Details are emerging of Sri Lanka security forces and public officials collaborating with ultra nationalist Sinhala Buddhist mobs in a riot against Muslims.
Doctors on duty in a government hospital denied treatment to injuries from a severe beating by members of the island’s elite police combat unit, alleges a Muslim official from the central hills.
A Sinhala doctor at the Theldeniya hospital had turned down the request to treat bleeding head wounds received at the hands of the Special Task Force (STF), Abdul Saleel Mohamed Fazil told JDS by phone.
The doctor had repeatedly referred to the wounded man as ‘Thambi’, a derogatory Sinhala term widely used against Muslims, while other medical officers looked on.
“The doctor accused me of being a ‘Thambi’ terrorist,” said the 43 year local councillor who says that the STF tried to frame him and two others for racial hatred when Muslims were under attack by Sinhala extremist mobs on 5 March.
“I was with my friend Faizal, when the STF broke into the house. The women and children started screaming as they were terrified. We were dragged down the steps by the STF members, thrust plastic bags filled with petrol on us and bound our hands and feet. They beat us with wooden poles, forcing to admit that we were plotting to attack Sinhala shops.”
Mohamed Masood Faizal (40) and a student of Madawala Medina Central College were also mercilessly beaten up alongside Councillor Fazil by more than a dozen of STF personnel.
Mohamed Fazil received head injuries and the police had to take him to the hospital.
“The doctors accused me of a Muslim terrorist who is destroying the country and asked the police officer to go and dump me in a cell.”
Released on bail by court the next day and admitted to the Kandy district hospital, Fazil’s head wound had to be sutured.
They had not been given an opportunity by Theldeniya District Judge MH Fariqdeen to explain the circumstances surrounding their presence in court.
“Since the day of that incident, my kids wake up every night screaming” said Masood Faizal.
“They ask whether the armed troops would come and beat us again. Now I am scared for my family’s safety” he added.
“Lost faith on security forces”
Five days after anti Muslim riots hit the central hills, Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake visiting the area announced that thousands of troops have been deployed in the Kandy district as the “police were unable to bring the situation under control”.
However, addressing a top level meeting in Kandy a Muslim Cabinet minister detailed incidents where the military was also assisting rioters.
“Muslims have lost faith on the security forces,” said a visibly frustrated Minister Abdul Haleem, who hails from the area.
“They know who attacked them. But, they are afraid to complain. All this happened when the military, police and STF looked on.”
He went on to describe an attack where the STF chased away Muslims who gathered to safeguard a mosque and allowed a Sinhala mob to “finish their job within an hour”.
Abdul Latif, an elderly Muslim from Endarutenna, Katugastota broke down in front of the meeting when he went on to describe how telephone calls to three military commanders for help was ignored.
“None of them even bothered to answer the phones. We have nothing left now. The mobs have destroyed everything” he said.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe visiting the riot torn area thanked the security forces for “bringing the situation under control”.
He placed the number of damaged places of worship, buildings and vehicles at 465.
In a public appeal for relief, officials of the Masjidul al Akbar Jumma mosque in Rajawella, Digana say that over 4000 families in many Muslim neighbourhoods have been affected by the violence.