- Banning BBS or other extremist organisations will not solve problems
By M. M. Zuhair PC, former MP, Latheef Farook, Journalist & Author, Mass L. Usuf, Attorney at Law and Advocacy Columnist, and Mansoor Dahlan, Theology Scholar
The Presidential Commission on Easter Sunday attacks has referred in its report (page 464) to the ‘rise of Buddhist extremism’ in Sri Lanka “from 2012, due to the actions of the BBS”. It has also referred to Sihala Rawaya, Mahasohon Balakaya, Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa and Sinhale Jathika Sanvidanaya among others as “anti-social Sinhala Buddhist movements”.
We are deeply concerned as to why these organisations should be called “Buddhist”, when some of the actions attributed to these entities, as detailed in the report, are clearly outside the teachings, philosophy, ethics and lifestyle laid down in the 2,500-year-old respected religion that is Buddhism.
The report has also referred to the Siva Sena Movement in Batticaloa as a ‘Tamil Hindu’ organisation, as well as the National Thowheed Jamaat of the key suicide bomber Zahran Hashim as Islamic entities. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity have throughout the past several centuries governed the lifestyle of virtually the entire humanity of ordinary beings, though kings and rulers have often hijacked religions for their political purposes.
Why credit Buddhism or the other religions for the ultra-nationalist, racist or communal actions of the majoritarian or minority groups or persons? Why did the Easter Commission report name the extremists as ‘Buddhist’ extremists and terrorists as ‘Islamic’ terrorists?
When it came to the LTTE, we never called them Hindu terrorists or Christian terrorists! We called them LTTE terrorists even though they massacred Buddhist monks at Arantalawa and Muslims at worship in four Mosques in Kattankudy. Why not call them majoritarian extremists or BBS extremists or Sri Lankan Jihadists or NTJ terrorists?
Bringing religion to the forefront is part of the agenda of the West and NATO countries at war, from the 1950s against communism and since 1990 against Islam. The West was at peace with Islam until the so-called collapse of communism in the late 1980s! Why bring these ethnoreligious wars into our country and open the flood gates for Western R2P interventions in our internal affairs? That is exactly what the Commission report will unwittingly achieve!
We find it unacceptable to give parochial extremists, criminals or terrorists any form of refuge in any religion as was damagingly done some-time ago by Time magazine displaying to the world in its front cover titled the ‘Buddhist Face of Terror’. We believe that it is a part of a western long-term agenda to set up platforms for conflict creation in third-world countries for the benefit of their powerful arms industries even while their governments argue and demand compliance with human rights and humanitarian norms.
The report is western-inspired. That, too, at a time when the West is seeking to slit Sri Lanka’s throat at the UNHCR if not this March, then at least in September. The report overlooks the dangerous reality that Western interests are in direct conflict with Sri Lanka’s interests of establishing unity, peace and harmony amongst the Sri Lankan people. Peace is essential for the country’s economic advancement.
There are sufficient laws and institutions in Sri Lanka to deal with violent extremism and terrorism. Some of our laws are excessive or draconian. The Commission has rightly recommended a revision of the controversial Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1979, the abuse of which made the LTTE a more dangerous organisation. As pointed out but not duly highlighted in the report, the failure of the State to take effective action to deal with anti-minority hate campaigns which commenced in 2012 and the lenience shown by the police and the courts in dealing with majoritarian extremists involved in anti-minority hate campaigns led to racist attacks on minority Muslims in Aluthgama in 2014, Galle 2017, Ampara (February) 2018 and Digana (March) 2018.
Banning BBS or other organisations as recommended in the report is not the solution. It will only send them underground. They may mutate into more dangerous forms. Proscribing NTJ is understandable. Its leader Zahran Hashim led a gang of terrorists.
It happened to the pre-1989 JVP! Former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, though he reduced the electoral cut-off point from 12.5% to 5% at the request of M. H. M. Ashroff Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, President Premadasa did say at a late-night meeting with Ashroff attended by (one of) the undersigned M. M. Zuhair, that he wanted JVP to give up violence and enter Parliament. Today the JVP is an active, mature and non-violent political party.
Firm action to eradicate hate speeches and violence without discrimination coupled with promoting reconciliation and national integration while respecting diversity is the way forward in the Sri Lankan context. Getting guidance from western arms industry agents in the country will only help in radicalising all sectors of the country’s population. The Commission has taken the wrong track.
Disclaimer: Why did Easter Commission report extremists as ‘Buddhist’ extremists and ‘Islamic’ terrorists? - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view