The National Shoora (Consultative) Council (NSC) said yesterday that it viewed with deep concern the announcement that the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and the dreaded anti-Muslim 969 movement of Myanmar plan to work together in Sri Lanka.
The announcement made by the two extremist groups following the BBS meeting held on September 28, in Colombo. That alliance did not augur well for the country the NSC said, adding that it can derail and undermine the process of nation building and reconciliation that Sri Lanka wants to engage in.
“The BBS has also announced that it will join hands with anti-Muslim entities in India as well. Unless the government takes immediate steps to arrest the emerging threat to ethnic and religious harmony, this alliance can destabilize the country, open the doors further for intervention by the international community and cause irreparable damage to the global image of Sri Lanka, to Buddhism and to the Muslims. The NSC has said this before but the government has continued to ignore our concerns.The country gained nothing but loss and damage from previous ethnic conflicts. Religious confrontations that the new alliance appears to be seeking under false pretexts can be far more dangerous and damaging. It is a matter for deep regret that the BBS had used a Buddhist forum to malign the Hoy Quran and the Muslim civil society, particularly the leading organization of Muslim theologians, the All Ceylon Jammiyyathul Ulema. It is sad that the BBS failed to have recourse to civilized mechanisms of dialogue and discussions.
“The NSC has no issue regarding the development of Buddhism here or elsewhere. It is however concerned over the advancement of racism under false pretenses. We appeal to the most respected Maha Nayake Theras of the country not to allow anyone to promote racial or religious hatred in the country. The government has a grave obligation not to permit any group to bully the minorities into submission to undemocratic and unlawful demands, putting them in fear of reprisals as it happened in Aluthgama in mid-June 2014. These are issues, the NSC believes, that the silent majority amongst the Buddhists as well as the Hindu and Christian religious leaders must also take up.
“It is beyond debate that the monk Ashin Wirathu’s anti-Muslim campaign had led to the death and destruction of hundreds of Muslims and their homes in Myanmar. He is a convicted prisoner who had served seven years in prison for his anti-Muslim campaign. Hate campaigns are un-Buddhistic and cannot correct fault lines in others, if any. The fact that a visa to visit Sri Lanka to attend the BBS meeting was issued to the controversial monk Ashin Wirathu, ignoring fervent appeals by Muslim Ministers, Muslim Council of Sri Lanka and other anxious Muslims, shows a lack of sensitivity for the feelings of the minorities.
“In what has become the Bodu Bala Sena’s trade mark strategy, speakers at the Colombo meeting repeated ad nauseum the baseless and false allegations against Muslims that has characterized the two year bullying campaign of the BBS. Not only were such statements insulting the religion of Islam as well as the Muslims but they were also deliberately designed to spread hate and rancour against Muslims among the unsuspecting Buddhists and other citizenry of this country. Many of the statements of the BBS are inflammatory and provocative. The continued failure of the law enforcement agencies to take action, most likely due to amber signals from the government, is appalling.
“Some of the BBS proposals printed and distributed at their Colombo meeting were aimed at regimenting the country’s political future within chauvinistic confines. The proposals are a threat to the party system of governance which is the foundation of democracies. These are matters on which the country’s political parties must speak and speak now. Political parties must distance themselves from groups seeking to scuttle democracy.
“The National Shoora Council also calls upon all political leaders, Muslim Ministers and Parliamentarians to act decisively, in order to bring to a halt the unlawful hate campaigns of the BBS and other like- minded organizations. They cannot escape responsibility by making a public statement or two against the BBS extremism that had been allowed to flourish. As members of the government, unless they take strong and decisive action, all Ministers and parliamentarians have to share the responsibility for the acts of omission and commission of the government.”