this what the treacherous politicians are helping using our vote. Why is the Opposition not highlighting these clearly to the people? Our people are intelligent enough to understand the ground realities. It is why both Sinhalese & Muslims used social media to highlight the truth while vested parties were trying to spur hatred and since social media provided people to counter argue which print media and electronic media does not, the State quickly went and removed people’s rights to express themselves. This is a major faux pas on the part of a rising

People must accept facts. To appease the situation the solution is not to take sides but to table the facts and ensure that the people honor these facts. Every time the spokespersons have turned incidents into minority-majority or ethno-religious and ignoring the initial action accused the reactors further aggravating the chaos. If facts are presented before the nation & properly explained to the world, media & others there would be no occasion for them to manipulate or misinterpret the situation. This is what everyone needs to understand.

The other major coincidence is that these ‘tensions’ are emerging just before a key Geneva session wherein the UNHRC have no evidence but are arm-twisting the Government to commit hara kiri and make drastic decisions just to remain in power at the cost of the entire Nation & its People.

Shenali D Waduge