( June 18, 2014, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) On Sunday, June 15, in yet another episode in the unfortunate history of religious and ethnic violence in Sri Lanka, anti-Muslim riots broke out in the towns of Aluthgama, Beruwala and Welipenna in the Western Province of the country. Current reports confirm that four people have been killed and 80 injured as mobs marched through the towns vandalizing and setting fire to mosques, prayer houses, homes, shops, and schools.
The riots followed a protest rally organized by the hardline Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), which has incited hate speech against minority communities in Sri Lanka for well over a year. On March 27, 2014, the 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed Resolution 25/1, Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, wherein it specifically expressed alarm over the “significant surge in attacks against members of religious minority groups in Sri Lanka, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians."
While international and local journalists continue to report on the situation, the Government of Sri Lanka is yet to make any official statement. Rauff Hakeem, Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and Cabinet Minister of Justice, has been quoted in the media as having unsuccessfully lobbied his own government since late last week to deny permission to the BBS to hold the protest rally for fear it would lead to such rioting.
As concerned organizations in various diaspora communities from Sri Lanka, we strongly and unreservedly condemn the anti-Muslim riots in Aluthgama, Beruwala and Welipenna as well as the ongoing religious extremism and ethnic discrimination in Sri Lanka.
We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of victims in Aluthgama, Beruwala and Welipenna, and stand in solidarity with Sri Lankan Muslims in Canada in their hour of need. We also appreciate the extraordinary courage of ordinary citizens in these affected towns who have stepped forward to guard their neighbours and help prevent further loss of life and property.
We welcome the Government of Canada’s recent statement on this incident, and call upon Canada, the international community and Sri Lankan civil society to hold the Government of Sri Lanka accountable in immediately bringing the perpetrators of these riots to justice with due process to ensure communal harmony.
Joint statement co-signed by:
Canada Sri Lanka Muslim Association of Ontario
Centennial College Sri Lankan Students Alliance
Humber College Sri Lankan Students Alliance
Manitoba Sri Lankan Students Alumni Alliance
McMaster Tamil Students' Association
Mohawk College Sri Lankan Students Alliance
Montreal Sri Lankan Students Alumni Alliance
Sailan Muslim Foundation
Seneca College Sri Lankan Students Alliance
Sheridan College Sri Lankan Students Alliance
Society for the Aid of Ceylon Minorities
Sri Lanka Unites – Canada
Sri Lankans Without Borders
Tamil Resource Centre
Toronto Sri Lankan Students Alumni Alliance
University of Ontario Institute of Technology Sri Lankan Students Alliance
University of Toronto at Scarborough Sri Lankan Students Alliance
University of Windsor Sri Lankan Students Alliance