04/14/2023, 19.03
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Anti-terrorism law used to disrupt interfaith events

by Melani Manel Perera

Despite President Wickremesinge's renewed pledge to find the truth, police stop a motorcade organised to demand justice for the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks. Activists who took part in protests are not allowed to attend iftar meal.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lankan police used the country’s anti-terrorism legislation to crack down on two interfaith events.

One was supposed to be held in Negombo to commemorate the 2019 Easter Sunday massacre, while the other was an iftar in Colombo to enable Muslims to break the Ramadan fast. Both were set for Easter Sunday, 9 April.

The first event was a vehicle procession from the St Nicholas Church in Bopitiya to the St Sebastian Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo, north of Colombo.

“What is the point of this law in Sri Lanka if we cannot go in a motorcade and sing a song for peace in the world,” asked Fr Nimal Jayantha, the parish priest at St Nicholas.  

“The police prevented us from playing anthems and displaying posters, banners or black flags[*] during the procession,” he added.

In his Easter message, President Ranil Wickremesinghe had renewed his pledge to create the necessary conditions to have justice in the Easter Sunday attacks, through independent and impartial legal proceedings.

The other event was a multifaith iftar organised at Gale Face Green in Colombo to break the Ramada fast.

“We invited everyone based on the hope that we could sit together as one country and one people," said Mohammadi Fuzly, a prominent activist, speaking to AsiaNews.

Instead, "I was not allowed to participate in the rituals of my Muslim community,” he lamented. “What right do these police officers have to tell me to break my fast in another place?" he added.

“If Sri Lanka is a democratic country, all the citizens living in this country should have the freedom to enjoy their rights equally, especially the freedom to enjoy religious freedom," Negombo-based Muslim preacher Sheikh Mohammad Abdul Rahuman told AsiaNews.

“We strongly condemn police obstruction of the motorcade organised by the Bopitiya church on Easter Sunday for the victims of Easter (Sunday massacre), and the police obstruction of the Muslim religious fasting organised at the golf course on the same day,” he added.

[*] The black flag symbolises the injustice of crimes unpunished, like those committed during the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

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