The Sunday Leader

The Threat Looms Unabated

It is a statistic that tells its own story. And statistics to Colombo come not far off the region. The consequences of Aluthgama can be measured by the threat that yet prevails behind the overwhelming majority earned by the new Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi is today the popular Premier who is seen as one who will take the giant on its last lap towards development. But his is still baggage that comes in the form of the famed Gujarat riots.

He is to date questioned on the alleged inaction during the riots when he was the State’s Chief Minister.

Although the comparisons by way of numbers of the casualties can by no means be fair, to Aluthgama, the manner in which the ethnic rioting was carried on alludes to lessons that demand to be learnt. One cannot also avoid the similarities. It is in these similarities that the Sri Lankan administration needs necessarily to comprehend if it is to quell the sinister forces at work against the State.

There was clearly careful planning involved. The rhetoric that incited communal hatred by the Bodu Bala Sena was only a part of what went wrong with Aluthgama. The manner in which the BBS was able to so successfully gather its supporters through twitter and facebook collaborations is a threat that not just Colombo but all emerging nations have to be mindful of. The examples from the Arab Spring only allude to the dangers therein. The involvement of outside forces in such planning and collaboration cannot be overlooked.

Like in Aluthgama, evidence in Gujrat, soon began to appear that indicated ‘deliberate’ preparation for carnage far beyond mere sabotage of fire tenders. Andy Marino, in his biography on the new man in Delhi, writes that the mob in Gujrat had ‘dutifully re-essembled at exactly the time of the trains revised arrival. ‘This required coordination.

The report of Justice Tewatia and his colleagues not long after the event, noted strange movements in the town immediately before the atrocity. The Nanavati inquiry later supplied exhaustive detail. For example there has been a sudden increase in the number of firearms licences issued.

A number of unemployed Muslims in the area appeared to have recently acquired mobile phones. Outsiders lacking ration cards, seemed to have flooded into town in the days prior to the train arson. There was a noticeable growth in the size of the local population in the period leading up to the attack. This coincided with several religious gatherings attended by foreigners.

‘The local conspirators are now well known and have been punished. But who set them in motion in liaison with terrorist agents? These contracts, the Nanavati Inquiry concluded, had travelled south to Godhra from Jammu and Kashmir. While the Kashmiri contacts allowed triangulation with Karachi, they would at the same time be used as ‘cut-outs’ from the ISI end of the operation providing its deniability,’ write Marino.

These are all very relevant questions that the Special Commission appointed to look into the incidents at Aluthgama must look in to. The fact remains that behind these findings will lay the threat that the violence provides both life and limb of innocents in their thousands in this country. Forces that can benefit from a destabilized Sri Lanka are certainly many. But what of the responsibility of the State in ensuring the safety of the citizens by ridding the dangers these obviously powerful forces can force the people towards?

Until an independent inquiry looks into these issues and obtains honest answers, the threat shall continue to loom over the country. The mischief miscreants can engage in, in the vacuum created in a State where its police forces stands helpless as its people’s lives are endangered and property destroyed is large.

The legal provisions for action to be taken against offenders are clearly pointed out. It is in such punitive measures that the State can ensure that a deterrent is set in place against such future violations.
The President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, Upul Jayasuriya, maintains that it is imperative that the police ‘understand that they are there to protect the law.

There is provision under Section 21 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to impose bans against meetings that propagate hatred. Those who violate this law are subjected to 20 years rigorous imprisonment. It was such a meeting that was held on Sunday June 15 which led to the unfortunate incident’.

‘This was a well attended meeting and the BBS made a public speech with several inflammatory statements, to cause disharmony between Sinhalese and Muslims. All the statements he has made are in order form and every one has heard and seen them.

This is not the first time Gnanasara Thero has made such statements and was once indicted in High Court for a similar statement.
‘First and foremost why did the police allow him to hold such a meeting and what action have they taken against him? The BASL want to know where the rule of law of this country is.

‘If there is rule of law then there is no point in appointing commissions.
‘On two occasions we brought to the notice of the Attorney General about this monk’s illegal behaviour. As the President BASL, I sent the first letter on May 20 complaining that the BBS has taken the law unto their own hands and has violated the law of the country.

Even this monk once stormed a ministry and the ministry secretary made a complaint to the police about that incident. As no action was taken against this monk, we urged the AG to give proper directives to the police to take action against this law breaker. If the AG took immediate action to our letters, this carnage would not have happened. All these arson attacks and robbery has taken place in the presence of the STF,’ he opines.

The State has also the option of taking action against the police for their failure under the Police Ordinance. Such provisions include the actions of the IGP as well. It is in speedy action towards those thus responsible for the violence in Aluthgama that the government can ensure that these incidents are not repeated.

Yet, over two weeks after the carnage, the BBS Chief roams free and still enjoys popular demand.

He still invites a considerable following, that in the present context has the potential of growing. In the wrong hands, as the country witnessed in Aluthgama, such ‘popularity’ can play cruel games with peace. He continues to threaten innocent Muslim lives with his biases against the community. In an interview with this newspaper he maintains that ‘the increasing Muslim population is a huge problem for us.

However our concerns are that they are converting Tamil and Sinhalese women into Islam. That is being done in unethical ways, such as through cheating them, rape and deliberate brainwashing. These are also elements of extremism as we see it,’ he adds.

Why? Is it as easy as placing all blame on a monk playing politics? The threat to the innocent Muslims apart, the government must question how the plight of the Muslim people can appear in the eyes of the Jordanian prince to take over from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. It is certainly ironic that the man now sitting in the hot seat at the UN body, would be a Muslim.

But more importantly to Sri Lanka this has the capacity to further push the Sri Lankan state towards an undesirable position in dealing with the crucial institution. Given the already difficult relationship shared between the State and Ms. Pillai’s office, a brand new offensive on the next minority community, that is represented at the UN office can portend fresh hurdles for Colombo.

These cannot and must not be seen as mere coincidences. Destabilising forces have the ability to work in many surprising ways. It is to the administration’s benefit that it comes to terms with the real dangers it faces globally, before concentrating on the easier electorate back home.

It is still unclear how the General Secretary of the BBS, the Ven. Gnanasara Thero went ahead and held a second rally in Kandy hours after a ban on religious rallies were imposed by the State. In the guise of an ‘adhistana pooja’ he went on to gather a couple of thousand monks and laymen opposite the Temple of the Tooth Relic on Wednesday.

The thero continues to maintain that his words did not incite racial hatred, or lead people towards the violence that erupted in the predominantly Muslim town. He denies any connection to the violence, despite available video footage to the effect.

‘What is the basis of their allegations and what have we done that deserves the banning of our organization? We have not assaulted anyone, set fire to anyone’s property, damaged any churches or mosques or done any such things. All we have done is voice our concerns openly in open forums regarding the threats the country faced by certain extremist elements. If our actions to reveal the enemy forces is the wrong we have done, then let them ban us or remand us.’

He continues to argue that he is operating with military intelligence that he claims neither the government nor the defence forces can handle. The military, he claims ‘cannot speak openly regarding certain matters like politicians do.’
It is his dabbling in important matters of the State like military intelligence that the fears lie, despite claims by the defence authorities that there are no known Jihardist movements or activists within the country.

‘We have a great amount of respect and regard for the military, police and the intelligence establishments for defeating terrorism. But we are in agreement with the statement made by Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka regarding the existence of Jihardists within the country. They are yet to spread in a large way here, but there are several mushrooming organizations, which is a clear indication of the existence and the threats that we could face in the future if they are not detected. Over the past two years we have revealed several matters and today these have been proved right.

‘Not only Jihardists but there are several extremist Muslim organizations that are spreading the germs of extremism within the country. For instance the Thowheed Jamath is a very dangerous organization, and we very responsibly can say that they have received weapons training and have links to Tamil Nadu,’ he warns.

It is crucial for the peace of this country that the government removes impediments that have the potential to create fear and thereon activate especially the impressionable youth towards action.

It is imperative that the government appreciate the threat the spread of such information can influence public opinion, and thereby fear. The room for a large majority of the masses to believe in the words of a man in robes, however harsh the rhetoric is, is a threat that common sense must allow an end to – if laws lay in the way of voter concerns. It is the fears and therein the action that he motivated in those people that gathered at the Beruwala rally, that without doubt led to the carnage that is Aluthgama.

1 Comment for “The Threat Looms Unabated”

  1. gamarala

    Mody was cleared by the Supreme Court of India.

    Will the Special Commission on Aluthgama incidents end up like the Special Commission on the Welikada shooting deaths of 27 prisoners?
    Are people going to be fooled again?
    Will the STF & Police explain why the hooligans were not even baton-charged – in Rathupaswela army chased and assaulted civilians – was this because property of the top-rich businessman was involved?
    This would have prevented the damage.

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