GTF joins international condemnation of inter-communal violence in Sri Lanka

( June 17, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Global Tamil Forum joins the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, and many others in condemning the communal violence targeting the Muslim community in south-western Sri Lanka over the past couple of days.

More than 78 people have been seriously injured and at least three have been confirmed dead following violence predominantly aimed at the Muslim population in the towns of Aluthgama and Beruwala. On Sunday 15th June, a rally by the extremist, Buddhist Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) organisation, descended into chaos as the BBS and its followers moved through predominantly Muslim areas chanting anti-Muslim slogans and inciting hatred. Mosques and tens of Muslim-owned local businesses and homes have been destroyed by the rampaging mobs. Violence targeting ethnic and religious minorities, and the police not acting promptly and even-handedly with tacit support from senior government officials, is becoming a regular occurrence, and the current escalation of violence appears to confirm this worrying trend.

Speaking on the issue during the current 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ms Pillay stated that “the Government must urgently do everything it can to arrest this violence, curb the incitement and hate speech which is driving it, and protect all religious minorities.” Her office has previously raised alarm at the escalation of attacks upon Muslims, Hindus and Christians and the ways in which Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists organisations, like BBS, have incited violence.

President Rajapaksa’s assurances that there will be a formal inquiry into what has happened will be of little comfort to those affected, given the culture of impunity that exists in Sri Lanka and the failure of his government to investigate credibly other cases of serious human rights abuses including the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the end of the country’s armed conflict in 2009. In addition, GTF has consistently expressed concerns at the on-going attacks upon non-Buddhist religious communities in Sri Lanka and this latest tragic outbreak of violence highlights the fact that the country is a long way from a sustainable and just peace.