11/21/2016, 18.31
SRI LANKA
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Sri Lankan Christians and Muslims slam the impunity of extremist Buddhist monks

by Melani Manel Perera

A monk threatens a bloodbath among Muslims if the police does not arrest their leaders. Another monk insults and assaults a Tamil employee. Rather than reacting to the violence, police seem complicitous. In one year, 132 cases of aggression against Christians, 141 against Muslims.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s Christians and Muslims live increasingly in a climate of constant fear because of the violent attitudes of Buddhist extremist monks. They are particularly upset at police, which instead of defending minority groups and ensuring respect for religious freedom, have been complicitous in the dissemination of sectarian ideas and have failed to take action against radical monks guilty of crimes punishable under state law.

On 16 November Gnanasara Himi, leader of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), an extremist monastic organisation, caused a stir when he lashed out at police for arresting Suresh Prasad, aka Dan Priyasad, a self-proclaimed "saviour of the Sinhalese" who threatened to blow up all Muslims.

Gnanasara Himi gave police 24 hours to arrest Abdul Razik, secretary of the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ) or else he would cause a "bloodbath" among Muslims.

Police later arrested Razik in Maligawatte, an action that has thrown the Muslim community into despair, especially over police behaviour, too amenable to extremist monks.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) filed a complaint against the Inspector General of Police, but no action has been taken against Gnanasara Himi.

Recently, another violent incident went viral on social media. A video shows a Buddhist monk, Ampitiye Sumangala Himi, head of Mangalaramaya temple in Batticaloa, insulting and threating an ethnic Tamil employee. During the incident, a police officer can be seen doing nothing to stop the aggression.

Minorities complain that similar incidents are a clear violation of the country’s laws, which punish hate and discrimination. They are also a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In Sri Lanka, people can get up to ten years in prison for this kind of crime.

A joint submission by civil society groups to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2016 documented 132 incidents faced by Christians and 141 incidents against the Muslims, in a span of one year.

At present, the Christian and Muslim minorities are calling for Sri Lankan police to adopt a single code of conduct across the country and take serious action against religious violence, threats, and hate speech.

Minority groups are also demanding that all citizens be treated equally before the law, including Buddhist monks, and that the authorities not remain passive vis-à-vis such violence.

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