By Skandha Gunasekara
Parliament yesterday altered its agenda for the day to hold an urgent adjournment debate on the recent communal unrest in the country in light of the clashes in the Kandy District.
Following a party leaders meeting, it was decided that the scheduled debate on the Anti-dumping and Countervailing Bill, initially debated on 11 December 2017, would be postponed to a later date.
Commencing the debate, Chief Opposition Whip and JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake asserted that the recent Sinhalese-Muslim clashes in Ampara, Teldeniya and Digana were evidence that clean politics had been lost in Sri Lanka.
“As we can clearly see, this communal unrest is created by power-hungry political propaganda. We always talk about establishing decent politics in the country but these incidents indicate that we have failed and opportunistic, bloodthirsty politics has won,” Dissanayake said.
He then lashed out at the National Security Council, claiming it had failed in its duties.
“The NSC holds a meeting every week. What is it doing? What are its members discussing? The Government does not have a structure to find out what is going on in the country. That is why these kinds of incidents are happening one after the other.”
“Although a state of emergency will be imposed, the President is the same one, the Prime Minister is the same one and so are the rest of the members of the Government. The Government neglected its responsibility. Now imposing a state of emergency after everything has happened will not solve anything. Even now we do not think that you want to solve these problems. What you only want is to suppress people who raise their voices against your misdeeds by declaring a state of emergency.”
Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan demanded to know what purpose having four or five ministerial portfolios handling peace and reconciliation in the country served if the Government could not prevent communal unrest.
“It is the duty of the Government to make sure that every citizen of the country feels equal. Several communities live in the country and they are all equal. They should be treated equally. As a country we face so many problems in the international arena. We face problems regarding the violation of human rights, a lack of accountability and delivering justice,” the Opposition Leader said.
Thereafter, the Joint Opposition leader in Parliament, MP Dinesh Gunawardena, rejected any allegation of its involvement in the riots.
“The Joint Opposition categorically rejects any insinuation that we are responsible for the communal clashes. We had nothing to do with these incidents,” MP Gunawardena affirmed.
Meanwhile, the Government placed the blame on intelligence officials for failing to anticipate emerging Sinhalese-Muslim tension as a result of the death of a Sinhalese man in Teldeniya.
“Intelligence authorities should have recognised the possibility of emerging communal unrest from the moment the deceased was assaulted by a group of Muslim youths,” said Minister Lakshman Kiriella.
“Gangs who destroyed the properties of Muslim people were not residents of Teldeniya or Digana. They were outsiders and entered those areas after the death of the Sinhalese person. We saw some of them during the recent Ampara communal unrest as well. But intelligence authorities failed to recognise the threat even after people raised concerns about outsiders entering the areas after the Sinhalese man died.”