The Friday Forum ,A Colombo based collective of eminent personalities have written to president Mahinda rajapaksha that the breakdown in law and order needs to be addressed with out further delay. The letter has been signed by former UN diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala and former vice chancellor Professor Savitri Goonesekerea
They point out that the environment of impunity has provided opportunities for gang and mob violence and caused a growing sense of fear and personal insecurity.
Acts of mob violence have increasingly targeted religious minorities and places of worship. Several groups such as the Bodu Bala Sena and the Sinhala Ravaya, some led by Buddhist monks have engaged in campaigns which can seriously undermine communal and religious harmony and peaceful coexistence among our diverse communities. The Friday Forum has already expressed its concern regarding the attack on the Dambulla mosque in April last year and the more recent anti-Muslim campaign.
This campaign has become increasingly strident and has resulted in acts of mob violence against Muslims.
Muslim commercial enterprises have been the target of attacks. Currently there are alarming reports of Muslim women and girls being publicly humiliated and even physically attacked on account of their attire. Several Christian places of worship and private homes have also been targeted. The burning of the Mother Mary statue in Avissawella early this year and the reported mob attacks on a Christian religious centre in Kahatagahapitiya a few days ago are two among many such incidents. It has also been reported that private residences in Nawala and Weeraketiya were attacked by mobs, interfering with the rights of the occupants to engage in religious activities. Some monks have joined groups of persons who have sought to assume the role of law enforcement agencies, engaging in a dangerous trend of “policing” supposedly in the interest of the majoritySinhala Buddhist community.
They also point out that It is encouraging that some politicians, at both provincial and national levels, have voiced objections to racist organizations in the strongest terms. It has also been reported that two Ministers of the North Western Provincial Council have taken firm measures, together with the Police, to prevent these groups from carrying out campaigns of intimidation and harassment against minority communities. While expressing our appreciation of these individuals for their responsible leadership, the Friday Forum again calls upon the President to act immediately and decisively to effectively counter these campaigns.
They furter add that the government has a responsibility to foster communal harmony, to maintain law and order, and to ensure peace and security in the country. Moving from rhetoric to action is vital and urgent if we are to avert a tragic escalation of violence.