Joint Statement on Violence against Muslims of Sri Lanka - June 2014
On June 15, 2014, despite several requests by the Muslim community to disallow it, the police granted permission for a rally to be held by the hard-line Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), an outfit which has been classified as a terrorist group by the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC). At this rally in Aluthgama, the General Secretary of the BBS, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, delivered a highly inflammatory hate speech targeting the minority Muslim community. He has been making much publicised hate speeches against Sri Lankan minorities for over a year without any fear of action from the law enforcement agencies in Sri Lanka.
In the immediate aftermath of this hate speech, his followers went on the attack against the Muslims in the area, systematically burning places of business, houses, and destroying mosques. The worst affected were the areas of Aluthgama, Beruwela and Dharga Town. Although the police declared a curfew the mobs flouted the curfew, and in full view of the police, continued their looting and destructive campaign against the Muslims. At least three Muslims were killed and over 80 have been seriously injured in addition to the massive damage to property as a result of this riot and police inaction.
As concerned organisations in Australia representing those with a Sri Lankan heritage, we strongly and unequivocally condemn the recent anti-Muslim riots and the resulting violence unleashed on the Muslims. We also condemn the ongoing religious extremism, hate speech and incitement to violence carried out by extremist Buddhist organisations like the BBS.
We extend our sympathies to the families of the victims. We appreciate all citizens of the country who have stepped forward to help the victims. We also appreciate all countries, the international community and organisations that have voiced their concern and requested the Government of Sri Lanka to bring the perpetrators of these riots and injustice before courts.
In December 2013, we the organisations representing Muslims of Sri Lankan heritage in Australia, wrote to the president of Sri Lanka pointing out that
"Their [The Buddhist extremist groups’] activities are becoming increasingly brazen and it is only a matter of time before they will become a national problem if they are not controlled by the law enforcement agencies"
and in the same letter requested the president to intervene and take measures to,
- stop the attacks against mosques, Muslim businesses and other lawless acts by the BBS or any group preaching racial hatred
- direct the police of Sri Lanka to diligently carry out their duties to maintain law, peace and order in the country, instead of giving protection to the perpetrators
These requests went unheeded and events have unfolded as feared in that letter.
In this backdrop, we demand from the President and Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
- That a full and impartial inquiry be held into the events that transpired on 15 June 2014 and the following days
- That the police accept full statements from all victims and record their entire statements in accordance with procedures
- That full compensation is made to all victims and their loss
- That those responsible for inciting hate violence, particularly the General Secretary of the fascist extremist group Bodu Bala Sena, Gnanasara Thero, be arrested and charged
- That the BBS is thoroughly investigated and banned. The BBS is attacking not only minorities but even moderate Buddhists who express views countering those of the BBS and these moderate monks should be granted protection by the state.
- That hate speech against any race or religion in Sri Lanka is banned and such a ban is strictly enforced.
- That true representation is made at international forums, specifically the UN, instead of mistruth and biased half truths
- That all perpetrators of these crimes against humanity and other criminal acts be arrested and brought to courts That state media report the truth accurately and transparently and that all media be allowed access to public places and not be suppressed. Also that web sites are not blocked solely due to political expediency.
- That the government take meaningful action to protect the people from all faiths to enable them to lawfully practice their religion in peace without apprehension of being targeted by hard-line extremist violent forces like the BBS.
THE FOREGOING IS A JOINT PUBLIC STATEMENT ON THE VIOLENCE AGAINST MUSLIMS OF SRI LANKA WHICH ERUPTED IN AND AROUND ALUTHGAMA, BERUWELA DHARGA TOWN AREAS IN JUNE 2014
RELEASED ON 26 JUNE, 2014 BY
AUSTRA-LANKA MUSLIM ASSOCIATION (ALMA)
SERENDIB COMMUNITY CULTURAL ASSOCIATION (SCCA)
SRI LANKAN AUSTRALIAN MALAY ASSOCIATION (SLAMA)
SRI LANKAN MUSLIM SOCIETY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA (SLMSWA)
UNITED SRI LANKAN MUSLIM ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA (USMAA)
UNITY OF FAMILIES AND FRIENDS – MELBOURNE INC. (UFFM)
SRI LANKAN MUSLIMS LIVING IN QUEENSLAND
Click here to download this joint statement including the letter of concern sent to His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 23rd December 2013