Wandapethi, ‘Digakalliya’ and the violence in Ampara – A response to DBS Jeyaraj
By Rear Admiral (Dr.) Sarath Weerasekera, VSV RWP USP ndc psc
An article by columnist D.B.S. Jeyaraj was published 17 March in Weekend FT on the above title. In it, through his own analysis of the incident, Jeyaraj tells the reader in no uncertain terms that the “Sinhalese Buddhist” majority “harass” the minorities in the country. He further says that the present situation in Ampara poses a very difficult existential dilemma for the innocent Muslim residents in Ampara town, because they are being pressurised both tactfully and brazenly to refrain from seeking justice and not to encourage prosecution of the alleged perpetrators.
With regard to the violence per se, he mentions that “a former Parliamentarian from the Ampara District who is notorious for his hawkish views, is the brain behind this violence”. Quoting Jeyaraj, another columnist via his Facebook account, inquires about that “sinister/crazy former Parliamentarian” and wants to figure out the “extremist’s next move and where?”
I am an ex-Parliamentarian myself from Ampara and my consistent firm stand against 13A, 19A, federalism, the National Anthem being sung in Tamil, Government cosponsoring 30/1 Geneva resolution, the Constitutional amendments, etc. may definitely look “hawkish” to Jeyaraj who is an ardent supporter of all above. Hence I have all the reasons to believe that he had me in his mind when he mentioned about the “ex-Parliamentarian from Ampara with hawkish views”. Also some of the facts he has mentioned in his article were untrue. Therefore I consider it prudent to respond to his article to expose his sinister motives.
This is in no way to “justify” any type of violence against any community. The perpetrators in this incident, whoever they are, should be severely punished and every law abiding citizen should assist the law enforcing authorities in the relevant investigation. Withholding or hiding such information too, is as very serious as the crime itself. At the same time, whoever who tries to use the incident to enhance the hatred of one community towards another by exaggerations and deliberate falsehood should be dealt with severely.
Same chain of a conspiracy
In my opinion, the attack on the Muslims in Ampara, imposing a State of Emergency in the country, and well-articulated articles such as Jeyaraj’s, are all links of the same chain of a conspiracy. The conspiracy was to stage/mastermind an anti-minority attack to coincide with the Geneva 37th HRC session where the HC was going to make a special announcement on Sri Lanka. The objective being to facilitate the Government to implement the rest of the recommendations of Geneva 30/1 resolution and at the same time to justify the resolution by letting the world know that the minorities are still being harassed in Sri Lanka by the majority.
The plan worked. The “attacks” on Muslims began, Emergency was enforced in the State and as per the resolution, the staff of the “already-established OMP” was immediately appointed and the ‘Enforced Disappearance Bill,’ which was postponed on two earlier occasions due to the pressure of the Buddhist monks and the public, was passed in the Parliament without any hue and cry. This law includes provisions to caste the responsibility to the higher command for any “crime” committed by subordinates and also to extradite a person alleged to have committed war crimes to any other country for trial.
When the Government was hastily carrying out the recommendations of the resolution under Emergency, the so-called “columnists” such as Jeyaraj, and the one who quoted him, started publishing articles putting the entire blame of the violence on “Sinhala Buddhists”. It was an additional support given to Zeid Al Hussein, the High Commissioner of HRC in Geneva, to come down hard on Sri Lanka. None of them wrote anything about the above-mentioned international convention which was never ratified nor legalised by any country like the USA, UK, Australia or the whole of South Asia.
These writers who have a reputation for writing pro-federalist, pro-13 A and anti-Sinhala Buddhist articles, never blamed the Tamils when the Tamil Tigers killed scores of innocent Sinhalese in border villages and 300 innocent Muslims inside a mosque at Kattankudy. They never even think of blaming the Muslim race for ISIS atrocities. But they would never hesitate to put the blame on Sinhalese Buddhists whenever a bunch of ruffians attack or unleash violence against the Muslims or Tamils in an isolated incident.
Jeyaraj says in Ampara, the Sinhalese mob had entered the Jumma Masjid Mosque, assaulted the Muadhin who conducts the prayers and other people who were there, and defiled and burnt the copies of Holy Quran It is not true. The Police have taken written statements from the (Muslim) gatekeeper of the mosque, the Maulavi or the Muadhin that Jeyaraj mentioned, and eight other visiting Muslims who were in the building at that time.
As per the Police, none of them or any other had mentioned in their statements that copies of Holy Quran were ever tampered with, defiled or burnt in the mosque. The Muadhin in his statement has neither mentioned that he was ever assaulted nor got admitted himself in the hospital with any injury. The gatekeeper Farhan, in his statement, says that the mob called him by his nickname, asked him to get to a side, and damaged the vehicles but never assaulted him.
Out of the eight people who were there only two, in their statements, have mentioned that they were assaulted and their mobile phones robbed. The mobile phones were later found by the same people in the same location and the Police was informed accordingly. Those two people who were admitted in the hospital were discharged after one day and it is believed that they were slightly injured in the commotion. Hence Jeyaraj’s statement that the Maudhin was beaten and copies of Holy Quran were burnt inside the mosque were glaringly obvious lies.
If the burnt Qurans were found somewhere else, then it cannot be the Qurans that belonged to the mosque because if the books were taken away from the mosque, then it would have been mentioned in any one of the above statements. Everyone knows that tampering with the Holy Quran would definitely antagonise/create anger amongst not only the devout Muslims in our country but also in the whole world. Hence Jeyaraj’s above false statement was a deliberate attempt to create hatred amongst the Muslims towards the Sinhalese.
Jeyaraj also says, that as per the victims of the attack, the mob has kept shouting “let your Allah save you all, if he can”. Here again, as per the statements given to the Police by those who were in the Mosque including the Head Priest, there was absolutely no comment to that effect. How come the “victims” said something to Jeyaraj which they didn’t tell the Police? Again it is only a diabolical speculation/presumption of Jeyaraj to get the Muslims more angry towards the Sinhalese by informing the Muslim world that they have “insulted” their Almighty God.
He also says that the Police made no effort to tackle the violent elements and some cops were seen conversing with the mobsters in a jovial manner and others were only passive onlookers whilst the attacks continued. If the Police had behaved in such a manner it is a disgrace on the Police and IGP must take stern action. If it is not true, and if it is yet another sinister “speculation” of Jeyaraj to inform the Muslim world that the attack was carried out with the connivance of the “Sinhalese Police,” then it’s an issue which the Police should take serious note of.
Arrest of youth
Jeyaraj, in his contemptuous attempt to create a permanent wedge between Muslims and Sinhalese, has again made yet another statement which is not true. He says when initially five youths were taken into custody, about 2,000 people including 200 monks had gathered in a hostile and a boisterous mood, and demanded that those responsible for violence be released and should not be penalised. It’s again a blatant lie. The monks or the crowd, as per the Police, have never said that the perpetrators should not be punished. What they said was not to remand the innocents but to catch the real culprits for which they would also support.
Those five youths, who are known to be men who take part in all Buddhist work in area, were in actual fact, handed over by the monks to the Police because Police wanted to take statements from them on suspicion but not on any clear evidence against them. As they were taken to Police by the Buddhist monks on assurance that they would not be remanded, the monks told the Police not to harass the men unnecessarily before conducting a proper investigation.
Subsequently, 13 men were arrested and remanded of which six were charged under ICCPR. None of the five initially handed over by the monks to the Police were in the above lot. That was a clear indication that the Police never had solid information regarding the five at the time of their arrest and hence it was natural for the crowd, including monks, to demand that they be released until solid evidence if any, were collected. So here too, Jeyaraj purposely twisted the story to tell the world that there exists a state of impunity when it comes to imparting justice to the minorities in the country.
This matter was taken up by one of the pro-LTTE NGO members in one of the side events in Geneva HRC and wanted our explanation for it. This is how journalists of Jeyaraj’s calibre directly or indirectly support the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora in their effort to justify foreign judges and special courts mentioned in Geneva 30/1 resolution.
Visit by ex-Parliamentarian
Jeyaraj in his article, says that the ex-Parliamentarian who was the brain behind the violence against the Muslims had visited Ampara a few days before the incident, talked to the “boys”, organised the attack and also spoke to the Police officers before he returned. The subsequent lethargy shown by the Police in controlling violence, he says, may have been due to the influence of the “extremist politician”. That’s how he tells the world indirectly that our Police is highly politicised!
Now by trying to dramatise the incident Jeyaraj has looked a fool of himself because, nowadays, considering the manner in which the underworld thugs plan and carry out crimes from inside the prison, a politician or anyone, if he really wants to doesn’t have to spend 14 hours up and down on the road to go to Ampara to organise an attack. He could easily do so by being in Colombo through various other means.
Someone can argue, if at all the so-called ex politician was powerful enough to influence the Police to act as per his instructions, then he has to be a one from the ruling partyhout being remanded! So the argument is that Jeyaraj himself has indirectly admitted that the attack has been a conspiracy of the Government!
Also the man whom Jeyaraj himself has mentioned as the “main culprit “of the attack is the nephew of one of the UNP Provincial Council members of Ampara District and that person is still at large wit Ex-diplomat’s stance
Citing Jeyaraj’s article, another columnist, an ex-diplomat, who is an ardent supporter of 13A and notorious for his consistent “anti-Sinhala Buddhist” stand, queries as to who the extremist ex-politico mentioned by Jeyaraj, the “reputed columnist”, is and wants to find out what will that crazy politico trigger off next and where. This ex diplomat, during his diplomatic assignments abroad, has an infamous reputation of removing the customary Buddha statue kept at the reception in any Sri Lankan Embassy no sooner he takes over duties and prohibiting the National Anthem from being sung on our National Independence Day! If I am the one he too has in mind as the “brain behind the violence,” what I would trigger off next, as soon as the next government comes into power, is to request the rulers to take action to call for explanations for the above and make him apologise to the nation for his crazy behaviour as a diplomat.
If Jeyaraj knows the “extremist politico” who was behind this heinous attack on Muslims, then before writing to the newspapers he should have informed it to the Police. Withholding such information is as grave as the crime itself. The Police could then inquire into the whereabouts of that politician during that period and also ask the Muslim community, including the Maulavis in mosques, as to how that particular politician had treated them whilst he was in power. Jeyaraj could still lodge that complaint with the Police, if he is sure about the said “role” of that ex-Parliamentarian in this attack. Failing to act even now could be viewed as an intentional move of him to tarnish the image of the politician.
Jeyaraj talks about a ‘Diga Kalliya’ in Ampara. Nobody, not even the Police, has ever heard of any such a “kalliya” in the district. The investigations are still being carried out and after scrutinising the CCTV cameras thoroughly, the Police had recently arrested two more and remanded them. The gatekeeper Farsan has given the names of the mob who came to the mosque and carries out his duties as usual. The Muadhin also has given statements against the mob and conducts daily prayers without any difficulty.
Out of the 15 now in remand eight have been charged under ICCPR and being kept without granting bail. Then what is this “existential dilemma” for the Muslims and the state of “impunity” that Jeyaraj is talking about? He urges a “strong political will” to address the above. Does he mean strong political leadership to grant independent federal status to the east and the north as recommended by MP Dharmalingam Siddharthan, the Chairman of the Constitutional Amendment Centre Periphery Sub Committee? Is that the aim of his consistent writings about discrimination, impunity, existential dilemma of minorities, etc.? Although the LTTE miserably failed in achieving its objective, the separatists in civil are still operating in multifaceted forms to achieve what the LTTE couldn’t achieve through terror. Cry, beloved country!