Police are afraid to arrest Buddhist Monks, so the Buddhist monk-led violent attacks on ethnic and religious numerical minorities goes on.
“We are outraged by the blatant Police inaction and the complacency of the State towards the culture of impunity which prevails around the continuing trend of Buddhist monk-led violent attacks on ethnic and religious numerical minorities”, the group said.
While the Sri Lankan Constitution clearly guarantees all citizens the right to equality, non-discrimination and freedom of religion and religious worship, the number of attacks against religious and ethnic numerical minorities across Sri Lanka, by ethno-nationalist majoritarian groups, typically led by one or more Buddhist monks, remains unchecked, they complained.
Referring to Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) leader, Ven. Gnanasara, the group said that responding to the arrest of Suresh Prasad (alias Dan Priyasad), a self-proclaimed “Saviour of the Sinhalese”, the monk had threatened a ‘bloodbath’ saying “we must sort this issue out with stones, poles and blood, because if this is what they want, then this is what they will get!”
“The monk called for the arrest of Secretary of the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ), Abdul Razik ‘within 24 hours’, as a response to the arrest of Dan Priyasad. Subsequently, we were informed that Abdul Razik was arrested by the Maligawatte Police, and is now in remand custody. The arrest, and the speed at which it was effected, illustrates that Gnanasara thera’s words have immense influence, even on the Police, which should act as an ‘independent’ establishment. This is deeply problematic, especially in the face of Police inaction against the spate of violent attacks and threats of attacks carried out by extremist groups, in particular Buddhist monks”, the group said in the complaint to the IGP.
Recently, another video of a Buddhist monk, identified as Ven. Ampitiye Sumangala, Chief Incumbent of the Mangalaramaya Temple, in Batticaloa, has gone viral on the internet. The video shows the monk using extreme racist expletives and abusive language to verbally assault and threaten a Tamil public servant (Grama Sevaka (GS)) in the presence of a uniformed police officer, the group said.
The police officer in question stood by and observed the attack without taking the necessary action to protect the public servant or stop the Buddhist monk. When the police officer finally stepped in, he did so in a seemingly hesitant and fearful manner, they said.
The complaint to the police chief further noted: “In another incident, also in June 2016, a vigil for equality, under the banner ‘Different Yet Equal’ organised by a group of concerned citizens was attacked and violently disrupted by a group calling themselves ‘SinhaLe’ and lead by its National Coordinator, Ven. Arambepola Rathanasara.
“The attack took place in the presence of police who were reluctant to stop the violent mob, and instead attempted to lecture and question the peaceful demonstrators on their vigil and presence. In a separate incident, there is also video footage of the SinhaLe group rabidly threatening ‘all Muslims’ with death. In another incident in August this year, Ven. Rathanasara and some SinhaLe goons, intimidated and threatened to harm two female Christian worshippers and a Christian pastor.
“In yet another incident, a Tamil couple was violently intimidated by abusive Buddhist monks within a temple premises in Colombo. The victims of this violence have been in hiding, and are still living in fear of reprisal for having publicised their horrific experience. Public behaviour of this kind is in clear violation of hate-speech and anti-discrimination protections under Sri Lankan law, particularly as provided for in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act (ICCPR Act)
“We are deeply frustrated and angered by the sheer lack of will from the State in actively and publicly condemning this kind of racist rhetoric and hate-speech, and taking immediate legal action against perpetrators. The Police should move immediately to bring to justice all those in violation of Sri Lanka’s anti-discrimination and hate-speech laws, including Buddhist monks.
“The Government must seriously consider the impact and influence such groups that propagate hate-speech and threats of violence against ethnic and religious numerical minorities have on the general public, by way of creating a dangerously permissible environment for civilians to act in a similar manner, without fear of consequence. A clear example of which is an incident where a group of self-proclaimed ‘Sinhala Buddhist Champions’ or ‘Saviours of the Sinhalese’ threatened to burn and kill Muslims, make a mass call for recruits to serve their ‘worthy cause’, and incite the masses with ethnically and religiously charged misinformation.
“The Police must adopt a uniform response to acts of religious violence, threats of violence, and hate-speech against religious and ethnic numerical minorities. Under the fundamental principle of equality before the law, all who engage in such conduct, including Buddhist monks, must be held to account. It is the obligation of the Police to enforce the law equally, without exception.
“Further, the protection of the tenet of equality must be paramount to all law enforcement authorities. This is critical to reconciliation, to which the State has publicly declared a commitment. When ethnic and religious numerical minorities are subjected to hate-speech, threats of violence, and discriminatory actions, and the State is passive or indifferent to these acts, discussions of reconciliation ring superficial and insincere”.