Opposition Leader Wickremesinghe Makes Special Statement in Parliament on About Aluthgama Incidents and Seeks Special Report While Prime Minister Jayaratne Describes it as a “Minor Matter”.


Ashwin Hemmathagama

Deadly violence in Aluthgama spearheaded by armed mobs engulfing religious tensions figured prominently in the proceedings of Parliament yesterday, with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe making a special statement and Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne giving the Government’s reassurances.

Wickremesinghe warned of the possibilities of the violence spreading to other parts of the country, especially “Mawanella where a sathyagraha is organised by Mahasen 696,” an organisation with a violent past.

Reading out a notice he received from Mawanella calling on Sinhalese people to gather for a sathyagraha, Wickremesinghe said: “According to this notice they condemn the Aluthgama incident and a special sathyagraha is organised near the Mawanella clock tower. I don’t know why the Police has allowed this. I seek the Prime Minister’s attention to stop this at least prior to any other incidents.”

“There was some tension on an attack on a shopping centre in Aluthgama and another attack on a vehicle carrying a monk. However, the Government has created an environment of adding fuel to such incidents rather than taking necessary preventive action. Consequently, we learn that communalism has been ignited, resulting in large-scale damage to properties as well as some loss of lives.

“On 15 June, some organisations including the Bodu Bala Sena had held a public rally in Aluthgama to which they had convened people in large numbers from outer areas in buses. They had also inflamed communalism by the speeches made at that rally. Thereupon, this crowd had walked in procession to Dharga Town here Muslim people live. Enlightening the Government on this incident, the high priest in the area had informed that the Sinhalese and Muslim people in the area could resolve this problem amicably and had requested not to let this process of inflaming communalism develop any further,” the Opposition Leader said, posing the question to the Government under Section 23 (2) of Standing Orders.

Charging that the Government was adopting double-standards in obtaining Court orders, Wickremesinghe said the Government has however followed a course of letting various people take the law into their hands. “The Government that promptly takes Court orders against processions and meetings of university students initiated to protect free education on the pretext of preventing public nuisance has taken no steps to stop these incidents. I wish to have a comprehensive report on this incident and also wish to ask the Prime Minister as to why the Government idled, letting the incident in question start and spread out. I also wish to know about the organisations, leaders and persons responsible for these events and the legal action taken against them. Muslim Ministers are waiting to meet the President who went to Bolivia, and Bodu Bala Sena went to Beruwala.”

In response, Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne who termed the events as a “minor matter” assured of law and order in the Aluthgama and Beruwala areas.

“On 12 June a Buddhist monk, Ven. Ayagama Samitha, was invited for a sermon held to mark Poson Poya. On the way, an incident took place which led to an argument between the driver of the vehicle the monk was travelling in and a Muslim person. Ultimately this argument led a Muslim to attack the monk. Culprits are already arrested. The monk who was hospitalised was discharged on 15 June. So some other monks have organised an event to welcome Ven. Ayagama Samitha. At the dnd of the particular function, a procession was travelling to the Kurunduwatte Vijayaramaya in Dharga Town. This procession, which was held having kept the chief priests of the Muslim mosques informed, was pelted by some individuals. This is the main reason for the clashes that injured six Policemen, Ven. Mawarale Sudamma, and a total of 44 Sinhalese and Muslims. Ultimately two succumbed to injuries.”

“The CID is conducting investigations. We will not hesitate to arrest the people behind this. I have received reports from the Kalutara Superintendent of Police and District Secretary with a guaranteed peace in the areas. In 1915 the Muslim riots started from Gampola and spread all over Sri Lanka. A minority holds a wrong view with regard to their religion. But we should give similar respect to all religions,” he added.

Hakeem not quitting yet

Justice Minister and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem said his party was yet to decide on how to vote on the Parliamentary motion on the UN inquiry, but stopped short of withdrawing support for the Government in a widely-anticipated statement yesterday.

Hakeem told Parliament during the debate on the motion on the UN inquiry that the SLMC parliamentary group would gather last night to make a decision. “I stand here today as a disillusioned and despairing member of Parliament,” the Justice Minister told the House.

He said the SLMC would require certain assurances from the Government before it could make a decision. “We need assurances about the safety and security of our people,” Hakeem said, condemning the riots in Aluthgama and Beruwala.

The SLMC Leader, who called the situation in the southern towns over the past two days a “complete breakdown of the law and order machinery,” said the Government had to arrest those who incite people to violence using hate speech.

He said there was no point in the Government crying foul about the UN investigation into war crimes, when Sri Lanka was providing the inquiry with all the evidence.

Govt. patronage for BBS: Anura Kumara

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake condemned the violence in Aluthgama in Parliament yesterday, and levelled an allegation at the ruling Government that it was providing patronage to hardline groups like the Bodu Bala Sena.

Addressing the House during the debate on the special motion against the UN inquiry last afternoon, Dissanayake charged that it was the State media that was giving prominence to Bodu Bala Sena leaders in their lead stories.

“The Government, in its struggle to survive, tries to hide the real problems in the country and is unleashing communal forces and new conflict. That is this Government’s politics now,” Dissanayake told the House.