08/26/2017, 15.12
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Three years after Buddhist violence, government to pay compensation to Muslim victims

by Melani Manel Perera

Cabinet approved compensation for the families of the dead and for those wounded, but not for destroyed property. In June 2014, the radicals from the Bodu Bala Sena group plundered and destroyed properties in three towns in in the southwest of the island. Now locals can hope.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – More than three years after radical Buddhist attacked minority Muslims in southwest Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan government decided to compensate the victims.

The initiative, presented by D.M. Swaminathan, minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, was ratified by the cabinet of President Maithripala Sirisena last Tuesday.

The families of the three people killed will receive two million rupees each (US$ 13,000); the 80 people wounded will get 500,000 rupees each (US$ 3,250).

In 2014, a group of Buddhists attacked, plundered and razed Muslim-owned properties in Dharga Nagar, Beruwela and Aluthgama, three predominantly Muslims towns. The violence started on 15 June and went on for two days.

About 10,000 people were forced to flee their homes, 8,000 Muslims and 2,000 Sinhalese. Muslims paid the highest price. The final toll included three dead, 80 wounded, 90 homes, shops, buildings and mosques destroyed or damaged worth millions of Sri Lankan rupees.

The attacks were led by Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a Buddhist radical group, in an apparent retaliation against an alleged attack against Venerable Ayagama Samitha Thero.

Once news of the attack spread, BBS leader Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero gathered his followers and incited radical violence between Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims.

At the end of the meeting, BBS militants marched into Muslim areas. Muslim-owned properties were targeted, whilst Sinhalese businesses were spared.

The government of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had already decided to rebuild some businesses using the military. But, according to what AsiaNews has learnt, no Muslim has so far received any compensation for damaged property.

"On 15 June, three years ago, I lost everything before my eyes,” said Mohomad Hanifa Mohomad Sharook Hajiyaar, a resident in the town of Dharga. “One after the other, they burnt everything, house and shop. "

He owned a showroom, which was torched. He remembers that “Before they torched my home, radical Sinhalese stole the valuables. I could not do anything against them."

Despite promises, the previous government did not allocate any money for compensation. For this reason, reports that the authorities are going to pay have given locals hope.

"This decision is an important step for the families of the victims and the wounded,” Hanifa said. “Even though I am not in this group, and I am not entitled to any compensation, I am happy for them."

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