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Communal Violence Cannot Be Permitted

| The following statement issued by the National Peace Council, a advocacy based in Colombo

( June 16, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The mob attack on Muslim owned shops and homes in Aluthgama and Beruwela signifies a significant escalation in anti Muslim activities that have been taking place over the past two years. It is reported that at least 2 persons have died and more than 30 injured in clashes. Previous such incidents were on individual targets, including mosques and shops. In most of those previous incidents the responses by the police and security forces was slow or ineffective with the miscreants going free, which created a climate of impunity for the attackers.

The most recent incident follows allegations that three Muslim men assaulted a Buddhist monk after getting into an altercation with his driver. Another version is that it was the driver who got assaulted and not the monk although the complaint to the police states otherwise. Whatever be the truth of the matter, it is totally unacceptable that there should be an attack on shops and homes of others merely because they belong to the same ethnic or religious community of the persons with whom a private dispute has arisen. This incident follows a sustained hate campaign against the Muslim community in the Aluthgama area and elsewhere in the country which has not been countered by either legal or political means.

The National Peace Council is greatly distressed that five years after the end of an ethnic-based civil war, that another dimension of communal violence is opening up to cause immense suffering to innocent people. There are reports of incidents in other parts of the country, including suburbs of Colombo, in which Muslim-owned properties have been subjected to attack. This has created a climate in which those belonging to the Muslim community are living in fear not knowing where and when the next attack might be and whether they will be falling victim to it.

The police have declared curfew in the Aluthgama and Beruwela areas which has stopped the violence. The law gives the discretion to the Police to take preventive action and we welcome this action, although it has come after considerable destruction has taken place and relations between the communities has deteriorated. We draw attention to President Mahinda Rajapaksa's statement that his government will not permit anyone to take the law into their own hands. But it is necessary to back words with actions and if anyone is not following the President’s commitment then such person or persons should be dealt with.

Despite a strong focus on defense, Sri Lanka has witnessed a gradual decline in the rule of law and an increase in levels of impunity often reportedly due to political patronage at national, provincial and local levels. This trend needs to arrested forthwith and the guilty not shielded from facing the due legal processes. We call on the government to restore the Rule of Law and failure to do so will only strengthen the convictions of those who have gone to the UN for punitive justice. We hope the truth behind the incident will be made public and the perpetrators of violence and destruction will not go free to continue with their rampage elsewhere.

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