Sparks flew at the weekly cabinet meeting held on Thursday June 19th when the issue of anti Muslim violence instigated by the Bodhu Bala Sena in Aluthgama and Beruwela was discussed.
Heated arguments occurred between Muslim cabinet ministers Rauff Hakeem and Rishad Badhiutheen on the one hand and Buddhist cabinet ministers Champika Ranawaka on the other.
The bone of contention was the Bodhu Bala Sena(BBS). While the two Muslim ministers were harshly critical of the BBS and wanted the outfit proscribed the Buddhist ministers defended the BBS and argued against a ban on the Buddhist organization alone.Both Hakeem and Badhiutheen had wanted action to be taken against Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero for his inflammatory anti – Muslim speech in Aluthgama.
The highlight of the cabinet meeting however was the flare up between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Industries and Commerce Minister Rishad Badhiutheen.
According to informed sources cabinet minister Badhiutheen who is also the leader of the All Ceylon Peoples Congress had addressed the President at one stage and stated “After the ethnic violence of July 1983 it has been under your rule that communal violence and destruction of such magnitude has happened.The Government headed by you as President must take full responsibility for what happened in Aluthgama and Beruwela.
An irritated President had responded “Are you not a minister in this Government”?.To which Badhiutheen had replied “Yes. But you do not listen to what we say as ministers. We wanted the BBS rally in Aluthgama to be stopped but our request was ignored. Gnanasara Thero spoke and encouraged violence. Now we want action taken against him but nothing is happening. Gnanasara Thero is at the bottom of most anti-Muslim activities. We want you to take action against him but you are not doing that.If you do not take action about Gnanasara Thero this country will suffer more violence and destruction”.
Agitated at the unusual defiance displayed by Badhiutheen the President had retorted angrily “Do you know what will happen if the Sinhala ministers present here start speaking on behalf of our Sinhala people in the way that you are speaking in support of your Muslims”?
A tended Badhiutheen had then replied” You must not talk like that sir. You are not the President of the Sinhala people alone. You are the President of the whole country and all the communities.You are the President for the Sinhala,Tamil and Muslim people. You must look after all communities equally. You must not act like the President of the Sinhala people alone.
These words of Badhiutheen enraged the President who is known to be angered easily.He stood up angrily and wagged his finger at Badhiutheen. “Stop speaking immediately and shut up. You are racist and a religious fundamentalist. I have been observing your activities for some time now”.
While a visibly shaken Badhiyutheen sat in silence pandemonium reigned. Several ministers got involved in a heated exchange. Senior ministers however intervened and eased the tension by calming their emotional colleagues.