Sri Lanka under Crisis: Directions Lost Sinhalese vs Islam?

Sri Lanka or the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is an island and home to many cultures, languages and ethnicities. 21 million population are Buddhists Sinhalese make up nearly 75 per cent,  13 per cent Hindus, 10 per cent are Muslims and remaining are others. Sri Lanka’s recent history has been marred by a thirty-year civil war which decisively ended in 2009.

Sri Lanka is one of only two South Asian countries rated “high” on the Human Development Index (HDI), with its HDI rating and per capita income the highest among South Asian nations. Tension has been on the rise in Sri Lanka since 2012, said to have been fuelled by hardline Buddhists.

The nationalist Buddhist organisation Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and other Buddhist Groups fights for the rights of Buddhist and accuse Muslim groups of forcing people to convert to Islam, vandalizing Buddhist archaeological sites and worried about the presence of asylum-seeking Rohingya Muslims in Sri Lanka from Myanmar. Also, the issue of halal slaughter has been a flashpoint. In Sri Lanka there are 749 Muslim schools, 205 madrasas which teach Islamic education, and an Islamic university in Beruwala (Jamiya Naleemiya).

Further allegations against Muslims in Sri Lanka by Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, general secr­etary of the Sri Lankan ultra-nationalist Buddhist organisation Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) is his claims to perceive an international Islamic conspiracy that aims at marginalising the Buddhists in Sri Lanka. He said this is led by countries from the Middle East and especially Saudi Arabia. These are the countries that fund extremist groups here. There are some countries that also promote fundamentalist Christian groups. I don’t think it is something we should allow to happen. These are attempts to destroy the culture of our country.

He had asserted that and blamed for the issue of halal certificates. We are not against halal, but they wanted all Sinhalese business people to have these certificates for their products. They managed to get all the hotels, restaurants and others to buy these halal certificates and made a lot of money through them. They are trying to destroy Sinhalese and Buddhist food habits and culture by replacing them with halal culture. That is what we tried to stop and that is the reason why they are against us.

In June 2014, an anti-Muslim campaign was launched following the deadly Aluthgama riots. In 2017 there was an outbreak of street violence started after an incident involving a Muslim woman and a motorbike driven by a Buddhist man in Galle Province with a day of Emergency. In February 2018, five people were wounded and several shops and a mosque were damaged during a clash between Buddhist and Muslim groups. So the violence’s are going on directly and indirectly by both the forces of identity.

Since last few days, there had been riots and arson attacks in Kandy district and the violence has been spreading throughout the nation. Sri Lanka’s government has imposed a nation-wide state of emergency to “take stern action” against people instigating communal violence. Under the state of emergency, the authorities are able to arrest and detain suspects for long periods and deploy forces where needed. They will also take action against “hate speech posts” on social media.

President Maithripala Siresena had vowed to investigate anti-Muslim crimes after assuming power in 2015. It is the first time in seven years Sri Lanka has imposed the measure. The country was under a state of emergency for nearly three decades when the government fought Tamil rebels in the civil war that ended in 2009.

Sri Lanka’s powerful Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was guest of honour at the opening of a Buddhist Brigade training school, and referred to the monks as those who “protect our country, religion and race”. Many Sri Lankan Buddhists share a sense that their nations must be unified and that their religion is under threat.

The United Nations criticized Sri Lanka last year for slow progress in addressing war crimes and human rights abuses. The United Nations and rights activists have accused the Sri Lankan military of killing thousands of civilians, mostly Tamils, in the last weeks of the war.

Trade between India and Sri Lanka grew particularly rapidly after the entry into force of the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement in March 2000. According to Sri Lankan Customs, bilateral trade in 2016 amounted to US $ 4.38 billion. Exports from India to Sri Lanka in 2016 were US$ 3.83 billion, while exports from Sri Lanka to India were US$ 551 million. Though Sri Lanka gave China space in Hambantota maritime port slowly it has come back with India for cooperation after the debt trap of China.

Presently the Indian cricket team is currently in Sri Lanka for a tri-nation series along with Bangladesh, but Dayasiri Jayasekara, the sports minister, said there was no question of cancelling any matches at the moment. But for now we do not know who instigated this violence but South Asia is alert and the World is Watching Lanka. India does not need a rogue, problematic Nations then peaceful one where everybody is happy in the Multi Ethnic Multi-Religious way in Democratic Setup.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

TS Chandrashekar is the Deputy Director of a state-funded trade organisation.

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