Kalmunai Resolution Names BBS As Extremists
A meeting at the Kalmunai Municipal Council has resulted in a resolution being submitted against extremist groups promoting hate speech. Initial reports indicated that the Bodu Bala Sena was named as one such extremist group. The Mayor of Kalmunai was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
The resolution comes following Minister of National Languages and Social Integration Vasudeva Nanayakkara putting forward a Cabinet paper calling for hate language (both written and spoken) to be made illegal as it could lead to communal disturbance.
Nanayakkara said he had no intention of banning any organisation as he was a democrat, but was rather trying to ban hateful language, which could result in disturbances.
However, the Bodu Bala Sena reacted with anger, to what they saw as a threat to their organisation. “To ban an organisation, there must be clear evidence that there were illegal activities.
Nanayakkara is a lawyer promoting democratic values. He has to publish the reasons for banning an organisation and give us time to answer,” Executive Committee member Dilantha Withanage said.
Withanage further accused the Minister of abusing his portfolio and said that Nanayakkara had never asked for the LTTE to be banned, even though it was a banned organisation overseas. He also said that Nanayakkara was funded by ‘German NGOs’.
In response, Minister Nanayakkara said that what Withanage was referring to was a Cabinet decision to sign Memorandums of Understanding with the Canadian and German Government to provide assistance with both funds and programmes.
He also reiterated that he had never called for the ban of any organisation.
Threatening letters sent to Tawheed Mosque
Meanwhile, last Sunday (March 31) letters were sent to the Dematagoda Tawheed mosque and a nearby Islamic bookshop on Bodu Bala Sena letterheads, demanding that the businesses be shut down.
Member of Communications for the Tawheed mosque, H. M. Faiz confirmed that threatening letters were received. He added that the letters had been printed on Bodu Bala Sena letterheads, though he could not confirm that they had been sent by them.
The mosque officials had made an entry to the police on the incident. Withanage meanwhile denied that the Bodu Bala Sena had sent the letters, even though they had been printed on their letterheads, and even featured their website.
In the past, Withanage has spoken of several organisations misusing the Bodu Bala Sena’s name to carry out hate attacks.
In one such recent incident, he said, an email had been circulated to several news websites using a Gmail address purporting to belong to the Bodu Bala Sena, making several hateful comments against the wearing of the abaya.
The email went on to claim that Secretary General Ven. Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thero had then spoken to the Defence Ministry asking for their support in their campaign.
Withanage said the Bodu Bala Sena had never written the email, but it had nevertheless been broadcasted on the news.
He added that even though there were threats to the General Secretary’s and his own life, they did not ask for protection from the Defence Ministry.
“We have not touched a Muslim person or a Muslim establishment,” Withanage insisted, adding that the organisation had never spoken out about the abaya as people claimed.
He also denied reports that his organisation was pushing Sinhala shop owners in Elpitiya to terminate lease agreements with Muslim shopkeepers there. Sri Lanka Muslim Council head N. M. Ameen said that he had heard reports that the Bodu Bala Sena was pushing these Sinhala owners not to renew their lease agreements, following a meeting in Elpitiya on March 29.
Withanage said they had not made any such communication to Elpitiya.
He added however that “people have the right to carry out their own activities.” However, this was not Bodu Bala Sena policy, he added, “Muslims have the freedom to live and to open shops in this country, why would we stop them?” he asked.
The Bodu Bala Sena continues to deny their involvement in many of the hate attacks, raids and threatening letters posted across the country, but they are nevertheless said to be one of the focal points of the Kalmunai resolution. Perhaps this could be due to the outrage generated in the wake of the attacks that took place in Pepiliyana last week.
Fashion Bug: The Aftermath
On March 28, horrified people watched as a mob of people burned a car sales outlet in Pepiliyana and stormed the nearby Fashion Bug.
In the aftermath of that incident, 17 people surrendered to police, were brought in front of the Gangodawila Magistrate and subsequently released, following an amicable settlement between the two parties.
Fashion Bug released an official statement on their Facebook page after the incident explaining that the mob was acting due to misinformation (the mob had stormed the premises claiming that a Sinhalese girl had been raped by a Muslim boy) but added, “This violent attack was totally unprovoked and had no basis.
It has shocked and disturbed us a great deal and instilled fear in the minds of our staff members in carrying out their day to day work.”
The statement went on to add that they did not hold the peace-loving members of Sri Lanka responsible for the actions of a ‘small, misguided group.’
One of the attackers, it was reported, was said to be a Bodu Bala Sena supporter from Panadura.
BBS’ Withanage however said “we don’t have any members in this organisation, though we do have supporters.
Just because one member of the public does something wrong and says that he supports Bodu Bala Sena doesn’t mean the organisation should be blamed. It’s like if a policeman does something wrong, and blaming the police force”.
He added that outsiders were getting involved in these issues and giving the wrong impression.
Withanage said that as soon as the Bodu Bala Sena had heard of the incident they had released a statement asking for the culprits to be arrested.
A video however has surfaced of General Secretary Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thero addressing a rally, dated about two weeks before the Pepiliyana attacks. In the video the General Secretary singles out both No Limit and Fashion Bug and claims that Sinhalese women are working at these outlets and are being mistreated by their employers.
The Secretary alleged that ‘harems were being created’ in these shops and asked that the matter be resolved through discussion, not through stoning and attacking these outlets.
Withanage clarifying the statement said that the General Secretary had made the comment at a Kandy meeting- as a rule; he said the Bodu Bala Sena normally does not mention business names. On this occasion, however, the General Secretary had received complaints that in Kandy these two stores recruited only Sinhalese girls.
Withanage said this practise was unfair and that both girls and boys should be recruited for the posts.
In addition, he said some of the girls converted to Islam after working at these stores.
He also said that often when the stores were closed during prayer time the girls were shut in the stores, violating their rights. There were further allegations that Fashion Bug agreed to come to a settlement following external pressure.
These reports remained unconfirmed, with the Fashion Bug employer not available for comment at the time of going to press.
The IPL Saga
In another more amusing development, the group Ravana Balaya held a rally in front of the Sri Lanka Cricket office, against the Sri Lankan cricketers who were participating in the Indian Premier League matches and ‘prostituting themselves for money’.
A few of their members entered the office and had a discussion with Sri Lanka Cricket Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga.
Following the meeting the monks had claimed that the same hands which applauded the cricketers would soon throw rotten eggs at them.
Ranatunga confirmed that members of the Ravana Balaya group had met with him and handed over a letter requesting Sri Lanka Cricket not to send the players to the IPL matches.
He had explained the situation with regard to the players and had informed the chairman about the incident.
The next day the Chairman had also sent a letter to the priest laying out Sri Lanka Cricket’s position with regards to the IPL matches.
Weeraketiya Pastor Still Receives Death Threats
Pastor Pradeep Kumara from Weeraketiya says he is still receiving death threats after a group of people from the Sinhala Ravaya group broke into his home and damaged his property on March 18, terrorising his wife and children.
His wife, who was returning from town after buying medicine at around 5 pm, recounted how the mob of around 20, which had included two Buddhist priests converged on her until she went into the house and closed the door.
They had then abused her in filth, she said, and called more people to the residence.
They had then begun to throw stones. She had then called the police, four of whom arrived on bikes and stopped the mob from going inside the house.
At that point she noticed that the window was broken and the back door as well, and the drawers in one of the rooms had been rifled through.
At that point, a letter was read out explaining that any centre which indulged in unauthorized conversions could be shut down.
The mob had said they wouldn’t leave even until 1 am if necessary. They had also threatened to kill her husband several times.
Weeks later Pastor Kumara is still getting threats from the neighbours, he says.