By Shamindra Ferdinandoa
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yesterday reiterated that extremism posed a severe threat not only to post-war Sri Lanka but many countries in the region as well as the industrialised world.
The war veteran was responding to a statement issued by Justice Minister Hakeem, who is also the SLMC leader, in the wake of Rajapaksa’s address to the Defence Seminar in Colombo early this week. Minister Hakeem was obviously blind to the ground situation, he said, adding that the world was in turmoil today partly due to extremism.
The Defence Secretary said: “We are working closely with many countries to tackle extremist acts. In fact, it is an ongoing process involving intelligence services and other relevant agencies. Due to vigilance on the part of those fighting extremism and terrorism we were able to thwart plans to cause mayhem.”
The Defence Secretary said Minister Hakeem shouldn’t have dragged Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia into the debate as he never mentioned those countries. “The SLMC failed to comprehend what I have said”, he said.
Extremism fueled by a few threatened all countries including the Muslim world, Rajapaksa said. “Minister Hakeem’s reference to Muslim countries backing Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council is irrelevant. At the recent Defence seminar, I discussed the threat posed by Muslim extremists as well as Sinhala hardliners.
There is absolutely no suggestion that Muslim countries are in anyway responsible for the situation. Regrettably Minister Hakeem had misinterpreted facts.”
The Defence Secretary said that the government had cooperated with many governments in the region as well as the US during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Premier. “Sri Lanka handed over an extremist wanted by the US intelligence during the UNP-led administration in which Minister Hakeem was a senior member. The present administration too acted on information furnished by foreign intelligence services to intercept wanted extremists.”
Responding to a query by The Island, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that Minister Hakeem had misconstrued his assertion that there were some foreign groups bent on encouraging misguided local Muslims to identify themselves more with the extremist global Muslim community, thereby reducing the community’s integration with the rest of the population.
The Defence Secretary said: “It is a known fact that Muslim fundamentalism is spreading all over the world and in this region. This is a situation that our law enforcement agencies and security forces are concerned about, particularly as there have been instances where extremist elements have been in transit in Sri Lanka prior to arrest and handing over to appropriate authorities. The possibility that such extremist elements may try to promote Muslim extremism in Sri Lanka is a cause for concern.”