A calculated propaganda stunt engineered by the Sri Lankan Ethno-Religious Fascist movement ”Bodhu Bala Sena” (BBS) in Colombo city against Muslims engaged in the meat trade ended in a fiasco on Friday March 1st 2013.
The neo-fascist Bodhu Bala Sena storm troopers were compelled to call off “Operation Dematagoda” a few hours after commencing it amidst great fanfare and publicity and “retreat” with lots of “Bithara” on their zealous faces.
A Bodhu Bala Sena contingent comprising about ten members of the Buddhist clergy dressed in Yellow, Saffron, Maroon and Orange robes and around fifteen members of the laity dressed in black, white and grey launched a pre-dawn operation on Friday March 1st against the Abattoir on Baseline road at Dematagoda in Colombo.
The Bodhu Bala Sena(BBS)storm troops were accompanied by some members of the Sri Lankan media.
The BBS took up strategic positions in the vicinity of the abattoir around 5.30 am in the morning.Their aim was two-fold.
Firstly to raid the Abattoir and seize Cattle being allegedly slaughtered illegally at the Abattoir. Secondly to seize meat allegedly being transported illegally in Lorries to the Abattoir from outstation areas.
The BBS that does not take the moral high ground and target casinos, nightclubs or brothels had apparently planned the operation against the abattoir as the majority of the persons involved in the meat trade are Muslims.
The BBS and allied groups have been conducting a series of meetings, demonstrations and attacks against the Sri Lankan Muslims at various places in recent times. The Dematagoda operation was also part of the on-going anti-Muslim campaign by the BBS.
The BBS had apparently got a tip off on Thursday February 28th that a flourishing illegal trade was being conducted by Muslims in the meat trade. The BBS wanted to make “citizen’s arrests”. The media was there to provide maximum publicity so that the world at large would know and appreciate what a dynamic, honourable force the BBS was.
A Buddhist priest named Ananda Thero who acted as the spokesperson for the Bodhu Bala Sena told the media that Cattle ,particularly young calves, were being illegally slaughtered at the Abattoir and stored under unhygienic conditions. This low quality meat posed a health hazard he pointed out. Ananda Thero also said cattle were being illegally slaughtered in the outstations and brought to Dematagoda for marketing.
He made charges with racist overtones that the meat trade was controlled by Muslims and that their involvement in these illegal and inhumane activity would be exposed by the BBS.
The Dematagoda abattoir is run by the Colombo Municipal Council. It had been set up in 1865. In 2004 the abattoir was renovated and modernised. It has a capacity to store carcasses of 250 cattle at a time.
What the BBS did not seem to know was that Slaughtering cattle is forbidden within Colombo city limits. The abattoir in recent times had been converted into a distribution point.
Animals slaughtered elsewhere were transported here, stored and then re-distributed to hotels, eating houses, wholesale and retail outlets in and around Colombo after Municipal officials checked the quality of the meat and cleared it.It is estimated that weekly Colombo city requirement is around 20 – 25,000 Kilos of beef every week.
When the BBS contingent entered the Abattoir premises around 6 am it discovered to its dismay that no slaughtering was being done on the premises.It was only a storage and distribution center.
Though disappointed the “BBS brigade” then changed tactics. A raid was conducted with military precision on six lorries carrying meat to the abattoir from the outstations.
The Lorries had arrived from Medawachchiya, Maradankadawela,Kekirawa and Galgamuwa in the North Central Province and Udappu and Bingiriya in the North Western Province. The six trucks carried about 15,000 kilos of meat valued at over 10 Million rupees.
The BBS then shut the main gates and prevented movement of vehicles.
The Bodhu Bala Sena also stood outside the premises and staged a demonstration shouting slogans. This attracted much attention.
BBS Bhikkus then contacted Dematagoda Police and informed the cops that they had seized meat of illegally slaughtered animals being transported illegally.
Apparently the Dematagoda Police had already reached an understanding with the BBS and had prior knowledge of the planned operation.Within minutes a Police detachment arrived.
Since the Abattoir was under the Colombo Municipal council the CMC authorities were also contacted by the BBS but the Municipal officials were not as obliging as the Police were. With municipal officials refusing to rush to the spot like the Police the BBS Bhikkus were annoyed and “complained” to the media personnel present about municipal non – cooperation being due to a Muslim mayor.
When the BBS with Police support started checking out the Trucks with meat they had another shock. The persons concerned had appropriate documentation. The meat had been checked and certified in the outstations itself by either the Public health Inspector or Medical Officer of Health. The Environment Police had also cleared the meat and mode of slaughter. The vehicles also had Police approval and permission to transport the flesh. There was nothing illegal in the entire exercise.
When a BBS Buddhist priest queried the transporters from where they had obtained the flesh, the meat transporter from Kekirawa named Mohammed Haniffa replied that the cattle were bought from Sinhala farmers in his area.
The BBS however was unwilling to accept the truth. They kept insisting that the exercise was illegal and the documents false.They wanted further investigation.
Meanwhile the meat transporters also made telephone calls.Several Muslim political leaders at different levels were alerted. They in turn contacted Defence and Urban Development Ministry secretary and Presidential sibling Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
To his credit the Defence secretary lost no time in dealing with the situation. Within a short time additional Police personnel with higher ranking officers arrived on the spot. So too did Municipal council officials.
The Police and Municipal officials went through the routine of checking the documents and meat and pronounced everything was in order.
The Bodhu Bala Sena disgruntled at this turn of affairs now kept demanding that the storage facilities be probed.They said the freezers were not working.
By this time a municipal council official team including veterinary officials had taken charge. They took the Buddhist priests and showed them that the freezers were in good condition and the meat was all right.
The Bhikkus covered their noses with their robes to keep out the meat odour and inspected the storage facility. They found there was nothing wrong.
Then the municipal council officials said that they regularly checked the meat and supervised its distribution methodically through a process of licensing. Then the BBS wanted to check the documents personally.
Again the municipal authorities obliged. Some of the Bhikkus found it difficult to comprehend the licensing and documentation process. The municipal officials strained themselves laboriously to explain.
Finally the BBS realised that nothing illegal or unhealthy was going on. At this point municipal officials told them that had the BBS inquired from them beforehand they would have explained everything and that by this action the BBS has caused an unnecessary problem and harassed the meat transporters.
When a high ranking Police officer informed the Defence secretary that everything was all right, he was told by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ,to request the BBS to leave the premises.This was conveyed respectfully to by the Police officer.
Reluctantly and somewhat sheepishly the BBS contingent was forced to abort their “Operation Dematagoda” and withdraw. However they did not have the basic courtesy or good manners to even apologize to the Muslim meat transporters or municipal officials for the inconvenience caused. Even while leaving the BBS told the Police that they were not satisfied and asked the cops to conduct further investigations.
Thus ended “Operation Dematagoda” of the BBS at about 11 am.
The smooth distribution of meat in Colombo was affected.
The fiasco has demonstrated how ignorant and ill-informed the Bodhu Bala Sena is in conducting its anti-Muslim campaign.
From the Halal certification issue to Wahabi matters the BBS continues to expose the paucity of its knowledge and information. Yet this new “Ethno Religious Fascist avatar is allowed to continue with its campaign of targeting the minorities and tearing the country apart.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com