The Sunday Leader

Diffuse Religious Tensions Immediately

President Mahinda Rajapaksa raised two significant issues in his Independence Day address.

Firstly he pointed out to the sovereign equality of all member states of the United Nations and that the UN Charter precludes all members from the use of threats or force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state and that the United Nations’ Charter does not authorise even the United Nations to intervene in the domestic affairs of member states. These observations are particularly relevant in the context of the scheduled meeting of the UNHCR this month to consider the motions moved by the United States against Sri Lanka on alleged violations of human rights.
The second issue raised was on the need to prevent the re-emergence of racism and religious differences which could be disastrous to Sri Lanka. He said: “It is necessary to state on this occasion that as much as racism, religious differences too can be a cause of the destruction of a country. If anyone is trying to build religious rivalry in Sri Lanka again they do not serve their religion but serve the interests of separatism in the country. We cannot leave room for what could not be achieved through terrorism to be gained by this.”
The announcement by the President on Independence Day was timely in that religious tensions have been building up between certain groups of both communities in recent weeks. This has been the result of wrong information and rumours circulating in the country and certain activist groups attempting to whip up animosity between the two communities.
Rajapaksa pointed out that in different regions and towns, people of all three communities lived together in harmony and there has been a great degree of tolerance. In Kandy where the Sacred Tooth Relic is enshrined, land to build the Meera Makkam Mosque has been donated by the Asgiriya Temple.
To reach the hearts and minds of Muslims and Tamils he spoke on the need of communal and racial harmony in Tamil – a language he is not very familiar with.
Defusing communal and religious tensions is by no means an easy task once they build up. What is needed is honest and sincere talk by leaders of both communities to their people. President Rajapaksa unlike any other political leader has an added role. He as the President of the country has to give assurances to the minority Muslims that their legitimate rights would be safeguarded while cautioning them not to exceed their limits.
He has had talks with the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), the group that is being accused of being involved in anti Muslim activities. The BBS has categorically denied their involvement in anti-Muslim activities and said that their involvement is to safeguard the interests of the Buddhists. In a TV interview last week three monks representing the BBS said that they were not opposed to Muslims who have been following their traditional roles but were concerned with the new ‘fundamentalist’ ideologies that were spreading among these groups and threatening the interests of Buddhists.
‘Religious fundamentalism’ of many religions, the world over is the new challenge faced by national leaders and has to be resolved in an astute manner.
Religious fundamentalism can lead to demagoguery which some politicians may find to be a convenient way to power but disastrous to a country that is multi-ethnic and multi-religious such as ours. We need not stress how the 1983 communal riots took us right back to the Stone Age from which we are trying to emerge.
Leader of the Opposition and the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday expressed grave concerns in parliament about religious tensions which he said was turning into a very grave crisis that needs to be addressed. He raised several concerns of both Sinhalese and Muslims. The government was to reply to Wickremesinghe later in the week.
Earlier the Leader of the House, Nimal Siripala de Silva had said that the government would appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee into the issue of developing tensions between Sinhalese and Muslims. Experience gained from the performance of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the impeachment of the Chief Justice Dr Shirani Bandaranayake makes us suggest an alternative modus operandi, to say the least.
Wickremesinghe said that there had been ten attacks on mosques and ten protests in various towns, emphasising the gravity of the situation. Appointing a committee and hoping that the usual procrastination would diffuse the emerging crisis would be extremely naive.
President Rajapaksa took the bull by the horns when he raised the issue in his Independence Day speech. He must press on and resolve the issue by immediately going to the root causes of the problem and direct his MPs to work towards a solution.

1 Comment for “Diffuse Religious Tensions Immediately”

  1. Insula

    Sri Lanka Needs an Abraham Lincoln.

    Abraham Lincoln dealt with the Separatists and Slavery demanded White Racists.

    Sri Lanka defeated the Separatists.

    Introduce Separation of Church and State.

    Then Defeat the ethano-reigous fanatics

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