By Rauff Hakeem
(Text of statement issued by Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader and Minister of Justice, Rauff Hakeem)
A statement I made recently in Sainthamaruthu, Kalmunai, has created a very grave concern among Buddhists leaders and Buddhist prelates including the Jathika Hela Urumaya.
With no further attempts at procrastination, I wish to tender an unreserved apology to all Buddhists of Sri Lanka. I specifically request the Maha Sangha of Sri Lanka to accept this apology for which I, as the Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress take personal responsibility.
My reference to any grievance of the Muslims was entirely confined to a local issue in a very specific locality. Unfortunately, my choice of words, when removed from the specific context, has resulted in creating a perception that it was a derogatory remark on the Sangha who are the guardians of Buddhism, the predominant faith of our people.
As the Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, I have always acknowledged that the Muslims are an integral part of the Sri Lankan nation. We have enjoyed the patronage and the benevolence of the Sinhala people from the time of Sinhala Kings. In fact, it was only a few months ago that I addressed the International Liberal Council in Colombo where I publicly acknowledged the pluralism as practiced by Sinhala Buddhists from the Time of King Senarath who gave refuge to the Muslims persecuted by the Portuguese invaders. Any interpretation of my statement as an expression of intolerance of all Buddhist Sangha is both erroneous and even mischievous.
I am deeply conscious of the desire of the Muslims of Sri Lanka to live in absolute harmony with the Buddhists as well as others practicing other faiths. It is the only path towards the full integration of Muslims in to a Sri Lankan nation.