Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sri Lankan Shining in Geneva Through Two Inventors at ‘Inventions’ Exhibition

23 April 2012, 2:54 pm , Transcurrent
The inventions of Dr S.J.B Lenadora and Mr Dinesh Katugampala took the forefront at the ‘Inventions Geneva’ Exhibition, winning prestigious Gold and Silver medals at the event. ‘Inventions Geneva ’ which is the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, is considered to be one of the most important in the world.
With 46 countries, represented by 789 exhibitors showing 1’000 inventions, it was open to visitors from all across Europe

Participants included large corporations such as the REHAB-ROBOTICS COMPANY LTD , from Hong-Kong that was presented with the Grand Prix prize for a new system to reeducate the hand, designed for people who have suffered a cerebral attack, allowing them to recuperate the motor capacity of their hands with just the power of thought. Participating in an event such as this is big in itself but to win a medal truly brings the country to the forefront of the international scientific community.
Dr Lenadora’s invention, the Lenadora Pneumatic Self Retaining Abdominal Retractor, used during complicated abdominal surgeries, provides tissue-friendly retraction force and a wide range of retraction, minimizing tissue injury during surgery, providing patience with minimal discomfort during the post-surgery phase.
Mr Dinesh Katugampala’s invention, the Radius Meter, directly reads a radius of an arch or sphere and can plot major arches in the area of mechanical engineering redesign using only a minor arch.
While both inventions may appear complex to the general public, the panel of adjudicators were taken by their ingenuity and practicality. Dr Lenadora’s team provided demonstrations to visitors present on how both his invention and Mr Katugampala’s invention worked, the latter being unable to attend due to unavoidable circumstances.
The Sri Lanka Inventors Commission which headed the effort for both participants to be present in Geneva is delighted at the result of the event. The Commissioner, Mr Deepal Sooriyaarachchi, stated that it would provide great new opportunities for budding Sri Lankan inventors and would also pave the way for further support and development in this area.

Timeline: Dambulla Mosque

1.     Sri Lankan mosque forced to abandon prayers by protesters

20 April 2012Last updated at 08:54 GMT
Buddhist monks were also involved in the protest
A mosque in Sri Lanka has been forced to abandon Friday prayers amid community tensions in the central town of Dambulla.
About 2,000 Buddhists, including monks, marched to the mosque and held a demonstration demanding its demolition.
A mosque official told the BBC he and several dozen companions were trapped inside and feared the crowd would destroy the building.
Overnight the mosque had been targeted by a fire-bombing - no-one was hurt.
The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says the tensions have been growing in the neighbourhood.
Shortly after the protest the mosque was evacuated and its Friday prayers cancelled.
Many Buddhists regard Dambulla as a sacred town and in recent months there had been other sectarian tensions in this part of Sri Lanka, our correspondent says.
Last September a monk led a crowd to demolish a Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura, not far from Dambulla.
Buddhism is the religion of the majority of the population in Sri Lanka.

2.    Protest in front of mosque in Dambulla

  Date:2012-04-20 12:44:00 , Ceylon Today
By Azra Ameen

The Army, Police and the Special Task Force (STF) was deployed to prevent any untoward incidents in Dambulla when over 1,000 protesters lead by Buddhist monks staged a demonstration calling for the demolition of the Masjidul Khaira mosque in Dambulla today.
 Security was beefed up around the mosque located in the Kandalama Junction, just before Friday prayers as the protestors, waving the Buddhist flag and shouting slogans marched towards the mosque.
 The protestors were calling for the demolition of the mosque claiming that Dambulla is a holy area exclusive to only Buddhists and that the mosque is situated in a sacred area.
 “We have placed tight security around the mosque as tension was high in the area. We had called the STF and the army to assist maintaining security in the area,” a senior officer attached to the Dambulla Police division speaking to Ceylon Today on conditions of anonymity said.
 Following the demonstration the District Secretariat decided to seal the mosque till the 23 April. However, the monks vowed to stage a massive protest if the mosque is not demolished by 23 April.
 Akmeemana Dayarathna Thero, one of the monks leading the protests claimed that the mosque should be demolished as the Muslims had constructed it illegally. It is a claim many Muslims in the area are disputing.
 “We asked them to remove the mosque as Dambulla was declared a holy city with a sacred temple that came up two years ago,” Akmeemana Dayarathna Thera.
 He also said that, group of Buddhist monks led by Ven Inamaluwe Shri Sumanagala therea demanded that the mosque should be demolished as no permission has been obtained for the construction.
 Trustee of the mosque, M. Rahmathullah said, “We do not agree to their claim. The mosque was in the area for more than 50 years”.
 “As usual the Muslim devotees were gathered in the mosque for their Friday congregational prayers. Around 50 of us were in the mosque,” he said.
 “Despite the tight security the angry mob had managed to trap the Muslim devotees attending Friday prayers inside the mosque,” he said.

“Then the STF asked us to go further into a little room in the mosque as the protestors were agitated and there was a possibility for them to break into the mosque. As the situation was getting tense the STF asked us to leave the mosque and necessary protection was given while exiting,” Rahmathuallah said. 
 “As we left the locality, the district secretary had sealed the mosque without leaving room for any trouble to take place,” he said.
 The mosque had been in existence since the 1960s and had been a place of worship for the Muslim residents in the area. Expansions and renovations to the mosque began recently.
In the meantime, Police Spokesman SP Ajith Rohana declined to comment on the situation in Dambulla.

3.   Sri Lanka government orders removal of Dambulla mosque

22 April 2012Last updated at 15:12 GMT
Buddhist monks were also involved in the protest
Sri Lanka's government has ordered the removal of a mosque from an area it says is sacred to the country's majority Buddhists.
The order comes two days after Buddhist monks led a crowd trying to storm the mosque in the central town of Dambulla.
Prime Minister DM Jayaratne says the mosque has simply been ordered to relocate to another part of the area.
But the incident has angered senior Muslim politicians.
The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says this statement by the prime minister appears to have been issued in a hurry, a day before the various parties to this religious dispute were due to meet.
Buddhist monks in central Sri Lanka had threatened to demolish the mosque next week if the authorities did not act first. A special meeting to discuss the issue appears to have been convened on Sunday, and this statement was produced.
The statement listed four prominent Muslims as present at Sunday's meeting agreeing to relocate the mosque - but according to a weekly Muslim paper, three of them say they were not there.
Cabinet minister AHM Fowzie told the BBC he had not been to such a gathering. He added that it would be acceptable to request such a relocation but not to order it.
Another politician of the governing party, Azath Sally, said that even if the mosque were illegal, people opposed to it should not "act like thugs".
"Do Tamils and Muslims not have a right to live in this country now?" he added.
Mr Jayaratne, who is also responsible for the affairs of the country's majority Buddhists, said he had ordered the mosque to be removed from a sacred area in Dambulla and that it could be relocated to "a suitable place in the neighbourhood".
He described it as a mosque which is in the process of being built and local Buddhists have reportedly said that a previously small structure is now being illegally expanded.
The chief of the mosque told the BBC Tamil service the building was legal and was simply being refurbished.
Our correspondent says that whereas Sri Lanka's Muslim community normally shies away from confrontations with the government, this incident has angered some senior Muslims and prompted them to speak out.

4.   Muslims unhappy over Dambulla incident

  Date:2012-04-22 05:01:00, Ceylon Today
By Imaad Majeed
 Western Province Governor Alavi Mowlana has said the attack on the Masjidul Khaira in Dambulla was the work of professional extremists.
 A group of over 1000 protestors led by Buddhist monks gathered at the mosque on Friday (20) preventing the obligatory Jummah prayers. Protestors threw stones and chanted slogans claiming the area is sacred to Buddhism and therefore cannot tolerate the mosque’s religious activities.
 Mowlana said “there are unseen hands at work and the public is aware of this. I feel that we have to join hands and eliminate these extremists. This was brought to the notice of the Chief Minister and the President is taking action and may participate in the meeting scheduled for tomorrow (23) to see that an impartial solution is found.”
 Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs A.L.M. Hizbullah condemned the attack and said “if there is any dispute, it must be discussed and seen to. Surrounding the mosque and staging a protest only disturbs the harmony in this country that has been restored after a 30 year war.”
 “We can always have a dialogue and sort out any issues. I will be personally visiting the mosque in Dambulla. I have arranged to speak to the Chief Minister. I have made arrangements with the police to have a meeting between the divisional secretariat and the relevant officials. We will see to it that we reach an understanding between the two parties and that the mosque is not demolished,” Hizbullah added.
 According to Hizbullah, the Masjidul Khaira is over 50 years old. “I have prayed at this mosque as early as 1985 when I was still in university. There have been no issues in the past. Only recently have there been problems when the number of people coming into the mosque on Fridays for Jummah prayers increased,” Hizbullah said.
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress parliamentarian Hasen Ali also condemned the act, stating the perpetrators belonged to an extremist group. “The saddest part is that this incident had occurred before the presence of the security forces who are supposed to uphold law and order in this country. They have become spectators,” Ali said.
“This is the first time that Muslims were prevented from engaging in their obligatory Friday prayers. They say that the area has been declared a sacred area for Buddhists. Everything is sacred, including mosques. You can bring down liquor stores, but why would you bring down a place of worship?” Ali queried.
“The government cannot come out with any stale reasons. They must find a solution. From their attitude it becomes evident how this country has suffered on ethnic lines. These incidents will further polarize the ethnic population in this country,” Ali added.
“There is concrete evidence. The police are aware of the culprits. Action must be taken against them. Similar incidents have taken place in Mahiyangana and Anuradhapura, as well as smaller incidents around the country that have not been reported. These must be put to a stop,” Ali said.
 UNP parliamentarian Kabir Hashim said “this is infringing on the religious freedom of the Muslim community. This will create an issue for the goodwill of the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people. If the mosque was built illegally, discussions could have been held to seek a solution, instead of staging a violent protest.”
 “Having been built in 1963, such a protest should have taken place then and not now. The government should remember the support of Muslim countries for Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. An immediate and independent inquiry should be conducted over the Dambulla incident,” Hashim said.

5.    Govt. decides to demolish mosque

  Date:2012-04-22 16:33:00 , Ceylon Today
Masjidul Khairah, a case of religious injustice and racism exercised with government approval – Kabir Hashim

By Dinidu de Alwis 
Senior Muslim Government Ministers yesterday denied claims by Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne, who said that an order to demolish a mosque in Dambulla was given with the consent of several powerful political figures.
Jayaratne ordered the demolition of the Masjidul Khaira in Dambulla, his office said in a statement, adding that the decision was made with the consent of Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowzy, Deputy Minister M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, Western Province Governor Alavi Mowlana, , and parliamentarian A. R. M. Abdul Cader at a meeting held yesterday in Gampola.
“There was no such meeting, and I was in Batticoloa the whole day,” Hizbullah said, adding that “any decision about the mosque should be taken by the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) – the four of us are not empowered to take such a decision.”
Fowzie told the BBC he had not been to such a gathering, adding that it would be acceptable to request such relocation, but not to order it.
Mowlana and Fowzie also vehemently denied the meeting ever taking place to key members of the Muslim community in Colombo yesterday.
A united delegation of all cross-party parliamentarians are scheduled to meet the Prime Minister today to discuss the order, government sources said.
Jayaratne however, has assured that the 65-year-old mosque, along with all facilities, would be rebuilt in a ‘suitable’ area.
Heavy pressure mounted last Friday as nearly a thousand protestors gathered near the mosque asking for it to be closed down, and in an unprecedented move, the police were forced to close the mosque before Jummah prayers and seal it off to the public.
Police Spokesperson SP Ajith Rohana said that no special police units have been deployed in the area, but ‘all necessary steps’ are being taken to safeguard peace and public order.
Buddhist clergy gathered at the location on Friday gave a ‘deadline’ till Monday (23) to completely remove the mosque, stating that they will otherwise demolish it by Tuesday (24). 
Earlier last year, a shrine was demolished under similar circumstances in Anuradhapura, in the presence of police personnel and the Assistant Divisional Secretary along with other high-ranking local officials.
Yesterday’s move by the Premier was heavily criticized by Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) – a constituent party of the government, the main opposition United National Party (UNP), and some politicians in the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), including Colombo Municipal Councillor Azath Salley.
“Seeing the way the monks behaved and the statements made, saying that Muslims will not be able to urinate in Dambulla – they must not forget that Muslims stood with the Sinhalese in getting independence for this country. 
“President Rajapaksa said that there are no more ethnic minorities in the country, and this is the line that we repeated at election rallies,” Salley said.

“What are we facing now? Do not Tamils and Muslims have a right to live in this country now?” he questioned, during a media briefing held in Colombo yesterday.
Political sources said that several diplomatic missions from Islamic countries have expressed ‘deep concern’ over the government’s proposed move.
The plan for demolition comes less than a month after several Islamic governments helped Colombo cushion a resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
“After the war has been won, they must not think the Sinhalese are enough to protect this country. The President should have attended to this issue before he left the country without allowing this to happen,” Salley said.
Salley also alleged that Inamaluwe Sumangala Thera, who runs the Rangiri Sri Lanka Radio, is preaching hate through the regional radio network.
The official website of the radio station showed a video where the Thera says “Muslims are trying to bulldoze the rights and the heritage of Buddhists, and this cannot be allowed,” followed by footage of Friday’s protest. 
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is currently visiting South Korea, and is expected to subsequently visit several Middle Eastern Countries who showed support during the critical UNHRC vote.
“No one can say they were not aware of this. The President was informed of this long before it became an issue,” Salley added.
SLMC General Secretary and parliamentarian Hasen Ali echoed similar sentiments, saying ‘relocation is not a solution.’
“You are intentionally hurting the sentiment of the Muslim community. It has equal status to any other place of worship, be it a kovil or a temple or a church,” Hasen Ali added.
“There will be a huge outcry from the Muslim community. The media has given wide publicity to the violent behaviour of the monks. We are scared. We do not know what may happen in the future,” he said.

UNP parliamentarian Kabir Hashim said there is a rule of law in this country that should be maintained.
“An illegal armed group marched into the mosque in the presence of the police and the army causing damage to the mosque. They then proceeded to chase out the Muslims in attendance without allowing them to perform their obligatory prayers, thus inhibiting religious freedom,” he said.
Hashim stated that this is a case of religious injustice and racism exercised with government approval.
“We are perturbed and shocked as a community that has always stood for the unity of this country, even going to the extent of sending Muslim clergy to Geneva to protect the government,” he said. 
Fringe group Sinhala Ravaya – who claimed responsibility for the earlier Anuradhapura shrine demolition – issued a statement on their website on Saturday claiming responsibility for organising last week’s protests against the mosque.

6.   Not taken a decision to remove the mosque. Minister Fawzi.

April 23, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Lanka C News

Mr A.H.M.Fawzi, Senior Minister of Municipal Affairs says that, since a decision was not taken yet to remove the Dambulla Mosque, and he himself or Mr Alavi Maulana, The Governor of  Western Province didn’t participate in any discussion pertaining to that,the reports that they have participated in such discussions are totally incorrect.
However, if the relevant mosque will be removed from it’s former location, Muslim Leaders should be made aware of the situation,he says.
He also emphasizes that, if the mosque will be removed from the above place, an alternative location should be provided to reconstruct it.

Issuing a notification yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Office has mentioned that, steps were taken to remove the mosque which is being constructed in the historical Rangiri Dambulla sacred land, with immediate effect.
These reports also mentioned that,the Prime Minister has advised his officials to provide necessary facilities to reconstruct this mosque in another suitable location in the area.
This notification has further mentioned that, since this decision was taken by the Prime Minister, after a discussion held in Gampaha area, Senior Minister Mr A.H.M.Fawzi, the Governor of Western Province,Mr Alavi Maulana, Deputy Minister ,Mr Abdul Cader,and Mr A.L.M.Hisbullah, have participated in this discussion.

7.    Sri Lanka Muslims decry radical Buddhist mosque attack

23 April 2012Last updated at 15:48 GMT


Buddhist monks spearheaded last week's violence
The main umbrella group of Sri Lankan Muslims says radical Buddhists are trying to damage peaceful co-existence between the country's main ethnic communities.
The statement came three days after hardline Buddhists tried to storm a mosque, after which the government said it would be demolished and relocated.
Buddhists in the central town of Dambulla have defended their actions.
But the issue has provoked anger among some prominent Muslims.
The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said it was "deeply concerned" at the attempted destruction of the mosque in Dambulla last Friday.
It said the building was lawfully registered and was 50 years old.
The council said that radical Buddhist elements - against the will of the majority - were consistently undermining ethnic co-existence. It called on leaders of Sri Lanka's majority Buddhist faith to re-establish good ties.
Mohamed Saleemdeen, a board member of the mosque, denied it was an illegal building.
He told the AP news agency that it had been there long before the area was declared a sacred zone about 20 years ago.
But prominent monks in Dambulla say the mosque is illegally built on ground sacred to their religion.
On Friday the building was fire-bombed.
Video of monks and other hardliners trying to storm it later showed one monk addressing the crowd in overtly racial terms, saying the campaign against the Muslim building was a victory for "those who love the race, have Sinhalese blood and are Buddhists".
The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says that a monk was seen exposing himself against the mosque as an insult.
'Safeguarding Buddhism'
Buddhist leaders in Dambulla say they now intend to demolish 72 structures in the sacred area that they say are unauthorised, including the mosque and a Tamil Hindu temple.
A Dambulla monk told the BBC that the actions were necessary because Sri Lanka was "the only country to safeguard Buddhism".
He said that if encroachments continued there would be no Buddhist land left.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is overseas but senior Muslim politicians from his government have condemned the official decision to demolish the mosque.
While most of Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority are Buddhists, Muslims are regarded as the third ethnic group, after the mainly Hindu Tamils.
There have been appeals for calm, including from a Sri Lankan Muslim blogger who said it would be irresponsible for Muslims to respond to current events in a "reactionary" way.

8.   Bigoted monks and militant mobs: Is this Buddhism in Sri Lanka today?

23 Apr, 2012 Groundviews

Frame grab from
News 1st TV broadcast
As noted by Raashid Riza, the Multimedia Editor of The Platform,
Last Friday a mob of about 2,000 Sinhalese, led by a group of Buddhist monks, stormed into a mosque in the historical city of Dambulla. They caused disturbances so severe that Friday prayers had to be cancelled. Reports suggest that the mosque had been hurled at with petrol bombs the night before, causing minor damage, and security forces were deployed to control the situation. The targeting of the Muslim community was instigated by a group of racist Sinhalese individuals, consisting largely of hooligans, who were motivated by the uproar and attention such an act would create, rather than by any identifiable ideology.
News channels have since broadcast footage from the incident. It is extremely disturbing, and warrants attention. Since the content is in Sinhala, we offer rough translations of the most disquieting sentiments.
00:47: Buddhist monk in orange robe: “The Divisional Secretary promised that on Monday, which is to say in two days, there will be a meeting at 3pm to take a decision on this matter.”
1:15: Buddhist monk in brown robe: “This is how the written promise came. Listen carefully. 2011.4.20. This is a historic day for us. In the Kingdom of Dambulla, in the absence of a Sinhala King, when there was no King… the Head Prelate, led by Ven. Jayaratana in front of the Buddhist clergy we will come to a verdict. This verdict is not just for Dambulla, but all of Sri Lanka… We are number one in self-governance. Because of this, against the courts, without the President, this written promise is a first, a victory for those who love the race (hela), have Sinhala blood, and are Buddhists. This is what it says. There are reports of an illegal Muslim mosque near the Rangiri Dambulu Temple. That a huge swathe of people were part of a protest is also reported. After 1.11pm no Muslim, for whatever reason – you can’t even go to the toilet – (derisive laughter from crowd) I promise to the Sinhala Buddhist people who love the country. Signed – is he Muslim? (derisive laughter from crowd) Senior Police Superintendent… With this victory, we temporarily depart. To be continued with your pooja”.
3.20 to 6.20 features Sri Lanka’s Prime MInister speaking about the incident, which he said he first got to know about from the newspapers. He notes that for around 500 Muslims in the Dambulla area, the contested mosque is the closest place of worship they have. What’s quite bizarre about the PM’s statement is that he notes (3.19 to around 3.36) that the Dambulla Temple grounds have been declared a sacred area by the Town and Country Planning Ordinance. But as Namini Wijedasa notes in Lakbima News,
The government last week withdrew an amendment to the Town and Country Planning Ordinance that if passed would have given the Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs vast powers over any private property in the country.
The Town and Country Planning (Amendment), a copy of which was obtained by LAKBIMAnEWS, consists of just eight clauses. Legal practitioners described the bill as ‘bizarre.’ It was presented to parliament close on the heels of another controversial law–the Revival of Underperforming and Underutilised Assets bill–under which the government acquired overnight the assets of 37 private sector companies.
Thus, the illegality of the mosque, going by the PM’s definition on TV, is very suspect. In fact, Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs A.L.M. Hizbullah notes that the mosque is over 50 years old,
..If there is any dispute, it must be discussed and seen to. Surrounding the mosque and staging a protest only disturbs the harmony in this country that has been restored after a 30 year war… I have prayed at this mosque as early as 1985 when I was still in university. There have been no issues in the past. Only recently have there been problems when the number of people coming into the mosque on Fridays for Jummah prayers increased.
In the clip above, at around 4.47 the PM says that there is no provision for the erection of temples belonging to other religions within the land owned by Buddhist temples. Smiling, he wonders aloud why there was a sudden inflammation of disharmony around the mosque in Dambulla. Noting the government’s foremost responsibility to protect Buddhism, at around 5.36 the PM notes that the government’s responsibility is also to ensure that people of other religions can fairly observe their own religious practices. He ends by stressing the need for religious harmony and peaceful co-habitation, and flags the need to follow the tenets of each religion.
However, a longer clip of the segment first broadcast on TV suggests that some leading members of the Buddhist clergy in Dambulla are, clearly, not even remotely Buddhist in thought, expression and action.
There are members of the Sangha engaged in mob violence. There is a member of the Sangha who disrobes, jumps up and down and exposes himself, in public, against the mosque. Others break down the entrance of the mosque. A Chief Prelate from the Dambulla Temple suggests that the mob is a shramadaanaya, and that destroying the mosque is something that they should in fact be helped by the government.
At around 3.47 in this video, there is a particularly chilling exchange between one of the Chief Prelates of the Dambulla Temple and a Hindu resident of the area. The female resident, who is not once dis-respectful in her submissions to the Prelate, says that from when she was small, she had worshipped at a Kovil in the area. The Prelate’s immediate answer is whether she is referring to the 1800′s. In a menacing Sinhala idiom that loses a lot of its original violence in translation, the Chief Prelate threatens to either remove the Kovil, or have it removed along with the homes of the Hindu residents, noting that they are all there illegally. The Chief Prelate notes, through a Sinhala adage, that not only are the crows attempting to fly over their heads, they are now attempting to enter the nest as well – a clear reference to the Hindus and Muslims in the areas. The woman assures the Chief Prelate, in a very deferent expression, that there is nothing for him to fear about their worship. However, the Prelate’s answer is again menacing in Sinhala, noting that she can take her gods wherever they want to, but away from the sacred ground of the Temple.

9.   Decision taken after consulting Muslim leaders – PM’s Secy. Relocation of Mosque:

April 23, 2012, 10:46 pm
Muslim leaders take exception to govt. decisionBy Lal Gunesekera
 Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne had decided to relocate a Mosque at Dambulla after discussions with Muslim leaders and other stake holders, including Western Province Governor Alavi Moulana, the PM’s Media Secretary Sisira Wijesinghe said.
He told The Island yesterday that the District Secretary had recommended three locations to construct the Mosque and that the Buddha Sasana and Religions Affairs Ministry would meet the expenses.
He said that Premier Jayaratne was determined to settle the dispute and a report had even been submitted by the Director of Muslim Affairs M. Navavi.
The Islamic Solidarity Front (ISF) has called upon all Muslim politicians of the UPFA Government to resign en masse unless Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne’s recision to relocate the Mosque at Dambulla built over 70 years ago is rescinded.
Chairman of the ISF Reyaz Salley, addressing a press briefing on Sunday(22), at the Azad Salley Foundation, said that a vast number of Muslims, to show solidarity, were joining hands with other political parties against the government’s move.
He said that extremist groups were attempting to create religious disharmony among Muslims and Buddhists. He added that the Muslim community was organising mass protests against the Government’s decision to relocate the Mosque.
Riyaz Salley said that all were responsible for the sad situation and it was the manner in which the UPFA government was treating the Muslims after receiving the support of Sri Lankan Muslims and Muslim countries, which had been stunned at the decision taken by Prime Minister Jayaratne.
He said that the Ambassadors of Muslim countries based in Sri Lanka, including Malaysia, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia etc. were scheduled to meet in Colombo to discuss the issue while Iran had already addressed a letter to the Prime Minister.
Azath Salley said that he had joined the government ranks from the UNP in protest against former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka’s comment that the minorities were similar to tourists in Sri Lanka. He said where he was concerned religion took precedence over politics. He said that he was not afraid to be abducted in a white van and he had already taken the initiative to brief President Mahinda Rajapaksa on those developments.
Among the others who were present were Dr. Wickremabahu Karunaratne (Nawa Sama Samaja Party), Mano Ganeshan (Democratic Peoples Front), Y. L. S. Hameed (All Ceylon Muslim Congress) and Radakrishnan (former Cabinet Minister of the Up-Country Peoples Front).
The Sri Lanka Muslim Union (SLMU), too, is against the government’s decision to relocate the Mosque in Dambulla.
Governor of the Western Province Alavi Moulana said that he, too, was against the relocation of the Mosque and was never present at the discussions with Prime Minister Jayaratne.

10.                      Will inter-confessional peace come to Sri Lanka?

Volkhonsky Boris
Apr 23, 2012 22:18 Moscow Time
Photo: EPA

A new inter-ethnic and inter-confessional conflict has broken out In Sri Lanka - a country where a bloody civil war had ended only three years ago. On Friday, a crowd led by Buddhist monks gathered near a mosque building in the town of Dambulla, thus interfering with the Muslims’ Friday prayer. Muslims were forced to hide inside the building for a long time. And in the night from Friday to Saturday the mosque building was bombarded with Molotov cocktail bottles. Fortunately, nobody has suffered.
At an emergency meeting of the government of Sri Lanka held in the past weekend it was decided to take the mosque to another place, on the pretext that it was built there illegally.
What is the essence of the problem? Dambulla is a sacred place for the Buddhist majority of the Sri Lanka population. There is a complex of cave temples, dated back to the early period of Buddhism on the island - 1 century BC. It is one of the most famous tourist sites as well. In 1982, the government of Sri Lanka issued a decree, announcing the Dambulla area a sacred place for Buddhists and, therefore, prohibiting construction of any other cult buildings there, except Buddhist.
But the matter is that the mosque has existed here long before this resolution, says Boris Volkhonsky, an expert of the Russian Institute of Strategic Research.
"The mosque was built in 1962. Though today, the opponents of the Dambulla mosque argue that the territory, occupied by the mosque, was recently unreasonably extended. However, the crux of the matter lies not only in this particular mosque."
According to Boris Volkhonsky, a new axis of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional confrontation - between the Singhalese Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority, which represents about 7.5% of the population - is clearly emerging in Sri Lanka in the last few months. Last September a similar accident happened in another sacred for Buddhists and very attractive for tourists region of Anuradkhapur, where the crowd led by Buddhist monks defaced a Muslim shrine.
Sri Lanka has not fully recovered yet from the effects of a 25-year civil war, which had claimed up to 100 thousands of lives. The war was being waged between the government, dominated by the Sinhalese, and the insurgent grouping "Tigers of Tamil Elam". The war, in fact, was not of a religious nature, but a number of radical Buddhist politicians made a lot of efforts to stir up hatred towards the Tamils in the society, Boris Volkhonsky reminds.
"The Muslims (the Moors, as they are called in Sri Lanka) have never been a party to the conflict in the civil war. They haven’t got a territory of their own for compact residence, so there are no separatist ideas among them". Moreover, the Moors, who had lived in the North, in the province of Jaffna inhabited by the Tamils, had themselves become the victims of the separatists: in the 1990-ies the "Tigers" had expelled all of the Moors from the territory under their control, said Boris Volkhonsky.
Today the events of the civil war period attract attention of the whole world. From time to time the Sri Lankan government and personally President Makhinda Radjapaksa are charged with abuse of power and large-scale violations of human rights. Sometimes these charges are put forward not only for the sake of restoration of justice, but for the sake of exerting political pressure on Sri Lanka. But, one way or another, the government is forced to take a defensive position. Against this background, it is very doubtful that the new axis of inter-confessional confrontation will facilitate thereturn of inter-communal peace and tranquility to Sri Lanka.

11.Premier says Dambulla Mosque is illegal; Muslim Congress against government decision.

Monday, 23 April 2012 - 12:33 PM, Hirunews
A discussion is scheduled to be held at the Rangiri Dambulu Raja Maha Viharaya this evening with regard to other places of worship which are alleged to have been constructed within the Dambulla sacred site.
 It is reported that the Secretary to the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, the District Secretary of Matale, the Chief Prelate of the Asgiri Chapter and other government officials will participate at this discussion.
 The Chief Prelate of the Rangiri Dambulu Chapter of the Siamese Sect Venerable Inamaluwe Sumangala Thero stated that during today's discussion, it is expected to draw special attention with regard to how the future development activities of the Dambulla sacred premises will take place.
Meanwhile, participating at a religious function which was held at Hatharaliyadda in Kandy yesterday, Prime Minister D M Jayaratna expressed views with regard to this mosque.
 The Prime Minister stated that this mosque which has been constructed within the Dambulla sacred premises is an illegal construction.

12.                       All illegal structures must go

  Date:2012-04-24 09:05:00, Ceylon Today
By Azra Ameen
 A committee comprising the Maha Sangha (Buddhist priests), Divisional Secretary, the District Secretary and several other officials yesterday decided to remove all illegal constructions where a controversial mosque is located in the Dambulla area within the next six months, sources said.
“There are around 72 illegal constructions around the Dambulla temple. A decision was made to remove all constructions around the temple including the mosque and the kovil within a period of six months,” Punyaaloka Thera said.
He also said permission has been granted to construct any religious structures outside the boundaries of the Rangiriya Temple.
The mosque was earlier termed by local monks as an ‘illegal construction.’
 The decision was taken at a meeting organized yesterday evening, following a Prime Ministerial order on Sunday which stated that the mosque, Masjidul Khaira, be demolished.
No Muslim parliamentarians or representatives took part in yesterday’s meeting, sources said.
The move by the Premier’s office to demolish the mosque was heavily criticized by the Muslim community.
 A large crowd had gathered outside the government offices yesterday in Dambulla, and left following the announcement, sources from the area said.
 Meanwhile, the Inamaluwe Sumangala Thera said the protest on 20 April was not to only remove mosques and kovills, but all illegal constructions.
The Thera said if the government fails to meet the deadline they would once again take to the streets.
 The most Ven. Udugama Sri Budharakitha, Prelate of the Asgiriya Chapter also participated in the discussions.
 Deputy Minister M.L.M. Hizbullah visited the Rangiri Dambulla Viharaya last evening and spoke to the priests and thanked them for amicably settling the matter.
Governor of the Western Province, Alavi Mowlana, said yesterday he will strongly consider vacating his position if the government goes ahead with the plan to demolish the mosque.
Muslim parliamentarians and others from the Muslim community appealed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to discontinue the private radio channel that encouraged the religious hatred carried on in the Dambulla area, which was managed by Inamaluwe Sumangala Thera. They also requested the President to hold a meeting with a top level delegation in Colombo and to find a discreet solution to the problem.
 Sumangala Thera was at the forefront of protests that took place last Friday at the mosque, and a video uploaded to the radio station’s website shows him preaching about ‘Islamic invasion’ in the country.
 They also requested the President to hold a full and impartial inquiry, and to punish the offenders according to the law, and to ensure safety of the residents of the village and to continue their religious observances at the mosque.
 Governor of Western Province, Alavi Mowlana condemned the collective decision made at the meeting yesterday. He said a few people together cannot come to a conclusion like this. “How can the District Secretary or any other official take such a decision without a single Muslim member participating at the meeting?”
Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowzie said he was aware of the meeting, but added no invitation was extended to him or any other Muslim politician to participate in the discussions.
In the meantime, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) said they are concerned about the incident of the attempted destruction of a mosque and disruption to the Muslims’ obligatory Friday (Jummah) prayers last Friday (20).
In a press release, the MCSL stated it considers the involvement of certain sections of the Buddhists clergy and their participation in the unruly mob behaviour which attempted to destroy the mosque, was unfortunate.
 “The Muslims of Dambulla had a very cordial relationship with the majority Buddhist Community and had the freedom to practice their religion unhindered for decades. This mosque in particular, was in existence for over 50 years and lawfully registered, and was not a threat to any religion or individual. This is the only mosque for the Muslim community within a radius of 15 kilometres of Dambulla.”
The MSCL pointed out the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (council of Muslim theologians) represented by its senior leadership lobbied the Muslim countries to support Sri Lanka even at the recently concluded UN Human Rights Commission sessions in Geneva as the Muslims in Sri Lanka have always stood up for a sovereign nation.

13.                       Dambulla Mosque attack: Is there a hidden hand?

Image courtesy BBC
The storming of the Dambulla Mosque on Friday the 20th April and chasing away of the Muslim worshippers attending Friday prayers by a mob led by Buddhist priests is epoch making in modern Sri Lankan history. The majority of the people of all communities are shocked and incensed by the way Buddhist priests lead this violent and destructive mob against the Dambulla Mosque.
According to authorities this mosque has been in existence since 1964 and built with the support of the people of the area and the Viharadhipathy, the Chief Incumbent of the historic Dambulla Rajamahavihara. Deplorably the pretext used by the mob led by the Monk is that this mosque is built on sacred land. This casts aspersion upon the goodwill of the people and the then Chief Incumbent of the Dambulla Rajamavihara as lesser Buddhists than the latter to permit the Muslim countrymen to worship in the place they domicile/work.  This raises several questions about the authenticity of the Buddhist Monks who participated in this about their true Buddhist credentials.
The Buddhist –Muslim relation in Sri Lanka is more than ten centuries old and this bond has hitherto been not broken despite the 500 years of colonial rule, the post colonial period and beyond. The Muslims did not succumb to the divide and rule politics of the colonial powers and they distinctly identified those that are alien from those that are their countrymen. This is the reason why Muslims did not become surrogate of the colonial masters and therefore bore the brunt of suffering with the majority Buddhists during the colonial period. This is because Buddhist –Muslim relationship is not built on opportunities or marriages of convenience but of sincere understanding and goodwill, time tested by centuries of coexistence. This is the reason why Muslims stood as a buffer against the division of the country inspite of the bulk of them being Tamil speaking, therefore they got battered and butchered when they were praying in the mosques by the LTTE and still, more than 100,000 Muslim IDPs are living in squalid conditions and are deprived of their livelihood and domicile in spite of the end of war, which, neither the GOSL nor the International community shows pity on them. The reason why this bond is stronger is because both these communities strongly believe in the unhindered sovereignty of the Sri Lanka state. A cursory glance at the history of Sri Lanka would testify why the colonial invaders found the Buddhists and Sri Lankan Muslims as their enemy and not otherwise.
Dambulla mosque attack is not a yardstick to measure the strength of the Muslim-Buddhist bond and it is not going to be broken just because some believe that few frictions here and there would weaken both communities by polarization. This attack is not against the Muslims, this is an attack against the sovereignty of the state judging by the way these are emerging. Since Buddhists cannot be taken head-on, the strategy is possibly to polarize the Muslims and the Buddhists so that would create justifications to paint the majority Buddhist community as racist to achieve the grand plans of those who are pulling strings.
Prelude to Geneva Resolution
With the end of the war and elimination of the LTTE, India and the western powers lost leverage in Sri Lanka. India lost its geopolitical spindle and so has the West. Ever since both entities were on the lookout for regaining leverage in Sri Lankan affairs and the hype created by the Channel 4 and the lackadaisical response of the GOSL to the suffering of the Tamil community gave them the opening. In the prelude to the Geneva Resolutions too, the Muslims played a distinct role to safeguard the sovereignty of the state from interference and interventions.  The Muslims staunchly sided with the GOSL not because they were against their Tamil brethren but because the sovereignty of Sri Lanka is a shared responsibility.  The ministers, deputy ministers and their bandwagon went with fanfare and squabbled upon their return. This shrouded the catalytic role played by the Muslims. Sheik Rizvi Mufthi and Sheik A.C.Agar Mohammed, both senior Islamic scholars from the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulema toured Geneva and influenced and invoked Muslim country representatives to vote for Sri Lanka at the resolution. These are unofficial ambassadors who volunteered to save the sovereignty of Sri Lanka from being tarnished.
Those who harbour ill will against our country know that Buddhist-Muslim bond is formidable and would be a deterrent to their schemes and therefore polarizing both these communities would be the first step. Attack against the Muslims should be viewed in this light. The more we are divided external interventions would become stronger.
Nuwara Eliya Mosque opening by the President
President Mahinda Rajapakshe set a precedent in modern Sri Lanka by opening a Mosque in Nuwara Eliya on the 11th April 2012 . This is the first time in Sri Lanka’s modern history that the Head of the Nation a devout Buddhist inaugarated the opening a Mosque for the Muslims. It is also noteworthy in the President’s speech, that he pointedly mentioned that   “the Muslims have always been friends of the Sinhalese historically as well as today and that they have been defending the country together with the Sinhalese”. This is a testimony to the Buddhist – Muslim bond which some can feel disturbed about. Definitely this visible emerging bonding relation between two communities is an eyesore to those who harbour ill will against Sri Lanka and they would go to all means to polarize its people.
Extremism is not a part of the religion of the Muslims or Buddhists in Sri Lanka or the world over. Widespread extremism in modern societies is a modern phenomenon. Extremism is a by product of seeking change at an accelerated pace with emotional overdrive or is an intelligent manipulation of the gullible. Studies indicate that in post colonial Muslim countries, extremism is identified as the product of the Western or proxy intelligence agencies’ manipulations.  This was done to hinder gradual transition from post colonialism to nation building in their own terms and choice. So that nation building would take a rational and evolutionary process and result in formulating a peaceful and stable society. Such a stable and peaceful society would effectively discard colonial vestiges and build nations based on their values and ethos. Extremism is an anathema to progress and hinders stable growth of a society. The post colonial societies are not immune from this scourge and in particular Muslim countries are the most spawned to keep them divided. Extremism does no good to a society. It breeds conflict and violence and acts as a barrier to gradual progress and inhibits sustainable development in society. It makes society unstable and contributes to failed state conditions. Religious extremism of any hue or colour is not a positive contributor; instead it destroys the very religion it represents and polarises societies. Such societies will be unstable and vulnerable to external interventions.
Fortunately in Sri Lanka religious extremism from all religious groups is a rare commodity and violent extremism was non-existent. It was only chauvinism that had notoriety in Sri Lanka. The debilitating three decades separatist war brought sense to our leaders about the need for nation building which we should have embarked upon immediate to the British exit from the shores of Sri Lanka and which we didn’t. With the end of the war and decimation of the LTTE, time was ripe for nation building. This includes physical building of the state as a sustainable and stable system and mending hearts and minds of all people across the country and building a single nation of diverse cultures, beliefs and values. Unfortunately at this stage Sri Lanka as a majority Buddhist country is experiencing emergence of Buddhist extremism. The timing of this emergence raises many questions of why it did not emerge during the war and why not immediately after independence from Britain in 1948? Why should it emerge now and who are behind such an emergence?
What national benefits does the country get by Buddhists destroying mosques?  Are they going to increase our GDP or Gross Domestic Happiness? Are we not driving our motherland to another abyss? It is very doubtful that any sane Buddhist would embark on such a suicidal mission at a time the sovereignty of the state is questioned and with a partner community that has an asymmetrical advantage to grant to the Sinhalese. This creates suspicions about genuineness of the group that attacked the Dambulla Mosque. Whether they are for a parochial gain or are mercenaries working for agents of a foreign master should be probed into.
Failed State Phenomenon
Sri Lanka is turning out to be a lawless country and a failed state phenomenon. The  Dambulla Mosque and similar incidences where mobs led or instigated by Buddhist monks goes unpunished for violating all the legal norms and public decency and the victims are victimised by the state by not providing legitimate protection a state ought to provide its citizens. This is a distinct failure on the part of the state to protect its citizens and their assets from these marauding mobs. If the state continuously fails to provide security to its citizens and their assets, where can the citizens seek protection from?
The Government is caving into extremism; in this case of Dambulla Mosque which is existing since 1964, the GOSL seems weak and has approved the relocation of the mosque to a new site. Is this the right answer, aren’t they setting precedent which would drive score of mosques to seek new sites and create commotion all over the country? Such a move would certainly play into the hands of those who are fomenting trouble in the country using the mobs as their mercenaries to cause division amongst the people and open the country for external interventions.
Would this be a threat to the GOSL?
In the post 9/11 world, the West is in the process of restructuring the architecture of power and global controls. This revivification and realignments are today achieved through some NGOs and Dissenting Groups (DGs) in societies amongst other tools. Therefore the West and regional powers are strengthening DGs & NGOs and surrogating them. At times they provoke the surrogates to foment conflicts within societies and use such artificially generated conflicts as pretexts to intervene in nation states in the guise of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). There are ample evidences in Egypt, Libya and Syria proving the fact of how DGs were used as de-stabilizing forces in countries followed up by Western intervention of some sort. In this scenario, GOSL impotence to uphold law and order and failure to bring quick and effective control of mob pressure and violence at the incipient stage is very dangerous. Such mob pressure if let loose would possibly snowball into a mammoth mob almost threatening the GOSL and swarm and immobilize them as happened in Egypt and other countries.
In light of this, it is recognised how spurious the claim of those who attacked the Dambulla Mosque. Sri Lanka as a historically Buddhist country, any part at any time can become ‘Sacred Land’ and conflict can emerge anytime anywhere. These spurious claims do not help the living to live as peaceful citizens but disturb the stability of the country eternally. This inhibits nation building and peaceful co-existence.
Taking note of these facts, the GOSL should never allow anyone to take law into their hands.  Maintaining law and order and civil administration should be the prime prerogative of the GOSL and the state machinery unless the GOSL wishes to abdicate their authorities to the mobs and stamp Sri Lanka as a failed state.

14.                       Iranian Ambassador concerned

Ceylon Today, 24.04.2012

15.                       Iran expresses confidence

24 April, 2012 - Published 18:08 GMT BBC Sinhala

Iranian government has expressed confidence in the Prime Minister to resolve the controversy on the attempts to remove a mosque from a site in Dambulla. Several International and Muslim organisations had asked the government to take action to resolve the issue.
Iran is a close ally of Sri Lanka
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne, the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo says that he is assured of an amicable solution.
“I have the confidence that your honour in your capacity as the honourable Prime Minister & religious affairs would devote your utmost attention to resolve the issue in an amicable way leading to the further strengthening of the existing communal harmony”. Say the Iranian envoy in Colombo.
Minority Rights
In a statement issued from London, Minority Rights Group (MRG) warned about rising religious intolerance in Sri Lanka.
“Minority Tamils and Muslims are increasingly becoming targets of rising religious intolerance by some Sinhala Buddhist nationalist groups”. Say the MRG.
MRG also asks the government of Sri Lanka to take firm action to protect and promote the rights of all communities, not just that of the majority community.
Muslim politician
Meanwhile the attempts by government politician M. L. A. M. Hizbullah to intervene on the issue was criticised by the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU – Council of the Muslim Theologians) and the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL).
The deputy minister’s claims at the meeting with Rev. Inamaluwa Thero on the 23rd of April, that the Dumbulla Khairiya Jumma Mosque was not damaged by the mob led by some Buddhist monks is totally false and misleading.
Damage on video
 Hizbullah will compel the community to assume that he is working with ulterior motives to undermine the Muslim community

Muslim organisations
“The entire nation witnessed the damaged caused to the mosque through the media. Video and photographic evidence of the damage is also available on youtube and the internet”. The Muslim organisations say in a statement issued on Tuesday.
“Failure to present the true picture by Hon. Hizbullah will compel the community to assume that he is working with ulterior motives to undermine the Muslim community” claims the Muslim organisations.

16.                       Order To Demolish Dambulla Mosque:Why Raise This Explosive Issue Now?

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,Opinion | COLOMBO_TELEGRAPH
By Latheef Farook -
Latheef Farook
Prime Minister D.M. Dayaratne’s order to demolish a 65 year old mosque in Dambulla and instead build a mosque in another place  strikes at the very root of religious freedom .It also shocked and hurt the island’s Muslim community. Responding to the order and expressing the community’s mood Muslim Congress Secretary and parliamentarian Hassen Ali said the “community will not accept a mosque in another place even if it was built of gold”.
Hassen Ali had stated that if the places of religious worship of the minorities are being attacked while the police and army are idly watching, it implies that they are supporting the marauders and providing security to them, instead of the law abiding people.
The claim by the Prime Minister Dayaratne that an order was given to demolish the mosque with the consent of Muslim politicians insults the prime minister’s office. This was described as “blatant manufactured lie” and vehemently rejected by Senior Minister A.H.M.Fawzie, Deputy Minister M.L.A.M Hizbulla, Western Province Governor Alavi Moulana and Parliamentarian Abdul Cader all of whom pointed out that they never attended such a meeting in Gampola.
Refuting the Prime Minister’s charges former deputy mayor of Colombo Azath Salley stated that “it is misleading to say that the mosque was in existence for two years as it has been there for more than 65 years. We have all the documents to prove that it is a legally constructed mosque under Waqf Act. Therefore the statement by the Prime Minister claiming that the unauthorized construction of the mosque has been stopped is totally false. The land on which the mosque was located was bought by a lady in Jaffna from Englishmen. From that time, this mosque has been in existence. Later the adjacent land too had been bought by the mosque authorities in 1995. The mosque has been in existence and there are no construction works underway now. This statement by the Prime Minister is misleading the Buddhists in the country. Prime Minister should not make such irresponsible statements as the Waqf Board comes under the Prime Minister and he is contradicting his own statement. Besides the statement by Ven Inamaluwa Sumangla Thera that he will ensure that Muslims will not have a place to urinate is not only irresponsible but very dangerous too”.
Though the UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe is yet to comment, UNP’s Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa described prime minister’s order as” law of the jungle and nothing to do with the Buddhism”. Sajith asked “  how could we develop the country when the prime minister’s office issues such false statements”?
In any civilized society one would expect unruly elements who vandalize a mosque while worshippers were getting ready for Friday Juma prayer to be arrested and brought before justice. Instead they were rewarded in violation of all canons of human decency.
Muslims in the area suspect that Sinhalese in Dambulla were not involved in the hooliganism .Instead hired people, including monks, were brought from outside to vandalize the mosque What they failed to understand is that we are not living in the medieval era today as the world is watching us especially when the country is accused of war crimes against one minority community.
The irony is that this happened less than a month after most Muslim countries voted against the United States sponsored and Indian supported United Nations Human Rights Commissions resolution against Sri Lanka in Geneva and rescued the island’s dignity.
In fact the day the mosque was vandalized the government started bilateral discussions with Israel, known  international pariah, sworn enemy of Muslims and the architect of the  US sponsored  global campaign against   Muslims under the guise of fighting a war on terror.
Demolition of the mosque means the end of Muslim support to the government. Western Province governor Alavi Moulana has already gone to the extent of hinting that“he would strongly consider vacating his position if the government goes ahead with the plan to demolish the mosque”.
The manner in which   the politicians and so called muftis who started hob knobbing in politics were insulted and intimated at the meeting held in Colombo to discuss the Dambulla Mosque is a clear indication of the mood among the people.
To Muslims all over the world Mosque is Allah’s House. It is everything to them. They turn to mosque for their prayers.  Moreover Muslims posed no problem or threat to anyone in Dambulla or anywhere else. They never interfered with the religious affairs of other communities. Under such circumstance what is the need to raise this issue.   The question is do we need to precipitate such an unwanted crisis now?
As pointed out by former Chief Justice Sarath N .Silva Muslims in the island have been the most peaceful community”.
Muslims never failed to rise up to the occasion to support and protect the country.
For example when two-third majority was needed to obtain independence in 1948 the Muslim community wholeheartedly supported the bill which was detrimental to their own interest. It is time all involved in mosque demolition read late Prime Minister S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike’s passionate and emotional response and assurance to Muslims which were conveniently forgotten later.
Ultra nationalists who claim and behave as if King Vijaya and Kuveni had given them the title deed of sole ownership to the island and now hand in glove with the Israelis have forgotten the historic role played by Muslims in preserving the territorial integrity of the country. For example from the very beginning Muslims opposed tooth and nail the LTTE claim for a separate state. Had they joined hands with the LTTE then the country would have been divided decades ago as the island’s armed forces were not equipped then, as it is today, to meet the challenges posed by the LTTE backed then openly by India.
Muslims paid a heavy price for this. They were slaughtered in village after village and even while praying in mosques. Their paddy lands acquired, businesses closed and their very means of survival deprived. The entire Jaffna Muslims population was kicked out within two hours and their belongings and property were looted.
In return Muslims expected some relief after the military defeat of LTTE. Instead they have been simply dismissed   and sidelined. Though they remain deeply frustrated, yet they only expected some peaceful solutions to their problems .It was in this atmosphere comes the move to destroy Dambulla moque.
The country has ended up in Geneva due to its failure to deal with one community- Tamils. Is this the time to provoke Muslims without any rhyme or reason  especially, when Zionist Jews, Evangelical Christians together  with RSS Hindu extremists have unleashed a global campaign killing Muslims and destroying Muslim countries? Under such circumstance who can predict the consequences of short sighted move to demolish the Dambulla mosque?
In the aftermath of the LTTE defeat all in the country-Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others- looked forward to a period of peace and harmony. However move to demolish Dambulla mosque shows that reconciliation, peace, harmony and progress are nothing but distant dreams.

17.                       Concerned Citizens’ Statement Against Religious Intolerance

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,News,STORIES | COLOMBO_TELEGRAPH
By Colombo Telegraph -
“We appeal to the President, state institutions and officials, and those in the executive to take the utmost heed of this growing trend of intolerance. We strongly believe that the people of this country, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Christian and Burgher wish to live in harmony with each other. We also strongly believe that it is a minority of persons who take to violence in riding rough shod over the rights of others. We strongly urge the state to take measures curb this growing trend and to do its utmost to make minorities feel in every way people of this country. In the post war context this is of the utmost importance for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. We also appeal to religious and community leaders to initiate dialogue at all possible levels so that minority communities feel secure. We pledge our support for a pluralist Sri Lankan society. ” issuing a statement a group of  concerned citizens says.
Below we produce the full statement;
Concerned citizens’ statement against religious intolerance
It is with great concern that we the undersigned protest against increasing religious intolerance in Sri Lanka in regards to minority religions. We specifically condemn the recent violent attack on the Mosque in Dambulla. The Hindu community has also been asked to move their temple. The Dambulla Khairya mosque had been in existence for over 60 years and has legal documents regarding its construction. On Friday the 20th of April 2012 a tense situation arose as regular Friday prayer at the Mosque was prevented by a gang led by Buddhist monks who claimed that it was an illegal construction. The group stated that both the Mosque and Hindu shrine were built on sacred Buddhist ground. It is further regrettable that law enforcement authorities could not take appropriate action to stop the forceful entry and threatening the community and they were seen to be prevented by the unruly gang from performing their duty as public servants.
On the 22nd after a discussion with the Prime Minister, it has been announced that the Mosque and Muslim families living within the area will be relocated. The Muslim Trust is still in negotiations with the government. While we are in support of reaching a solution through negotiations with the Muslim community, we would like to stress that any decision taken on this issue should not be unjust towards the minority communities in the context of post-war Sri Lanka.
The mosque has been in existence for over 60 years and the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim persons in the region had been living together in a spirit of amity for decades, if not centuries. Yet, today we see a growing trend of intolerance to minority religious, which the state has done little to check. The incident in Dambulla is not an isolated one. Last year a Muslim shrine (Dargha) was destroyed in Anuradhapura. In Ashraf Nagar the military has taken over land that belongs to 69 Muslim families, including land that was allotted for a Muslim burial ground. In Illangaithurai Muhathuwaram (now renamed Lanka Patuna) a Shivan shrine was removed and a Buddhist statute was built in its place. A group of Buddhist monks and people attacked the four Square Gospel Church in Kaluthara North last year. The Police have prevented the church from functioning claiming that it would lead to a breach peace. In Ambalangoda the Assembly of God church was attacked in February this year. A pastor in Kalutara was attacked and a house belonging to a Christian was ransacked by Buddhist monks alleging that the church was engaged in conversions. The police failed to frame charges against Buddhist monks. Recently the government has also tried to pass the Town and Country Planning bill which allows for religious land to also been acquired in municipal and urban areas for economic, social, historical, environmental or religious purposes. Even though the bill has been challenged in court and withdrawn there is a plan to bring the bill back as law through other avenues. Such acts increase the sense of insecurity that minorities in general feel in this as regards the practice of worship and co existence.
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious community in which religious acceptance and protection of religious and cultural rights and the freedom to practice their religion anywhere in the country is a basic tenet of the Constitution and a protection assured to all citizens.
We appeal to the President, state institutions and officials, and those in the executive to take the utmost heed of this growing trend of intolerance. We strongly believe that the people of this country, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Christian and Burgher wish to live in harmony with each other. We also strongly believe that it is a minority of persons who take to violence in riding rough shod over the rights of others. We strongly urge the state to take measures curb this growing trend and to do its utmost to make minorities feel in every way people of this country. In the post war context this is of the utmost importance for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. We also appeal to religious and community leaders to initiate dialogue at all possible levels so that minority communities feel secure. We pledge our support for a pluralist Sri Lankan society.

18.                      Dambulla attack videos fake says leading monk

A senior Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka who led the protest in Dambulla against a mosque and a Hindu Kovil charged the video footage reporting the attack was fake.
Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero
Over a thousand people waving Buddhist flags forcibly stopped Friday prayers in the Masjidul Kairiya mosque in Dambulla and destroyed the contents of the mosque.
Peaceful and democratic
The Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero told BBC Sandeshaya that he only led a 'peaceful and democratic protest against illegal constructions'.
He maintained that no violence was used.
Media organisations denied doctoring footage of the attack on the Dambulla mosque last week.
Technically manipulated
The convenor of the Free Media Movement (FMM), Sunil Jayasekera said the claim by Ven. Sumangala is an attempt to cover up the violence unleashed against the minorities in the country.
"Videos that portrayed the protest as violent were technically manipulated," said the Mahanayaka thero who also heads a media outlet.
"We saw the video footage on several television stations and have no reason to believe that the images were doctored." said Jayasekera.
unprecedented behaviour by monks
Ada Derana TV which reported the attack on the mosque denied the allegation that the videos were technically manipulated.
"We have not carried any doctored footage of the Dambulla violence and we stand by the authenticity of the material sent by our local correspondents," a spokesperson for Ada Derana told BBC Sandeshaya.
 BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says that a monk was seen exposing himself against the mosque as an insult

The raw footage had to be edited to maintain the dignity of the people who participated in the protest, added the spokesperson.
Journalists at the scene had reported unprecedented behaviour by demonstrators.
BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says that a monk was seen exposing himself against the mosque as an insult.

19.                       Militant Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalism: Context Of The Religious Freedom

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,Opinion | COLOMBO_TELEGRAPH
By Uvindu Kurukulasuriya -
Uvindu Kurukulasuriya
This article was first published in January 2005 in Sinhala weekly Ravaya. It explains the background of the religious freedom and  the politics of militant Sinhalese nationalism. This translation will help you to understand the context of  ongoing attacks against Mosques and Hindu Temples. The article was published under the title  ”Who Set Fire to Homagama Church?”    
When the Christians all over the world were preparing to celebrate the Good News of Christmas, Sri Lanka has exhibited its disposition to the whole world by sending a piece of despicable news. That is the news of setting fire for the second time, to the Katuwana Roman Catholic Church at Homagama .
The culprits who committed this crime have so far not been apprehended. But it has been clear that there is one particular group behind the attack on this church and some hundred odd other churches throughout the country. The cause for alarm is that these people have been allowed to engage all along in their fanatical activities.
It is the everybody’s responsibility to make Sri Lanka a place suitable for human living, by getting involved in defeating decisively this extremist mania.
“Our church has been set on fire” an elderly Catholic from Homagama addressed me on my mobile phone. My drowsiness left me. ” Who has done that?” I asked. “Who else but the same old group! They are against this church being here. They have forced opened the door of the church at about 1.30 a.m. and had set two gas canisters and some tyres on fire inside the church. This time the damage is more serious than that of the previous ones’. We were deprived of last year’s Christmas and this year’s too,” the man went on saying painfully.
This was the third attack on the Katuwana Roman Catholic church in Homagama. The government has so far not taken any action against this highhanded act committed repeatedly against a minority religious group by the extremist Sinhala nationalist mania, in order to politically mobilize the public.

The First Attack

On 30th November last year, after the usual Sunday mass, the parishioners were engaged in a shramadana (voluntary work) on the church premises. A group of about 50, consisting both the lay and the Buddhist clergy led by Ajith Senanayake, a prominent figure in the area forcibly entered the church premises. One of the them climbed on to the top of the church, pulled down the cross on top and fixed a Buddhist flag there. Some Buddhist monks entered the mission-house, opened the almyrahs and removed some documents. Another group robbed the ladies of their handbags and their cellular phones, national identity cards and credit cards. They planted a Bo sapling on the premises and went away.

Church of Our Mother Most Pure, Mattagoda, Sri Lanka January 27, 2004
Ajith Senanayake, a physician working in Ratnapura, an officer in the Sampth Bank, a well-known bhikku in homagama have been identified as persons who entered the hurch premises. The rest of the crowd was not residents of Homagama but young bhikkus and laymen from outside. The Parish priest lodged a complaint at the local police station. Three times the HQI tried to reconcile the two parties and asked to return the documents and the articles removed from the church, but he was not successful. In the meantime the inquiring police officer was transferred to Mirihana police station merely because he happened to be a Catholic. That day itself the police guard supplied to the church was removed. That night at about 1.30 a.m. an unidentified body of people entered the church and set it on fire. Police investigations were resumed. Trailing the scent of a hockey stick brought by the attackers to the scene, a police dog went to a neighbouring house
. In that house there was a student from a well-known Buddhist Boys’ School in Colombo. But the police said that the dog went there because there was a bitch there! The police did not take into consideration the fact that there was a Buddhist monk from that school in the crowd that attacked the church. Nothing came out of the police investigations.
By then some hundreds churches belonging to various Christian denominations were subject to attack. The secretary to the Internal Affairs Ministry told me that the police suspects this as the work of one single organized group.
An Organized Group

On 8th February 2004, a group carrying hand grenades, swords, kris knives were arrested at Rambewa. They were a group in flight after hurling grenades at the World Vision Centre at Kebilitigollewa. This armed group constituted of 10 people including 3 Buddhist monks. Ajith Senanayake of Homagama was one in that group. The others were Dhanushka Sanjeeva of Heiyanthuduwa, S.A.Don Sarath of Govinna, Wijesinghe of Bulathsinghala, Thusitha Namal, K.D.Gunadasa of Kahawatta and Rukshan Shantha of Kelaniya. Three Bhikkus were also arrested along with the above persons. They are Kirana Mahanama, Katuwana Sangharatana ad Millana Dharmasiri all residing at the Shri
Pannananda Dharmayatana on Station Road, Kelaniya, belonging to Bengamuwe Nalaka Thera. After the arrest of this group I spoke to the former DIG Mr. Kotakadeniya who is a leader of Sinhala/Hela Urumaya. He said that they the arrested persons had no connection with the Hela Urumaya. But Ajith Senanayake of Homagama is identified by the local people as an organizer of Hela Urumaya. What Mr. Kotakadenyia said was that Ajith Senanayake worked independently on his own.

General public is perplexed in identifying persons or tendencies. There is the Hela Urumaya, the Sinala Urumaya and the National Campaign against Terrorism. There is also the Sinhala Veeradidahana, Veediya Bandara Balavegaya and the Theraputtabhaya Brigade as well. There is also the Homagama Organization to Defend Buddhism. There are a good number of organizations formed in the name of religion. When an incident occurs, the Champika-Ratana combine could deny that it is one of their organizations. As there are a number of factions within Hela Urumaya, when a culprit has been apprehended it is easy to palm off the guilt on another organization.
Keep the Dogs tethered

An editorial ‘Keep the dogs tethered’ appeared in the Divayina newspaper after the 3rd attack on the Katuwana Church. Its import was that the people must distinguish between religious fervour and religious fanaticism. It also had urged the local public to assist the police investigations. It was excellent indeed. But it remains that the Divayina also contributed towards the escalation of this religious fanaticism to its present proportions.

On previous occasions when this very process was launched by setting fire the churches, it was the Divayina not only supported it but also justified such actions.
Up to December, Sunday Divayina alone has published 93 main articles relevant to this subject. It was only Rev. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana thera who expressed an opinion against this tendency of inciting religious extremism. The Rev. monk had said that it was easy to incite but difficult to pacify.
After the second attack and setting the Katuwana church on fire, Sunday Divayina journal ‘Irida Handa’ of 11th January 2004 wrote under the caption “in Buddhist areas, Missionary centres are not warranted. Rev. Madowita Pannakitti Thera of Homagama temple along with an editor of the Divayina newspaper had contributed towards that article. It was an article that approved of the attacks indirectly.
Obstacles from the Very Beginning

According to the 2001 census, the population of the Homagama electorate is as follows. Buddhists 189,231, Christians 3712, Islam 1479 and Hindus 962.

The church that came under attack was originally situated in the centre of the town at No. 71. This church served the faithful from Pannipitiya to Kaluaggala in which area there was no other church. It was to this church thee Catholics from Homagama, Pitipana, Athurugiriya, Galawilawatta, the army camp, Dighetekma, Godagama, Meegoda, Padukka, Rukmalgama and Mattegoda came to attend the service.
Wilfred Senanayake, who won the Homagama electorate in the 1970 general election acquired the church building and the premises for the use of the town council, amidst strong protests from the local Catholics. The Catholic Church purchased a block of land in Galwilawatta to put up a church. The town council did not approve the plan for three long years.
In 1976, the plan was approved on the orders of the then Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranayake and the Ministry of Cutural Affairs. When the walls of the building came up to roof level the Town Council again stopped the construction. At present they have put up a water tank in that block of land. The present church site was donated by Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa by cabinet paper when he was the Minister of Planning and Implementation. Plan No. 975 has bee approved as a religious place of worship by license No. 4/1/PB/76/96 of the Pradeshiya Sabha. When things are such, the desecration of this church by extremist forces that come under the guise of Buddhism, is a disgrace to Buddhism.
It is this kind of situation, Rev. Rambukkana Siddhartha ridicules at when he writes:
‘Though incessantly Buddha word is preached,
Though Buddha word is heard incessantly,
As far as the attributes of the Buddha are concerned,
Still we certainly are but jungle dwellers.”

It is the power hungry Sinhala Politicians who through greed want to remain in power at any cost, that discredit the teachings of the Buddha in the eyes of the outside world.
They declare that their ultimate goal is to promote Buddhism. They exclaim that they are motivated by Buddhist philosophy. What is borne out by their behaviour is extreme selfish greed for power and not wisdom and love. Therefore to say that Buddha Dhamma motivates them is a grave insult on the Buddha himself. It is a grave injustice. In imitation of the Divayina editorial, we are also forced to say “Tie up these dogs” We also have to say that the media has a role to play towards that end. Prof. Nalin de Silva who represents the intellectual fundamentalist stream and charges that the Christmas decorations exceed the ratio of the Christian population, often writes that the supremacy in this country is with Judeo-Christian culture. But when these Christian churches were put to the torch and destroyed there were no serious protests staged. At least there was no resistance from quarters identified as the local civil society. When one hundred odd churches were attacked last year, the members of the local civil society conducted a few rounds of discussions. I also participated at these discussions. There a decision was taken to issue a statement condemning the attack on Christian places of worship. Even after 5 or 6 rounds of discussions, this statement was not issued to the media. We have such a vibrant civil society!
On the other hand there had not been any serious protest from the Catholics who are victims of this extremist trend. According to their belief suffering such attacks is a strength for the future. The Christian community has been reduced to a state of defenselessness due to their own beliefs and not being helped by the state or the civil society.
There is every possibility of a few more churches being put to the torch during this Christmas season too. The only course of action left for the Christians is to deploy the faithful to keep round the clock vigil to protect their churches.
A Despicable Act -
Ven. Bellanvila Vimalarathana

Ven. Bellanvila Vimalarathana
‘We as Buddhists must condemn this shameful act of attacking the churches. We could only observe that one particular group engineered all these incidents. This is the result of using religion for political gain. Especially Roman Catholic church in Katuwana, Homagama is a church of the traditional Catholic denomination. It is not at least a place of worship of the Evangelical denominations. By this I do not mean that Evangelical cnetres should be attacked. What we have to admit is that this type of denominations convert poor Buddhists through various strategies like giving them financial support.’
‘In this the chief priests of Christian/Catholic churches have the responsibility to take action against this tendency and foster religious harmony in this country. In the same manner, the government also has an onerous responsibility to take action against these tendencies. Though this government has on many occasions declared that it would create an inter-religious forum and foster cooperation among religions, up to now that advisory body has not been formed. It is in this context that extremist political groups commit such shameful acts in the name of Buddhism.’
‘Our observation reveals that these extremist attacks had been taking place for quite a long period of time and are not the act of the people living in the locality where the churches are situated. It is a group from outside that have done it.’
‘Both the government and the police must take action against it. When such incidents are known in abroad, the image of our nation is tarnished. The idea that Buddhists are a group that commits such base acts will spread throughout the world. On the other hand more and more aid could flow into the coffers of Evangelical denominations. Therefore, these acts committed in the name of religion should be stopped.’
Translated by T.C. Serasinghe

20.                     Is Dambulla, Babri Masjid Redux?

A Buddhist monk flashes a mosque in Dambulla. Screen grab from News 1st TV footage. 
The events in Dambulla over the past week, when Buddhist monks led the storming of a mosque, bear chilling resemblance to events in Ayodhya, India, on and around the 6th December 1992, when mobs lead by Hindu fundamentalist clergy demolished the Babri Masjid. The consequences of the events in the run-up to the demolition and its aftermath are still being felt across India today.
The similarities between Ayodhya 1992 and Dambulla 2012 go well beyond frenzied crowds trying to storm a mosque egged on by saffron clad clergy. The reference to this act as shramadaanya sounds disturbingly akin to kar seva, a euphemism coined by Hindu fundamentalists for an otherwise unholy act. Images of a monk apparently exposing himself to the mosque in a vulgar frenzy underlines the same deeply macho, misogynist militancy that Hindu fundamentalism has embodied in India, paving the way for the brutal sexual violence against hundreds of Muslim women in Gujarat in 2002.
The arguments that the mosque in question was illegal, that it stood on sacred grounds, that it was not new or not used regularly etc., are all well rehearsed and nor will this be the last time they will be heard, with respect to a mosque, a kovil, or a church for that matter, as past and present are rewritten. The call to Sinhala race and blood, the brazen defiance of rule of law and the eventual capitulation of the government also bear ominous similarities.
Needless to say, one can point to many differences between Ayodhya and Dambulla. The former was central to a massive nation-wide mobilisation while the latter was far more localized, though arguably reflective of a larger nation-wide trend. No doubt the Sri Lankan government will claim that the mosque is being ‘relocated’ not ‘demolished’. And there are many others too but all that apart, there is no mistaking the basic message and nor should anyone be under the illusion as to which side the Sri Lankan state stands with. The events in Dambulla, especially the alacrity with which the state consented to a chauvinist clergy, will no doubt further embolden militant Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalists, already well fed by the Rajapakse regime on a heady cultural-nationalist diet.
The rising tide of Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism in a society already brutalised by war and ethnic cleavages, coupled with a resurgent militarisation that is undermining democratic institutions and restricting political freedoms, poses huge challenges to Sri Lanka. In a post-war context, this will leave nascent social movements, progressive political forces and a section of politically engaged NGOs, all already hounded by the state, struggling more than ever to build precariat and proletariat solidarities across ethnic and religious divides.  A fractured Tamil and Muslim political society, long hostage to identity politics from the inside, will possibly dig deeper still and render no favours. Precious little can be expected from the middle and upper classes anyway, already well on their way to being wooed by the cleaner streets and well-trimmed parks of Colombo, all thanks to the military of course, and lop-sided economic development.
If the recent history in India is anything to go by, events in Dambulla are a cause for alarm. Ayodhya 1992 came to pass, despite Indian civil society continuing to harbour hope (alongside deep fears) that the Babri Masjid would survive, that India’s institutions were strong enough to withstand that test. However, civil society could do little of significance to even stop what followed the demolition. Worse, ten years later Gujarat happened. The events in Dambulla may not have cost lives, like the many still unaccounted for tragedies in the final stages of the war. Yet, the consequences of what it portends are likely to be as far-reaching and as damaging to the wider polity and social fabric.

21.                       Fake video and lies: The strange case of Dambulla’s Inamaluwe Sumangala thero

The Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero, one of the key figures in the on-going tensions in Dambulla over the presence of a mosque and kovil near his Temple, perhaps in response to the public outcry against the violence instigated by him, has told the BBC that TV footage that showed monks engaged in violence – including one monk disrobing and exposing himself to the mosque – were fake.
The Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero told BBC Sandeshaya that he only led a ‘peaceful and democratic protest against illegal constructions’.
He maintained that no violence was used.
“Videos that portrayed the protest as violent were technically manipulated,” said the Mahanayaka thero who also heads a media outlet.
Let us for the sake of argument not disbelieve or dismiss what Inamaluwe Sumangala thero says. Musāvāda veramaī sikkhāpada samādiyāmi, or refraining from incorrect or false speech, is after all one of the five Noble Precepts. Let us believe that TV broadcasts of the violent mob were doctored.
There is however, a slight problem. Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero is the Director General of the private radio station Rangiri Radio.

Rangiri Radio also has a Facebook fan page. As it notes, “Rangiri Sri Lanka is a radio channel that has been inaugurated with the intention of promoting the Buddhist cultural values and development of personality including aeasthetics values.”

On both the homepage of the Rangiri Radio website, and prominently, at the time of writing, on the Facebook page of Rangiri Radio, the following video appears. The well crafted introduction and end credits suggest that this is a professional production, featured on Rangiri Radio with the awareness if not also the blessings of Inamaluwe Sumangala thero, who also appears in it.
If one glosses over the racist chants, the video footage fully supports Inamaluwe Sumangala thero’s submissions that he only led a peaceful and democratic protest. Up until, that is, around a minute and twenty seconds into the video. 1.27 to around 2.20 showcase the most violent moments of the mob, where you don’t need to understand the derogatory, racist expressions in Sinhala to observe just how far the monks and the mob are from being peaceful, democratic or indeed, Buddhist in expression and behaviour.
In light of the divide between Inamaluwe Sumangala thero’s submission to the BBC and what really was said and done, we wonder if there is a more righteous sangha in Sri Lanka or abroad who can urgently remind the monks in Dambulla about the first and fourth Noble Precepts in particular?

22.                     Deeds of mosque in Dambulla and photos of damage: How is this structure illegal? (UPDATED)

Groundviews was sent a copy of what we were told was the deed of the mosque at the centre of an on-going controversy in Dambulla, Sri Lanka. We were also sent photos of the damage and vandalism wrought by the mob violence a few days ago.
We’ve uploaded the document to Scribd as a PDF, and the high resolution, original scanned images of the deed to Flickr. Both are embedded below, along with four photos of vandalism to copies of the Quran and the cupboards in which they were stored.
Groundviews has already flagged that the basis upon which the PM, in a televised submission, said that the mosque was an illegal construction is hugely suspect.
In a video of a community meeting uploaded to YouTube two days ago, in the presence of Senior Minister for Urban Affairs A H M Fowzie and the Assistant Government Agent, there is a discussion in Sinhala about, inter alia, the legality of the mosque. The discussion on the mosque’s location and legality starts around 6.20 into the video. at around 7.50, the AGA is directly asked whether she thinks the mosque is an unauthorised structure. Seconds before, the discussion was about the fact the mosque had been there for decades. The AGA unequivocally notes that the structure is unauthorised. When asked why she thinks so, she says nowhere in the AGA’s office is the structure recorded as a mosque. When the crowd informs her that this is not necessary given the law in Sri Lanka, she responds that she doesn’t even have a copy of the records that some in the crowd say have been for years with the central government.
From around 8.40 to around 9.30, a lawyer present at the meeting politely and patiently runs through the relevant laws around registering a mosque, reiterating that the AGA’s office is not the location, under the law, that it should be registered with. The AGA persist and says that her office has no record of a mosque or kovil in the area. A person from the crowd retorts that while this may be the case, it is irrelevant under the applicable laws. In response however, the AGA simply notes that there is no record of a mosque or kovil in her records.
Given the exchange above, we publish the deeds for wider public scrutiny in the hope that informed persons, including lawyers more familiar with the registration of places of worship, and in particular, mosques, are able to shed light on why a structure that has, by multiple accounts of residents in the area, been present and used for decades, and ostensibly for which the deeds are also available, is now considered illegal and unauthorised.
5:53pm: Pursuant to the vibrant debate on Twitter (follow on @groundviews) over the original post, Groundviews has just been forwarded copies of what we are told is the original deed, and other relevant documentation over the land for the extension of the mosque. This documentation was kindly sent to us from the office of Reyyaz Salley.

23.                     Special report to submit towards UNHRC on Dambulla mosque attack -International Youth Parliamentarian group , Lanka Sri News

[ Wednesday, 25 April 2012, 03:54.30 AM GMT +05:30 ]

  International Youth Parliamentarian group warned if the Lankan government fail to take legal action on case of Dambulla muslim mosque attack they would submit another resolution against SriLanka at the UN Human Rights Council. Due to this it’s the responsibility of the government to make clear announcement this regard.
Deputy leader of the International Youth Parliamentarian group Muyis Wahapthin stated that they will submit special report on Dambulla Mosque attack toward Geneva UNHRC council schedule to held on month of November.
Speaking this regard went on to say,
International Youth Parliamnetray group thoroughly condemns the attck carried out against the Dambulla Mosque in SriLanka. Its unable to accept basic religious rights violations in the country.
We all were concern when Lankan government fail to take legal steps this regard.
We would like to stress that the government of the country need to protect human and religious rights of minority community people residing in the country. once they fail to do so this lead for tense situation in the country.
We were suspicious over law and order of SriLanka when government fails to arrested suspects carried out attack against mosque in Dambulla.
Statement of Lankan Prime Minister clearly proves that religious rights of minority community people would be destroy according to the wishes of racist community Buddhist leaders. This clearly proves the risky life of minority community people residing in SriLanka.
Geneva resolution passed against SriLanka urge government to stop violations against minority community people but some week’s later of the resolution attack carried out against historic religious center of Muslim people.
Statement made by the Lankan prime minister of Dambulla mosque attack would create international pressure against the country. Muslim nations which supported SriLanka at the UNHRC would not support SriLanka in future.
It’s the responsibility of Lankan government to take clear decision on Dambulla mosque and also they need to prove the security of the mosque.

24.                     Dambulla is neither another Mecca nor the structure in dispute is another Kabba.

Posted on April 24th, 2012 , Lanka News Web

Herold Leelawardena

Dambulla is neither another Mecca nor the structure in dispute is another Kabba. Unless for some religious compulsion directed by Allah as read by Gabriel through Muhammad as written in the Koran or interpreted by Muslim scholars in Hadith as statements or actions of Muhammad, I see no crucial reason why Muslims cannot relocate this structure to a new suitable location; meaning somewhere away from the middle of the aged old Buddhist sacred area that is to be developed to former glory.
So, a point about the place of Buddhism in Sri Lanka must be stressed before talking about such episodes and this incident in particular. After revolting against their king Shri Wickrama Rajasinghe and handed over entire country to the British and then accepted the English King as their new sovereign in 1815, there prepared a mutual agreement of handing-over of the sovereignty of Lanka to the British by the Sinhala Kandyan chiefs in writing. Whether the British adhered to its terms and conditions afterward or not, said agreement included several clauses that articulate; ‘how the new rulers must support and foster Buddhism’. Needless to say this is enshrined in the present constitution as well.
And those clauses had been the basis of unwritten constitution of all Sri Lanka sovereigns since Devanam Piya Tissa of Lanka, contemporary of Emperor Asoka of India to the present day but throughout our 2500 year history. Proof for historical fostering of Buddhism by Sri Lanka Kings is amply evident from artefacts and monuments in neighbouring areas to this now troubled site.
During the British rule however, the British and promoted rights of the minority as a wily tactic to hold down the majority and demoted rights of Buddhists to control rebellion to colonial rule. Eminent professor and historian Tennakoon Wimalananda points out clearly how the British had undermined majority Sinhala Buddhists and promoted minorities to responsible positions in his book, ‘Buddhism in Ceylon under the Christian powers’. After independence however, as elsewhere in the world, Sinhala Buddhists look forward for the revival of their lost place. And development of sacred Buddhist sites is just one of it. It is apparent this particular site falls within the ambit of that endeavour.
Having said that, I must also emphasize that unlike Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Buddhism has no precedent whatsoever of violence in disseminating its Dhamma, knowledge and philosophy of Buddhism. Indeed, when Muslims were expelled from the west cost of Lanka by Portuguese in 1626, it was the then Sinhala King Senerath who settled 4000 of them in the East. The fact that there is a Mosque and a Hindu temple next to Dalada Maligawa, the most sacred place for Buddhists in Sri Lanka for the last one hundred years is yet another proof of Sinhalese toleration of other religions.
Knowing the fact that Muslims do not allow other religious followers near Mecca in Saudi I cannot understand, of all the available places in Kandy why Muslims wanted locate their mosque right next to the Temple of tooth where all those drums beat day and night? Is it the manipulation by the wily British or is it a means confront Sinhalese they must tell elaborate. But I can understand a Kovil being there for separate Hindu shrine room with their deities are there in most Buddhist Temple premises in the country.
Referring to the structure in the subject now, according to a press communiqué by Sri Lanka Prime Minister, the structure in the subject has neither the legal approval nor it has been there for 60 years as a mosque as some Muslims disseminate through internet and other media, but had been in existence for less than ten years as a gathering place for Muslims first which had gradually transformed to be a mosque.
So, it is essential to note here that Hindus of India had razed Babari mosque of Ajodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India to ground in 1992. Why? History scholars say that Mughal invader Babur came down from Kabul in 1525 and defeated Ibrahim Lodi, the Rajput King of Chittorgarh, Rana Sangram Singh at Khanwa and subdued a substantial part of northern India. Thereafter his general Mir Baki Khan reportedly built a mosque in the Rama temple site and named it Babri Masjid. Hindus worship Lord Rama as an Avatar of Vishnu and Ayodhya is one of seven most holy places. Perhaps for that reason Indian government had implicitly allowed Hindus to demolish Babri Masjid despite its commitment to the Indian Supreme Court that the mosque would not be harmed.
We all know that Muslim Taliban dynamited and demolished 6th century statues that UNESCO listed as world heritage known as Bamiyan Buddhas of Ghandara civilisation in now Afghanistan saying existence of statues are an impediment to Islam and against Koran verses meaning Allah’s word. Talibans further declared they are following Muhammad’s idol demolition as he did in his first fight at Badar in 624 AD. Indeed Taliban’s Muslim ancestors, the Moguls of India did not stop at demolishing idols but destroyed all scriptures and smashed and burned all cultural and learning centres like Nalanda where thousnds of monks perished. Needless to say that and many such events drove Buddhism that endured for one thousand five hundred years since 550 BC from its birth place India.
I thought of pointing out a few religious violence because Muslims that criticize monks’ protest shouldn’t be hazy about what their ancestors doing to other religions wherever they forced themselves to be the majority with a sword. Indeed, I am relieved that no Buddhist Monk lead protestors demolished any mosque to date. I do not suggest for moment that Buddhists should act like afore said Hindus or Muslims.
If only everyone would calm down and ponder what I have mentioned above with a balance mind, I am sure all could reach a solution while understanding others’ need.

25.                      Muslims To Declare An “All Island Black Friday” With A Full Day “Hartal”

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,News,STORIES | COLOMBO_TELEGRAPH
By Colombo Telegraph-
At a meeting organised by Muslim Rights Organization in Colombo on April 23 participated by All Ceylon jam Iyyahthul Ulama ( Council of Theologians) (ACJU) President, Ulamas & Muslim politicians of UPFA, UNP and SLMC on the issue of Dambulla Mosque attack,  has been agreed that this Friday the 27th  to be declared as an “All Island Black Friday” with full day Hartal and protest to be carried out from Dewatagaha Jummah Masjid soon after Jummah Prayers.
Muslim activists, religious and political leaders to meet today (28th) at Hotel Nipon to take the final decision against religious harassments in Sri Lanka organise under new banner. Meanwhile Colombo Telegraph learnt that the government is doing everything to stop the Island wide Hartal.

26.                     Resolving Dambulla dispute awaits President’s return

April 25, 2012, 9:59 pm ,The Island
BY Harischandra Gunaratna
Lands and Land Development Minister Janaka Bandara Tennekoon said yesterday that the allegations made against him by the Chief Incumbent of the Dambulla Raja Maha Viharaya, Ven Inamaluwe Sri Sumangala Thera that he had sold land belonging to the Pooja Bhoomi (sacred area) of the viharaya were baseless and he was contemplating legal action against the Thera.
He said that the Thera had publicly accused him of having a hand in giving out a land belonging to the Raja Maha Viharaya to outsiders where a mosque had been built fuelling a controversy.
The Minister told a news conference that that there were some Muslim families who were occupying the temple land for many decades and they had deeds for those lands.
"Even as a small boy I could remember these families occupying blocks of the said land though it belonged to the state," he said.
This was an issue which could have been nipped in the bud and now it had gone too far and the international community was pressuring the government, Tennekoon said.
"I don’t want to get involved in this imbroglio", he said adding that he had already instructed the relevant authorities to act according to the plan of the "Pooja Bhoomi" which had been amended twice, first during the time the late President Premadasa over saw the Urban Development Authority and subsequently when UDA was under Minister Dinesh Gunawardena," he said.
Tennekoon said a meeting was planned to be held on April 23 in Dambulla where the Maha Nayaka of Asgiriya, Secretary Buddha Sasana Ministry, the District Secretary Dambulla, Mayor of Dambulla, Trustees of the mosque and other officials were to participate and due to the unrest in Dambulla over the mosque issue it was not held.
He said once the President returns from his official visit to Korea, guidance would be sought from him on the issue.

27.                      Muslims call prayer meeting on Dambulla

 Last updated: 25 April, 2012 - Published 14:51 GMT, BBC Sinhala
Demonstration at Dambulla
Muslims in Sri Lanka have said that the storming of the Jumma Mosque of Dambulla by a gang may negatively impact the reconciliation process among communities.
The All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama (ACJU) , an umbrella organization of Muslims in Sri Lanka said on Wednesday that while justice should be sought by legal means, Muslims should refrain from disrupting law and order by holding improper demonstrations causing inconvenience to the public and damaging public property.
The Jamiyathul Ulama has called upon Muslims to collectively hold a fast on Thursday and on Friday against the incident.
It has appealed to males to gather outside the mosques in their respective areas following Friday prayers and continue with prayers requesting “Allah to show the straight path to those responsible for the wrongdoings and also protect those who are in just and upright.”
ACJU has said that it does not organize public protests or Harthals as a principle.
Meanwhile the Government Department of Information in a press communiqué said that the president, prime minister and the cabinet of ministers are concerned of the sensitivities of all communities and it has been decided to complete the Dambulla sacred city development plan without further delay.
The communiqué further mentioned that a wide section of religious leaders, political leaders and security personal have been consulted on the matter and action will be taken without discrimination towards any of the parties involved.
Religious Intolerance
Meanwhile a number of civil society activists and intellectuals have condemned the “violent attack on the mosque in Dambulla'.
The signatories maintain that the mosque has been in existence for over 60 years and appeals to the President, state institutions and officials, and those in the executive to take appropriate action on the incident in Dambulla.
Anti-war campaigner Vishaka Dharmadasa who was among the signatories said: “we have just come out of a long drawn war and as Buddhist we need to tolerate all religions.”

29.                     ‘Mosque in Dambulla sacred area cannot be removed’

News | April 25, 2012 6:41 pm

(Srilankamirror) – The situation is such that the mosque located within the Dambulla Buddhist sacred area cannot be removed, said lands minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon.
Speaking to the media today (Apr. 25), the minister said the issue, which could have been resolved through dialogue, has now gone too far now.
Mr. Tennakoon said that the police should easily have controlled the chaotic situation that had arisen at the mosque five days ago.
He went onto say that the land in which the Dambulla Rajamaha Vihara is located is legally owned by Ven. Inamaluwe Sumangala Thera and several Muslims.
The minister added that the Buddhist monk was having political rivalry with him.
Mr. Tennakoon added that his candidate at the last local government polls had emerged victories, while the one fielded by the Buddhist monk had lost, which was the beginning of their enmity.

30.                     SLMC to decide whether to continue cooperation with govt.

April 25, 2012  01:38 pm, Adaderana
The political committee of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) will meet on Saturday (April 28) to take a decision whether or not it should continue to work alongside the government following the controversy of the mosque in Dambulla, SLMC General Secretary Nizam Kariapper told foreign media.
 The incident in Dambulla where a group led by Buddhist monks had demanded the removal of a mosque that was claimed to have been built within the Dambulla Sacred Zone will be discussed further at this meeting which will be held in Colombo.
 Kariapper pointed out that when the international community was pointing fingers at Sri Lanka during the UNHRC sessions, the Islamic nations and groups had stood by the government but the government’s handling of the situation in Dambulla was not at all satisfactory.
 He said that the government could have easily defuse the situation but chose not to pay the necessary attention to the issue.
Speaking to the BBC, Kariapper stated that 30 Muslim politicians currently represent parliament but some of them had not intervened in this situation while some others had tried to gain political mileage through the incident.
The incident occurred last friday (April 20) when a group of monks and lay supporters had stormed the mosque and demanded that it be shut down while protesting the fact that the government had not implemented its development plan for the area throughout the course of 30 years.
The Prime Minister, D.M. Jayaratne stated soon after the incident that the mosque would be relocated outside the sacred zone while adding that no permission had been given to anyone to build illegally within that area.
The incident has also caused widespread debate between members of the two religions.
Leader of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thero stated that this was a clear sign of a Muslim invasion which has been endorsed by certain people in the government whom he claimed should be punished severely.
 He claimed that this situation was fuelled by conspiracies against the government within the government itself.
The SLMC will now decide whether it is to carry on working with the government or to detach itself from a government that they claim has failed to deal with this sensitive issue.

31.                       Muslim mosque at Dambulla cannot be shifted from there now -Lands Minister Janaka Tennekoon Those who damaged the mosque still scot free – Mujibur Rahman

(Lanka-e-News-25.April.2012, 11.45PM)

Minister for land and land development Janaka Bandara Tennekoon said today , that a situation has arisen now where the Muslim mosque situated in the Dambulla ‘sacred area’ cannot be shifted from there. Addressing a special media briefing convened today, the Minister made this revelation .

If peaceful discussions had been held preliminarily , this religious place of worship could have been moved out from there , but this issue has been muddled and mucked up now by rabble rousers by their unwarranted misconduct , the Minister stated.

The Minister said, he was not associated with the construction or anything else of the mosque , and it was made known by the gazette notification. While a meeting was to be held between the Govt. officials and the other party on this subject on the 23rd , Inamaluwe Thero leading a violent gang attacked the mosque on the 20th , and deprived the chances of resolving this issue amicably , the Minister regretted.

The Minister also charged that the police could have easily controlled the ugly and violent situation triggered by these marauders , but the police dismally failed in its duty.
Meanwhile , UNP provincial Council member Mujibur Rahman addressing the media at Dambulla said, those who damaged the mosque are still scot free. While no legal action is being taken against the wrongdoers which is primary and paramount , just holding discussions on moving the mosque here and there is meaningless, he pointed out. ‘It is a big question mark as to which garbage bin the rule of law has been thrown into by the rulers if those who even destroy places of religious worship wantonly can live freely without being apprehended and punished.

This Govt. is setting an extremely bad example to society’, he noted .

The Muslim Congress political Council is to take a decision on this issue after its meeting scheduled for this Saturday , party sources say.

32.                     Implications and Ramifications of the Attack on the Dambulla Masjidul Khaira Mosque

, Transcurrent
By Surendra Ajit Rupasinghe
On 20th April 2012- Friday, a mob of some 2,000 led by Buddhist priests occupied and ransacked the Masjidul Khaira Mosque, obstructing those engaged in prayer.
Even the police and the Special Task Force could not prevent the mayhem. The attack was carried out on the grounds that the mosque had been constructed on a site designated as a sacred Buddhist area.

A firebomb had been blasted the day before, without, however, causing any casualties. This attack follows another attack against a Moslem mosque in Anuradhapura, last September, by a mob led by Buddhist priests, and by the series of attacks against Christian, Hindu and Islamic religious institutions elsewhere in the country- all with impunity.

By Monday, the Minister for Religious Affairs had given the order for the Mosque and a Hindu Kovil in the vicinity to be demolished and asked that they be relocated elsewhere. As of now, the President has not stated anything in this regard, attesting to his complicity in this decision. This has been decided in spite of the fact that the Mosque had been in existence since 1964,where Islamic devotees had regularly practiced their religion.
Let us all hope that this attack shall not lead to the monstrous developments as in India when the historic Babri Masjid mosque at Ayodya was razed to the ground by Hindu fanatics in 1992, and which led to state-sponsored genocidal attacks, replete with mass massacres and gang rapes on Moslems in Goa a decade later. The recent attack in Dambulla portends of such possible monstrosities in the future.
The Chief Incumbent of the Dambulla Raja Maha Viharaya who led the attack threatened a pleading Tamil resident woman of the area that unless the Hindu kovil is demolished, all Tamil residents of the area would be evicted. Far more menacingly, another leading monk standing with the Chief Incumbent read out that hereafter *no Moslem would even be allowed to urinate in this area! *( Much to the hilarious delight of their devotees chanting Sadu!).*
That no other religious places of worship would be allowed in any area declared to be Buddhist sacred areas, and that this writ is hereby declared without consent or presence of either the Judiciary or the President , and shall be executed throughout the island. *The sheer primitiveness and depth of vulgarity, and the boldness and audacity expressed by the monks, including baring genitals in the face of the mosque, attests to a simmering volcano of religious fanaticism, bigotry and hatred against all others, that had been nurtured by the politics of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism and supremacy foisted by the Rajapakse Regime.
I am not here concerned with the compounded violation of the doctrinal precepts and ethics of Buddhism as practiced by the institutional order of the priesthood, or by these bigoted religious fanatics, since I do not believe that Buddhism in its pure doctrinal essence exists in Sri Lanka.
What exists as Buddhism is a Sinhala (Aryan) supremacist political ideology that had been nurtured by the British colonialists, and which serve the class interests of the dominant status quo and the politics of the Comprador Capitalist ruling classes. The Buddhist priesthood today, in general, represents nothing of the quintessential institutional and personal sense of piety, renunciation and search for enlightenment specified and exemplified by the Lord Buddha.
For the most part, it exists as a corrupt, hierarchic, caste-ridden, privileged enclave of rich and powerful feudal lords in saffron robes- as much the same with other religious institutions.
If Buddhism does exist in its doctrinal essence, it lies in the devotion and practice of the majority of lay Buddhists, who have no vested political or economic interest. I state this fact openly, since I consider the Lord Buddha to be one of the greatest philosophers and have profound respect and critical appreciation for the rational-ethical universality, the rigor of scientific investigation and the dialectical method incorporated in the Dharma, even though I am a convinced Marxist, and equally revile all those who would exploit and auction it for political power, personal gain and commercial profit.
I venture into this article since I feel that it is important to analyze the underlying political implications and ramifications of this attack. The attack achieves special significance given that, following the adoption of the US sponsored Geneva-UNHRC resolution, it would seem that the international spotlight would be on the Mahinda Rajapakse Regime for its performance on human and democratic rights.
How, then, could such a brazen violation of fundamental, constitutionally enshrined rights occur in broad daylight, in the presence of the Police and the Special Task Force, and for the government to have taken this hasty and arbitrary decision? In this backdrop, we have to assume three possibilities.
1. Either the Regime itself engineered the attack, or is complicit,
2. Forces opposed to the Regime engineered it in order to discredit the Regime, Or, fundamentalist forces exercised initiative on their own.
It is quite possible that powerful vested interests within the Regime itself engineered the attack, or is complicit. It is quite clear that the Regime itself, and the ruling dynastic triumvirate places its political survival over and above all other considerations.
This is due to the lust for power and glory, as much as it is driven by the fact that the Regime and the Triumvirate cannot afford to lose its hegemonic grip on state power since it will surely be dragged into the Tribunal of the People- and perhaps some international tribunal as well,- to face Justice.
The governing ideology and political agenda of the Regime and of the ruling dynasty is to exercise undisputed, hegemonic rule over a Sinhala Buddhist unitary State reigning over the entirety of an undivided, sovereign territory of Lanka-in perpetuity. This is the stuff of a terminal

There is reigning consensus among the triumvirate that some form of quasi-military rule and subordination over the entire people and country, spiced with doses of white terror and generalized repression, with the direct political subjugation and military subordination of the Tamil nation at its core, are the necessary ingredients to pull off this militarist-chauvinist, dynastic-hegemonic agenda.
The bogey of a revived LTTE in league with Southern Sinhala rebels, funded by the Tamil Diaspora, conjoined with a Western Conspiracy -adding up to a traitorous plot against the Regime-equated with the ‘Motherland’, adds gist to this agenda.
This is the current meaning of ‘national sovereignty’ that certain sycophantic ambassadorial pundits and all stripes of Neanderthal patriots would have us defend and serve as our highest collective duty.
Well, to sustain this agenda, the Regime would need and would feed off a situation of semi-anarchy, terror and violent conflict, including crisscrossing class, national, ethnic and religious conflict. The power of the tyrant is best exercised over a terrorized population ridden with fear and uncertainty, wherein all hope of survival is vested in the one, omnipotent ruler.
This would be a way for the Regime to turn the growing anger and frustration of the masses into cannon-fodder for exercising its naked terrorist dictatorship, in the guise of a ‘five-star’ parliamentary democracy.
To be sure, the imperialist and regional hegemonic powers would dance and dine, cajole and compromise with such a dictatorship by whomever, so long as it does its duty by falling in line, crushing the resistance of the masses and open the floodgates to Capitalist pillage and plunder.
The Second possibility that the attack could be engineered by forces opposed to the Regime to discredit it, is simply absurd. I have mentioned it only because this line may be bandied about by the Regime itself, and by its apologists and media lackeys. For one thing, the attack was instigated and led by the Chief Incumbent of the Dambulla Raja Maha Viharaya, a powerful feudal-clerical Lord of the Buddhist priesthood, who has his own ambitions of power and glory within a unitary Sinhala-Buddhist theocratic Capitalist State. His class interests lie squarely with that of the Regime.
The Third possibility that the attack could have been instigated by the fundamentalist forces independently, on their own initiative is not to be discounted. The recognition of the US-led resolution and its implementation ( implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the LLRC and other obligations related to international humanitarian and human rights Law) *would sound the death-knell of the fundamentalist project.*These recommendations call for a political solution based on effective constitutional devolution of power to the Tamil people.
It would mean a de-facto and even a de-jure recognition of the political status of the Tamil people as a nation- or would lay the basis for such an articulation. The idea that there could be any other nation or nationality other than the supreme Sinhala-Buddhist nation on this blessed island is a virulent anathema to these fundamentalists. At best, there could be ‘minorities’ who are tolerated by the grace of the Sinhalayas.
At the same time, India is being compelled for its own internal and expansionist reasons to pressure the Regime towards such a solution ( 13 +). Under the mounting pressure, Mahinda Rajapakse maybe seen to be prevaricating and sliding on the issue. I mean, sending off Minister of External Affairs to the US to meet with the Secretary of State carrying a *secret Action Plan on Human Rights *would send shivers down the spine of the tribal-fundamentalist camp.
They may feel that they may be losing their grip on the President and the Regime in all these machinations, and may opt for a drastic and dramatic initiative such as the attack on the Mosque to reassert their domain. They would be emboldened by the fact that the President and the Regime would dare not oppose this calculated move on the chess board, lest all ideological legitimacy and political authority gained by the mantle of Sinhala supremacy and ‘Savior of the Motherland’ would be challenged and fatally threatened, if there is to be open confrontation with this camp of die-hard fanatic fundamentalists.
I have elsewhere in a previous article warned of the danger of underestimating the political-ideological hold, organizational capacity, and the social base of this wolverine camp of fanatical fascists.
They hold powerful ministerial positions and have infiltrated the armed forces and the bureaucracy and sounded the red alert for the possibility of a wholesale ‘betrayal’ by the powers that be, and would mount any campaign, conspiracy and initiative to advance their agenda for total domination.
Perhaps this is why the Minister for Religious Affairs hastened with absolutely no respect for democratic, constitutional and consensual procedure to order that the Mosque and the Kovil be demolished post haste, and why the Chief Executive has so far remained silent on the issue.
Once before, the attack at Bidunuwewa where some 26 Tamil detainees were slaughtered in open daylight in the presence of the armed forces by Sinhala mobs was designed to warn the then President Chandrika as to the fatal dangers inherent in any effort to concede to Tamil demands by dismantling the unitary, hegemonic status of the Sinhala-Buddhist State.
The real perpetrators of this massacre are still on the loose and working overtime, with renewed strength and under far more favorable conditions. The implications and ramifications of the attack on the Masjidul Khaira Mosque run deep underground to give alarm to a logic of escalating division, anarchy and violence as both foreign and internal predators sink their fangs into the vital arteries of the country and the people. So much for the promise of Peace, Paradise and the Miracle of Asia!
This then, is the legacy of the Mahinda Rajapakse Regime, which is equated with patriotism and the ‘motherland’ and which is to be defended and perpetuated at all costs. Under this ignominious and bloody legacy, the country is under the grip of domination by imperialist and regional predator powers as never before.
The Land of Lanka, the supposed repository of the pure Theravada Buddhist tradition, has been mortgaged in perpetuity to foreign powers, where robber barons, drug lords, murderers, torturers, pimps and high class prostitutes ride high and roam free;
where high-rise luxury apartments, seven-star hotels and hospitals, glittering casinos, spars, brothels and bars, and super-highways dot the landscape, while the masses of people rot in bottomless poverty, indebtedness, insecurity and degradation, with no hope for the future; where essential social infrastructure such as public education and health is left to perish; where the Tamil people are subjected to direct military occupation and political subjugation in their homelands; a divided, bankrupt and beggar State where the entire Land and People have been subjected to an intensifying process of militarization and politicization; where political abductions, disappearances, assassinations and torture reign and democratic governance and the rule of Law have long since been buried by a pitiless, corrupt, terrorist Capitalist Dictatorship; where our dignity and reputation as an ancient civilized people have been defiled and violated, and we are looked upon as a nation of barbarians.
In this fateful hour, we are called upon by generations born and unborn, to see beyond the limits and terms set by the System and the Regime.
We are called upon to raise our vision to experience the dawning of a bright new world rising on the horizon, upon the ashes and ruins of imperialism and neo-colonial bondage. We must strive to rise together as the indivisible and invincible People of Lanka to claim our future and decide our destiny
The writer is Secretary: Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)

33.                     'Respected and hounarable monk' say witnesses

Last updated: 26 April, 2012 - Published 22:28 GMT , BBC Sinhala
Character witnesses supporting the defence were called in to give testimonials for the second day in the rape and child sex abuse case against Ven. Pahalagama Somaratana at Iselworth Crown court in West London.
Ven. Pahalagama Somaratana, chief monk of Thames Buddhist Vihara
Twelve character witnesses initially appeared at court to give evidence on behalf of the defence.
First witness said that she knew the accused Ven. Pahalagama Somaratana for over thirty five years. She had known the accused since she was ten, and he had “always been a professional”.
“He’s a priest and as far as I’m concerned he’s never stepped out of that role” She said.
Known for thirty years
Another Medical practitioner said that she had known the accused for over thirty years and never had any complaints from her children about the chief monk.
Giving evidence to support the chief monk's defence, another medical doctor said that the accused had treated her appropriately. She also said that she had never been alone with the monk.
Another doctor who gave evidence on Wednesday said that the accused had always been there to support her family.
Most respected
“Very respectful, I have never been fearful of him in any way” said the witness.
Another General Practitioner who took the witness stand to reassure the courts on Wednesday said the chief monk is one of the most respected monks he had seen in his life.
Cross examining a witness, prosecuting lawyer asked, if it was possible to know what went on in the temple in a busy weekend.
Always saw things
"You couldn’t have seen everything that was going on?" asked the prosecution.
"No I couldn’t, but everyone is around someone will always see something".
The witness who is also a Sunday school teacher told the court that she had never seen the interior of the monk’s bedroom.
Sri Lanka High Commission
A statement from Sri Lankan high commission in London was also read in court by the defence.
The case continues and the court may reach a verdict in the coming week according to a spokesman of Isleworth Crown Court.
Nayaka Thero is accused of one count of rape and several sexual abuses of under aged girls in nineteen seventies and eighties.
65-year-old Ven. Pahalagama Somaratana, chief monk of Thames Buddhist Vihara at Dulverton Rd, Croydon, has pleaded not guilty of all charges.

34.                     Mosque relocation not an option

  Date:2012-04-27 01:04:00, Ceylon Today
By Dinidu de Alwis

All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama Chairman Mufthi Rizwe yesterday said relocation of the controversial mosque in Dambulla is not the acceptable solution for the Muslim community.
 “Relocating the mosque on an issue like this is not an option,” ACJU Chairman told Ceylon Today. ACJU is Sri Lanka’s highest Muslim Body.
 He added the religion permits removal or relocation for specific purposes, where the removal or relocation is in the best interest of the people.
 “In Colombo and Kandy, there are instances where Mosque land was given for development of roads and car parks because it would serve the development of the areas and thereby help people,” he said.
Protestors backed by fundamentalist Buddhist monks have called for the removal of a mosque in the Dambulla area, which they say is encroaching into sacred land.
The Prime Minister initially ordered the mosque to be demolished, but following massive pressure by various religious groups backtracked the order, calling for the structure to be ‘relocated’ over the next six months.
The trustees of the mosque, and those in the area, say that the mosque has been on the land for over six decades, and has been a historic structure.

35.                      Is Dambulla, Babri Masjid Redux?

25 Apr, 2012 , Groundviews

A Buddhist monk flashes a mosque in Dambulla. Screen grab from News 1st TV footage. 
The events in Dambulla over the past week, when Buddhist monks led the storming of a mosque, bear chilling resemblance to events in Ayodhya, India, on and around the 6th December 1992, when mobs lead by Hindu fundamentalist clergy demolished the Babri Masjid. The consequences of the events in the run-up to the demolition and its aftermath are still being felt across India today.
The similarities between Ayodhya 1992 and Dambulla 2012 go well beyond frenzied crowds trying to storm a mosque egged on by saffron clad clergy. The reference to this act as shramadaanya sounds disturbingly akin to kar seva, a euphemism coined by Hindu fundamentalists for an otherwise unholy act. Images of a monk apparently exposing himself to the mosque in a vulgar frenzy underlines the same deeply macho, misogynist militancy that Hindu fundamentalism has embodied in India, paving the way for the brutal sexual violence against hundreds of Muslim women in Gujarat in 2002.
The arguments that the mosque in question was illegal, that it stood on sacred grounds, that it was not new or not used regularly etc., are all well rehearsed and nor will this be the last time they will be heard, with respect to a mosque, a kovil, or a church for that matter, as past and present are rewritten. The call to Sinhala race and blood, the brazen defiance of rule of law and the eventual capitulation of the government also bear ominous similarities.
Needless to say, one can point to many differences between Ayodhya and Dambulla. The former was central to a massive nation-wide mobilisation while the latter was far more localized, though arguably reflective of a larger nation-wide trend. No doubt the Sri Lankan government will claim that the mosque is being ‘relocated’ not ‘demolished’. And there are many others too but all that apart, there is no mistaking the basic message and nor should anyone be under the illusion as to which side the Sri Lankan state stands with. The events in Dambulla, especially the alacrity with which the state consented to a chauvinist clergy, will no doubt further embolden militant Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalists, already well fed by the Rajapakse regime on a heady cultural-nationalist diet.
The rising tide of Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism in a society already brutalised by war and ethnic cleavages, coupled with a resurgent militarisation that is undermining democratic institutions and restricting political freedoms, poses huge challenges to Sri Lanka. In a post-war context, this will leave nascent social movements, progressive political forces and a section of politically engaged NGOs, all already hounded by the state, struggling more than ever to build precariat and proletariat solidarities across ethnic and religious divides.  A fractured Tamil and Muslim political society, long hostage to identity politics from the inside, will possibly dig deeper still and render no favours. Precious little can be expected from the middle and upper classes anyway, already well on their way to being wooed by the cleaner streets and well-trimmed parks of Colombo, all thanks to the military of course, and lop-sided economic development.
If the recent history in India is anything to go by, events in Dambulla are a cause for alarm. Ayodhya 1992 came to pass, despite Indian civil society continuing to harbour hope (alongside deep fears) that the Babri Masjid would survive, that India’s institutions were strong enough to withstand that test. However, civil society could do little of significance to even stop what followed the demolition. Worse, ten years later Gujarat happened. The events in Dambulla may not have cost lives, like the many still unaccounted for tragedies in the final stages of the war. Yet, the consequences of what it portends are likely to be as far-reaching and as damaging to the wider polity and social fabric.

36.                     Sri Lankan Muslims strike over Dambulla mosque

26 April 2012Last updated at 10:36 GMT
Sectarian tensions have been increasing in the region
A strike is in force across Muslim areas of eastern Sri Lanka, following threats against a mosque in the central town of Dambulla.
Many public services have shut down, although Muslim-led demonstrations have been halted by the military.
The prime minister ordered the mosque's relocation on Sunday, following an attack on the mosque on Friday by hardline Buddhists, including monks.
Many Buddhists regard Dambulla as a sacred Buddhist area.
Sectarian tensions have been growing over this incident.
The strike is being observed in Muslim-dominated parts of the Ampara and Batticaloa districts.
In the town of Kalmunai, with a population of more than 20,000, schools, government offices, buses and the public market were all shut after a decree from the main mosque, the BBC was told by one resident.
The Mosque Federation office in another town, Kattankudi, has been damaged in an apparent arson attack, although it is not clear who is responsible.
The strike comes after days of tension, which began with the fire-bomb attack on the mosque on Friday.
Around 2,000 Buddhists attempted to storm the mosque later that day, saying that the mosque was illegally built and demanding its demolition.
Some Buddhists have also demanded the removal of a Hindu temple in the area.
The leading Muslim religious leaders' group, the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama, has warned against violence by strikers and says Muslims should fast instead.
It says that most of the Buddhist majority in the country are peace-loving and fair-minded, and that it is vital not to hurt their feelings or insult other faiths.
Muslims make up less than 10% of the population and have generally good relations with the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, says the BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo.
But some chauvinistic Buddhists have launched a campaign against Muslims and accused them of trying to expand their activities, our correspondent adds.

37.                      We are appalled that leading politicians and religious leaders have justified forcible removal of the mosque

Jummah Prayer in progress at Dambulla Masjid-Apr 27, 2012-pic courtesy:
by National Peace Council
The dispute over the presence of a Muslim mosque on Buddhist temple land in Dambulla points to an underlying tension in Sri Lanka’s multi religious society that is being exploited by extremist forces.
The latest incident is a violent mob attack led by some Buddhist monks on the mosque in the presence of state security forces.

The National Peace Council condemns this act of violence and damage done to the mosque that has caused a deep sense of hurt and insecurity in the minds of the Muslim community.

We are appalled that some leading politicians and religious leaders have justified the forcible removal of the mosque in these circumstances. At the same time we are gratified that religious leaders of both the Buddhist and Muslim communities have appealed for discussions and a mutually acceptable solution.
The Anunayake of the Malwatte Chapter Most Venerable Niyangoda Sri Vijithasiri has said that all groups should respect and protect the rights of others. The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama and Muslim Council of Sri Lanka have appealed against violent protests or demonstrations.
In recent decades there have been many reports of attacks on religious minorities including church burning and controversy over unethical conversions. However, the harmonious relations that exist between the people have continued.
In virtually all parts of the country there are multi religious settlements where worship of different religions takes place in close proximity to each other in a peaceful environment. This is a heritage that Sri Lankans can be proud of and needs to be safeguarded.
NPC believes that the primary source of violent social behavior now manifesting itself in acts of religious intolerance is the absence of due emphasis to the Rule of Law.
Maintaining law and order and civil administration is the prime duty of the government and state machinery. The breakdown of the Rule of Law within the country can lead to a situation where persecuted groups will feel justified in looking elsewhere for justice including the international community. Wherever and whenever there are disputes they need to be settled negotiations or by recourse to the law in competent courts in the country and never by force.
It is unacceptable that protests can emerge at anytime and anywhere with people being chased away, displaced, abducted and murdered while we claim to be a holy land. In particular, NPC calls for an end to the culture of impunity, in which those who wield power act as if they are in charge of personal fiefdoms, whether at the national or local levels.
This is a point that has also been stressed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the Government in the aftermath of the country’s three decade long internal war when it said that the Rule of Law and not the rule of men should prevail.

38.                     Dambulla Mosque controversy: Conflicting versions prevail

29 April 2012, 12:24 am,

By Raisa Wickrematunge and Niranjala Ariyawansha | reporting from Dambulla
Muslims in Dambulla are still reeling from last week’s events, which could mean the demolition and relocation of a 65 year old mosque.
We were there until the last minute… people were throwing rocks and stones, so we had to leave at around 1:30 pm,” said Hariff M Yasir, a trustee to the mosque, describing the chaotic scene.
‘We left without our slippers, like beggars. We were afraid they would do something to hurt us,’ he said.

Having missed Friday prayers, many of the worshippers had then returned to the mosque- only to find their way barred. Police assured the Muslims that the mosque was intact, but had been sealed.

They were only allowed in the next day, after visits from the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Rishard Bathiudeen and Minister A. H. M. Fowzie. Yasir said that the place had been re-arranged with care by the police, such that it was cleaner than normal. Even the stones that had been pelted onto the roof were removed.
The Qurans in the mosque had been arranged with care, but around half of them were missing, as were several other items, probably damaged by the ransacking.But though this sensitivity was appreciated by the Muslims, it did not appease them. ‘Everyone should have the freedom to practice their religion. This is a tragedy,’ Yasir said emotionally.
But the real question is, why did this happen now?
And how did a demonstration lead to an order to relocate a mosque that is 65 years old?
The answer differs, according to who you ask.
‘This is not an unauthorised construction, there was a deed for this land,’ Yasir claims. The land was gifted to his grandfather by a Tamil, (whose son still survives, although he is sickly, according to Yasir).
His grandfather had then donated it to the Muslim religious committee. ‘It has been registered as a religious site for Muslims,’ he insists. In fact, a Sunday school was regularly held at the mosque as well, he said.
However, he added that the Government had taken over the land in 1982. Trustee Hariff. M. Mohommed claimed that the mosque trustees had deeds going back to the 19th century, before the land was taken over by the state.
He also said that the Muslims had joined together in protest once upon a time, to ask the Government to name Dambulla a sacred site.
Now, in a twist of fate, the Buddhist monks have turned against them. ‘This is unjust,’ Mohommed said, ‘we have been here for generations.’
Yasir too said that Muslims had been settled in the area since the days of his grandfather; arriving in Dambulla during the British colonial period to do business. A place of worship was built, and as the town grew, it became a known fact that there was a mosque in the area.
The Sunday Leader received a copy of the deeds to the mosque, which date back to 1967.
However, the head of the Rangiri Dambulu Chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala Thero has a different story to tell. Speaking to a correspondent from our sister paper Iruresa, he said that the temple had owned 12,000 acres of land from colonial times. However, he claimed that according to a legal Act, land deeds were not given to temples, and so they had no legal documentation to show they owned the land.
In 1982, during former Prime Minister R Premadasa’s era, the temple had agreed to provide 300 acres of their land to the Government, so that they could begin to create a sacred area as part of a project which was eventually gazetted in 1992.
The Survey Department had then examined the 300 acres- but for some reason, they had not marked the location of the mosque, which was found in Blocks 51 and 52. Yet a small Buddhist shrine had been marked on the map.
If such a small shrine was marked, it was strange that the mosque had not been mentioned at all, the Sumangala Thero said.
He contended that the mosque had in fact been built after 1982, a fact hotly contested by the Muslim trustees, and even, surprisingly, by Buddhists in the area. A resident who requested anonymity said that the mosque had been there even in 1948, before Independence.
‘Back then, it was small, only three families worshipped there,’ the resident said. After the gradual development of Dambulla, more Muslims began to settle, until there were about 500-600 Muslims regularly attending the mosque.
As to the Survey Department map, the Muslim trustees said that as they had only registered the mosque with the Muslim religious affairs committee, it was possible the Survey Department had not known of the mosque’s existence, as it was a small outfit at the time.
In the meantime, the Sumangala Thero says that the mosque falls within a 1 kilometre sacred area earmarked for the temple. It is for this reason that it must be relocated, he insisted. Further, he said the mosque would have to be moved beyond the 12,000 acre stretch owned by the temple, a distance of several miles.
The chief monk also complained that every Friday, 300 to 400 vehicles belonging to the Muslims blocked the road and caused a disturbance. He even alleged that the mosque had been built secretly, at night, and was therefore probably not a legal building.
There is a small shrine to Kali nearby which is also to be razed, much to the distress of the residents. The people in this area are the poorest of the poor, and consist of both Sinhalese and Tamils, who have peacefully coexisted for generations. Many of them are labourers at the Dambulla market.
Sinhalese, Tamils, Buddhists and Christians alike visit the statue of Kali, which is located in a simple cement block building with no roof. Minister of Lands and Land Development Janaka Bandara Tennekone has supported this structure, residents in the area told our Iruresa correspondent.
Yet last Friday the monk had given the order that this statue was to be broken too. The distressed residents refused to destroy an object of worship, but in deference to the Chief monk said that he could destroy it if he wanted.

66 year old Rasa Anna said ‘We have no choice. But if we can continue to worship this statue, it would be enough. The residents said they were deeply hurt by the monk’s actions. Several of the Dambulla residents also spoke of how dominant the monk was in the area and of his lack of respect to Muslims.
The Muslims of the area were also resentful of the fact that none of the trustees to the mosque were invited to the meeting on Monday (23) to decide what was to become of it.
Chairman of the Sri Lanka Muslim Council, N. M. Ameen said that it had been decided to take 6 months before coming to a final decision on whether to relocate the mosque. In the meantime, at a meeting on April (25), Muslim MPs had expressed their confidence that the President would find a solution to the issue. Ameen said relocating the mosque would mean a commute of at least 15 kilometres for people in the area.
It is clear that tensions are high, and the Muslims feel slighted. A police guard remained stationed outside the mosque, a mosque-goer said, even several days after the incident.
‘We have never felt like a minority. But now we do,’ one resident said. All eyes are now on the authorities, to see what steps will be taken to alleviate the situation. The President has called for an amicable solution to be reached, but has remained silent on what, exactly, that solution should be. And so, the waiting continues. courtesy: The Sunday Leader

39.                     The middle finger to the middle-path in Sri Lanka

29 Apr, 2012 , Ground View

A week ago, we disgraced ourselves. Racist louts, some in the garb of Buddhist monks, engaged openly in speech and behaviour so violent, even those who led it were forced to suggest later the footage broadcast on TV and now globally viewed on YouTube was doctored.
This was, of course, not the case.
Sri Lanka’s tryst with militant Buddhism is not new. It is the fundamental basis of the JHU, which is today deeply embedded in government. As much as the telegenics of last week’s outrageous violence shocked many, it is this very behaviour that most temple-going Buddhists in Sri Lanka have nurtured over decades, and continue to unquestioningly venerate when they support, through silence, word or deed, this violence.
Much remains to be said by the President, government and media on Dambulla. Not so long ago, a journalist – J.S. Tissainayagam – was jailed, tortured and humiliated for writing the government thought incited communal hatred. No such action will even be contemplated against the Mahanayaka of the Rangiri Dambulu chapter Inamaluwe Sumangala thero.  The Ven. Thero joins the ranks of good Buddhists like Mervyn Silva, openly protected, supported and championed by the Rajapaksa regime. Sadly, it is not over Dambulla’s priapic priests that we must be most ashamed about, but our President, his family and government.
There is some hope. On Thursday, fearing more violence, I created a simple blog for people to register their opposition to the soi-disant Buddhism on display in Dambulla. The responses, available online, are a humbling counterfoil to a saffron rage, and showcase a Sri Lanka that’s extremely diverse and refreshingly different. Excerpts from a few I reproduce below. There are literally hundreds more online.
Read them, and I urge you, add to them.
I am Mohamed Niyas, a Sri Lankan Muslim, professionally a Teacher. I respect all religions and beliefs in this country and teach the same to all my students of all ethnic groups. I was shocked how can the monks who always preach saamaya, maithriya, karunaawa like great philosophies could lead such a racist mob in Dambulla. I feel relieved to know many of Buddhist people in Sri Lanka condemned this violence.
fahima7s: This is the first time the violence towards other faiths has been filmed so vividly. Many churches and kovils have also been bombed and burnt in the past. What do these Buddhist monks want? Don’t they know that our culture is enriched with other faiths? We have already lost a lot of our Burghers and Tamils and we are impoverished by it. Even if we build highways and prosper economically, we will still be poor. Cannot Buddhism flourish without the Buddhist monks protecting it?
Iranganie H. Fernando: Have these perpetrators of this incident of shameful violence learnt nothing from the terrible experiences of the past 30 years? All religions teach love & compassion to all beings and respect for each other… there must be action & strategies to prevent such abominable behaviour. I am a 73-year-old woman who grew up in a mainly peaceful society in pre & post independent Sri Lanka… Certainly these horrific acts of violence are not in my name!
Maithri: During the war, the government tried to show the world and the country that SL is a nation of cultural and religious diversity. And I believed in it, and to an extent that is still true. But this whole thing has just gone to show that the government don’t care about that unless it is in their own interest. Shameful behaviour from them, and members of the sangha who should really know better.
My name is Chhimi Tenduf-La. I am not Sri Lankan but I am embarrassed. I am proud to live in this amazing country and, for the most part, I think you would be hard pressed to find nicer people than Sri Lankans anywhere in the world. Most foreigners would say this (except, to be honest, when driving). The actions of this mob, and the official response which as good as sanctioned it, is very sad indeed. We can only be proud of the brave woman in the video who stood up to these bullies. She is a Sri Lankan. Not really sure what the other people are.
David Blacker: Some of us fought, killed, died, were crippled, and watched our friends die beside us so that this country would remain united and free. We did not do it so that another bunch of violent extremists could divide our country again in the name of religion; nor for you, the government, to support it.

40.                      Muslim community is strongly opposed to demolition or relocation of Dambulla Mosque

Al Asna Mosque, Akurana- pic by: Asfur_foreveR courtesy of: Asfur_foreveR
By Ayesha Zuhair
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to summon a meeting shortly to discuss a matter of vital national importance.
This follows a discussion he had with Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Rauff Hakeem on Monday, during the course of which the President promised to resolve the dispute that has arisen over the Dambulla mosque, without harming the interests of the Muslim community.

At the press briefing held after Hakeem’s conversation with the Head of State (and where Hafiz Nazeer Ahamed was inducted as Deputy Leader of the SLMC), the Muslim Congress Leader asserted: “If any one attempts to shift this mosque which has existed since 1962 to another location, it will be considered an unjust act, which goes against the sentiments of all Muslims in the country. We will not give into violence, intimidation or thuggery.”

The meeting to be convened by the President (which may even take place today or tomorrow) and the events to follow are likely to have a huge impact on ethnic relations in Sri Lanka, and may well prove to be a litmus test of the strength of the Buddhist-Muslim bond.
The question in the minds of many is: will the Executive do what is necessary to ensure that centuries of communal amity between the followers of Buddhism and Islam in this island are safeguarded? Based on the assurance given by the President to Minister Hakeem, there is reason for optimism
Muslims united
As the SLMC Leader pointed out, “The SLMC and all Muslims without hesitation oppose moves to shift the mosque as it will result in dire consequences.”
Senior Minister A. H. M. Fowzie said that all Muslim MPs are “vehemently opposed” to the relocation of the mosque, and will make a joint plea to the executive to take the necessary steps to prevent the demolition of the mosque which has been in existence for many decades.
SLMC General Secretary and Parliamentarian M. T. Hassen Ali said that Muslim MPs are “firmly against” the relocation of the mosque, and will work together to maintain the current status quo
Government MP A. H. M. Azwer said that Muslim MPs are “fully united” on the issue, and that the decision to push for an amicable settlement was a unanimous one.
As reflected in these statements given by Muslim leaders, the entire community is strongly opposed to the demolition of the mosque, and any attempt to do so, will have detrimental, long-term repercussions on ethnic harmony in Sri Lanka
Mob attack
On April 20, the Hairiya Jummah Mosque located at 48/1, Kandy Road, Dambulla was stormed.
Photographic evidence and video footage of the incident showed an unruly mob, many of whom were clad in saffron robes, vandalising the scared place of worship, and preventing Muslims from offering that Friday’s Jummah prayers.
This was a clear violation of the Fundamental Right to religious freedom which is expected to be “respected, secured and advanced by all the organs of government” as per the country’s constitution.
Under Article 10, every person is entitled to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of their choice.
The incident was also a violation of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 12 (1) which ensures equality before the law and the equal protection of the law
It later came to light that most of those who were involved in the premeditated mob attack had been brought to the scene from outside Dambulla. So there is reasonable ground to believe that the incident was orchestrated to disrupt the cordial relationship between Muslims and Buddhists.
The Muslims in Dambulla are in fact very well integrated with members of other ethnic and religious groups. They are extremely conversant in Sinhala, and have not just co-existed peacefully with their Sinhalese neighbours, but have contributed significantly to the economic and social development of the area.
Despite the presence of the Police, who had been previously informed that an event of this nature might be staged, no action has been taken – to date – to question or arrest any of those involved in the atrocious act. No charges for intimidation and violent behaviour, causing malicious damage, and carrying out a premeditated attack on a holy site of worship.
The Trustees of the mosque have lodged three complaints to be Police in relation to this incident and are yet to receive any feedback from the authorities
Is a mosque not sacred?
Issues relating to rule of law aside, it is bewildering as to why a mosque may not considered as sacred as any other place of worship. Should we not accord the same respect to all places of religious worship – be it a temple, church, mosque, or kovil?
Katargama and Sri Pada are internationally famed, multi-religious sites of worship where Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims have converged over the centuries for purposes of worship, as both historical facts and contemporary practice attest.
In Kandy there are mosques near the Sri Dalada Maligawa, regarded as the most sacred place of worship in the Buddhist world.
This is not Saudi Arabia , and Sri Lanka is not a mono-religious country; it is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation. So why can’t a mosque be located inside a sacred area? What is sacred to Buddhists can and indeed should be deemed sacred to Muslims, and vice versa.
A history of communal accord
Muslims in this island have long cherished the freedom to assemble, build mosques and madrassas, and practice Islam without feeling obliged to camouflage their identity from hostile eyes.
In fact, one could venture so far as to say that the communal amity enjoyed between the Buddhists and Muslims has been the subject of outside envy.
For thousands of years, Muslims have co-existed peacefully will the Sinhalese and did not have to compromise on their religious beliefs. On the contrary, visionary Sinhala leaders encouraged the Muslims to practice their faith without fearing persecution.
This historical bond is well-documented by renowned historian Dr Lorna Dewaraja in her book, ‘The Muslims of Sri Lanka: 1000 years of ethnic harmony 900-1915 AD’.
During the time of the Sinhala kings, from the ancient period, up to the Kandyan Period, there was amity between the Sinhalese and the Muslims. The Muslim traders were economically and politically an asset to the Sri Lankan king, and the King protected them.
The Muslims also fought with the Sinhalese against the Portugese, and the community in Akurana was settled as a gift for this.
The close relationship has yielded mutual benefits for both communities. This relationship is now being put to the test.
The Hairiya Jummah Mosque
Though it has been claimed that the mosque started operating only in 2009, in actual fact the Hairiya Jummah Mosque was established as a mosque in 1962 by U.S.M. Ibrahim, who was its first Trustee.
This is the only place of worship for Muslims in the area, and serves a broader national interest given its proximity to the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium. According to the mosque trustees, even the Pakistani national cricket team has offered prayers in the mosque. Numerous local and foreign (Muslim) tourists also access the prayer facilities on a regular basis.
Even a special religious ceremony (which was broadcast on ITN) was held at the mosque in support of the Sri Lankan government’s efforts at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to defeat a US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka.
If this sacred place of worship is relocated against the wishes of the entire Muslim community in this country, the message it will convey is: what is sacred to you is not necessarily sacred to us. You are ‘The Other’ and you might as well know it.
Perhaps more importantly, the Muslims see a trend in this – starting from Anuradhapura where a Muslim shrine was demolished in September 2011 and are wondering where this will end.
The fall-out from such a move will be exceedingly hard to quantify, and could push a community that is well-integrated in Sri Lankan society into extremist hands
A litmus test?
Despite some dark moments, Sri Lanka has had a long history of religious and cultural co-existence. Should we allow a few bigots to destroy this? To permit such a swing would be nothing short of tragic.
The days and weeks ahead will be a crucial litmus test of the government’s commitment to promote ethnic and religious harmony, and will also test the strength of the Sinhala Buddhist-Muslim bond.
Let’s hope that the relationship will weather the storm, and prove to be robust and dynamic courtesy: Daily Mirror

41.                        Let’s locate ‘Dambulla’ on the world map of (in)tolerance

  • Written by  Malinda Seneviratne
  • Sunday, 06 May 2012 00:00 , The Nation
Dambulla protest
The controversy surrounding ‘sacred areas’ in Dambulla yielded a heady mix of the sacred and profane, powered predictably by ‘religious’ leaders/spokespersons. It also brought out of the woodworks the usual suspects in the time-honored vocation of bashing Buddhists and Sinhalese. That particularly selective commentariat has been waxing lyrical about Buddhist intolerance, Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism, the sanctity of secularism and generally vilifying all Sinhala Buddhists in the country as the primary and only source of ethnic and religious disharmony and other such ills. All this, even as Buddhists, including both lay and clergy, condemned the acts of certain Buddhists and Buddhist clergy in attacking a Muslim place of worship.

It must be stated that if there was anything illegal about the mosque, then it is up to the law enforcement authorities to deal with it. If the existence of the mosque contravened some regulation, then whoever sanctioned the construction must be taken to task. If relevant acts of parliament are unclear about what to do with places of worship or any other building located in an area zoned as ‘sacred’ or of archaeological interest prior to the selfsame act coming into effect, then that piece of legislation needs re-visitation and amendment. There should be clarity about what constitutes ‘place of religious worship’, for people can and have set up ‘prayer areas’ (which could be anything from a room in a building to a prominent mosque or church) which are used without any fanfare and out of the public eye, allowing for later claims that ‘This existed for decades’. If objections went unheeded and led to unfortunate and violent incidents, then part of the blame must accrue to those who turned a deaf ear.

Silent about encroachment
Regardless of the validity of objection, the act of objecting must be legal and, in this case, affirm and not contradict the teachings of the Buddha. Where compassion and reason are footnoted or ignored and in their place hatred and emotion come into operation there is nothing ‘Buddhist’ about it. Rather, it refers to anxieties that are this-worldly, transient and placed in the middle of cultural-religious politics that have nothing to do with doctrinal tenet. It is not an indictment of either doctrine or true follower, just as fundamentalists who burn, plunder and kill in the name of Jesus Christ or Allah can hardly be claimed to be adherents of those teachings or their acts sanctioned by the word of their teachers.

Lost in the vilification game, naturally, is context. The selectivity and its pernicious character is evident in the fact that the aforementioned commentariat has been conspicuously silent about encroachment by Muslims of places of historical, archaeological and religious significance to Buddhists. The ancient Buddhist shrine at Kooragala is a case in point. The encroachment of lands belonging to the Muhudu Maha Viharaya, a place of immense archaeological importance, is another.

Let’s call that our General Sri Lankan Screw-Ups. Let’s move to places from which people are pointing fingers at Sri Lanka and especially Sinhala Buddhists and engaged in endless and foul-mouthed name-calling. Karunanidhi forgets what Hindus do to Muslims in India, but he’s just an also-ran in Tamil Nadu and a desperate political refugee. Let’s go further. To Europe.

Let’s begin with Switzerland. In November 2009, there was a referendum on a constitutional amendment banning the construction of new minarets. It was approved by 22 out of 26 Swiss cantons. The referendum followed an initiative by the Swiss People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union, the former maintain that minarets are ‘political symbols’ and designing fliers that featured a veiled woman against a background of a Swiss flag pierced by several minarets resembling missiles.

To preserve heritage
They may have been ‘extremists’ but the Swiss people supported them. None of them would say that a church steeple was a ‘political symbol’, never mind the fact that ‘Christian Politics’ moved them to do what they did and that the cross has both ecclesiastical as well as crass political meaning. What was ‘politically relevant’ was the claim that Christian churches would not be allowed in the Arab world. That ‘sauce for goose and gander’, for some reason, is not considered applicable to Sri Lanka.

In ‘democratic’ Europe, from Norway to Italy, from Portugal to Austria, the religious building landscape is monolithic: if one travels from Oslo to Napoli and from Lisbon to Vienna, one would see only Christian churches along the way. Muslim places of worship are confined to apartments in flats in all these countries, despite having considerable Muslim populations and despite the fact that current growth rates indicate that Muslims would form the majority of most European countries. Still, no mosques would be allowed around the areas surrounding major cathedrals in Europe. No mention of ‘intolerance’ here.

There’s more to ‘secularism’ in Europe. I am thinking of the French Revolution and all the secular rhetoric at the time and since. France has public holidays, like any other country. France has 5 civil holidays: January 1 (New Year), May 1 (Labour Day), May 8 (End of WW II), July 14 (Bastille Day) and November 11 (End of WW I). Surprise, surprise, France has 6 more ‘secular’ holidays: Easter (sometime in April), August 15 (to celebrate the Assumption of Mary), November 1 (All Saints’ Day), a Thursday in Mid-May (39 days after Easter, to celebrate Jesus’ Ascension), Pentecôte (50 days after Easter, usually on a Monday by the end of May) and of course December 25 (Christmas). And just the other day, France’s lower house of Parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban wearing the Islamic full veil in public. Nothing ‘wrong’ there, but everything that Buddhists do in Sri Lanka to preserve heritage is wrong, and I am not talking about excesses by un-Buddhistic ‘bikkhus’ but even the articulation that questions the validity of multi-religious (i.e. one religion, one-vote logic) descriptive given population disparities and historical facts.

Now compare European ‘tolerance’ described above with the landscape of Sri Lanka, if you travel from Jaffna to Matara or from Colombo to Batticaloa. All places of religions worship, whether Islamic, Hindu or Christian are of the traditional architecture of each religion. Despite the violence unleashed in the name of Christ, including the destruction of Buddhist and Hindu temples and wide scale book-burning, the adherents, their right to worship and places of worship were not only allowed by the victims of that violence but were also treated with utmost respect utterly disproportionate to the kind of ‘respect’ meted out to Buddhists and Buddhism by ‘Christians’. Muslims know that it was the largesse of a Buddhist king, Senarath, that spared them from being massacred by ‘Christian’ Europeans. 

Division along ethnic lines
The invective of fundamentalist Muslims reacting to the Dambulla incident, similarly, is hardly representative of the entire community, which has for example, opposed the division of the country along ethnic lines, a ‘political’ need that is of great significance to Buddhists, the vast majority of whom are Sinhalese.

Just to illustrate the slant in the commentariat ranting and raving about Buddhist intolerance, I am awaiting some word, any word in fact, from that bunch about Ven Ampitiye Sumana Thero’s abduction. The Venerable Thero of the Mangalaramaya was abducted and manhandled by some TMVP members, taken to the Wellavali PS Chairman’s office and threatened. He was told ‘The East belongs to Tamil’. In this context, should Sinhala Buddhists even entertain proposals that grant land and police powers to provincial councils, one can ask. Anyway, the abducted was a Buddhist, a member of the Maha Sangha. Silence from the anti-Buddhist commentariat that talks of religious tolerance, secularity and so on.

Now what if anything like this happened to a member of the Islamic or Christian clergy? Someone offered that ‘not only the entire Muslim community and the entire Christian community would be up in arms in one voice with all the human rights activists et al. with Al Jazeera and BBC taking this all round the world calling for a regime change, etc.’ He added, ‘the Cardinal would walk into the President’s house and threaten that unless immediate action was taken he would boycott all government functions and the President would simply cow down’.

There’s inequality here, clearly. That ‘inequality’ which refers to the disingenuous politics and global political economy of religion speaks of both tolerance and intolerance. Today is Vesak, and it is best to point these things out in the interest of reason. And so I conclude that if we are to see reason and tolerance triumph, we must understand anxiety, we much acknowledge history and heritage, we must be conscious of context and proportionality.

42.                      Mobs, Monks and the Problems of Political-Buddhism

5 May, 2012 , Ground Views
Original photograph REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
It is always a curious and odd little matter, to witness how even Buddhists become so obsessively attached to ‘sacred’ lands and in protecting them, commit acts seemingly prompted by hatred, delusion and ill-will.
Ideally, lands should not become ‘sacred’ for simple reasons. The Buddha, in attacking the rigid and unethical caste-system during his time, placed great stress on the importance of deeds or action. That was why it was said (in the Vasala sutta) that one did not become a Brahman (or an outcast) by birth, but by deed. That wonderful message ought to have taught us a very valuable lesson, which, to rephrase the Buddha, could be stated as follows: that a land becomes a ‘sacred’ (or Buddhist) land not by anything else but only by the words and deeds of those inhabiting that land. Even a place of religious worship would lose its sacredness if, in the guise of religion, all manner of nefarious activities are carried out therein. In such cases, your virtuous neighbour’s backyard becomes more sacred than the ‘sacred’ land or place of worship.
However, these are not ideal times and ideal societies. Laws and regulations can be enacted empowering ministers and other officials to declare a particular territorial area a sacred land. And of course, this is not a practice limited to Buddhists alone. But when mob violence is seen to be propagated, as was done in Dambulla on the 20th of April – when a number of Buddhist monks and laymen stormed a mosque in Dambulla and demanded the dismantling of that mosque – we know, very well, that something is not quite right; not only in the ‘sacred’ land of Dambulla, but also in this supposedly Buddhist-country.
Dambulla mob attack: some concerns
The immediate concerns arising from the unfortunate vulgarity exhibited by some Buddhist monks and their lay followers have been already highlighted. In what was said by some of the protesting monks, there are the obvious traces of violence, racism, religious extremism and that burning desire, if necessary, to cleanse the territory concerned of the ‘other’ (the ‘other’, in this case, being the follower of the Islamic religion). How this plays out politically – domestically and internationally, both against the country and against Buddhism – is easy to understand.
But there are other concerns too.
Firstly, the demeanour of such monks – who seem to be going against some of the fundamental precepts of the Dhamma, one being indriya samvara sila (morality concerning sense-restraint), which is one form of sila or morality a monk (a bhikkhu) is expected to follow – contributes greatly to the doubt and skepticism that is generated in the minds of the lay Buddhist follower today. The sangha community (or the community of Buddhist monks) has been traditionally, and principally, looked upon as a community which guides the layman in the path of the Dhamma and morality.
And given that it is the members of this community who ultimately preach and propagate the Dhamma and since they play the principal role of the ‘guardian’ of the Dhamma in the eyes of the ordinary layman (even though the politician is seen to be playing this role too), acts as were witnessed in Dambulla can have the obvious and natural effect of generating a great sense of doubt (vicikiccha) about, and ill-will (vyapada) towards all aspects concerning Buddhism, its fundamental teachings, the community of monks, etc. Doubt and ill-will are factors hindering the path to emancipation. Doubt, of course, can be eradicated through, for example, the knowledge of the Dhamma, confidence, discussion and questioning. But the question is: can a community of monks (of the Dambulla-type) be of any assistance to the layman in this regard when what one witnesses is a community of monks engaged even in, inter alia, ‘animism’? (as Dr. Laksiri Fernando put it, in ‘The government must apologize to the Muslim community’, The Island, 30 April 2012).
Secondly, viewed from a critical legal perspective, the Dambulla incident throws up significant questions about the turn to law, by which I mean a turn towards the laws contained in statutes, ordinances and the like to resolve the Dambulla-incident. Now, resolving a dispute through the law is acceptable and if all parties agree to respect the verdict, the legal-approach naturally turns into a useful mode of dispute resolution. It will soften tensions, calm your nerves.
But this legal-turn has its weaknesses too. By reducing this entire problem to a simple legal dispute, which the law books and laws will now resolve and one which then will be left in the hands of lawyers and judges, the legal profession can also act as a smokescreen which hides or shoves under the carpet some of the underlying moral and ethical concerns relating to the Dambulla-incident. The legal profession, under these circumstances, becomes a profession of irresponsibility, if some provision or the other decides the fate of the entire controversy. Laws, law books and judgments are (as we know) towards which fingers are pointed as a convenient excuse to evade moral responsibility for one’s words and actions: ‘Look, it is not my fault; it is that law, that judgment, which says so.’ Such legal formalism hinders political discussion and the resolution of political or other social problems and controversies through greater public participation and debate. The root causes go unaddressed, and they erupt in numerous other forms and manifestations elsewhere, some other day. And one such problem that law courts don’t discuss is one which is fundamental to the recent controversy: ‘political-Buddhism’.
Buddha and the fundamental problem of ‘political-Buddhism’
The Buddha, undoubtedly, is the most influential and admirable philosophical teacher I have come across.
And, I do not view the Buddha very simply as one who had nice things to say about non-violence, peace and harmony, or as an extraordinary person who, from birth to death, carried out fantastic and unbelievable acts.
But also, thanks to the excellent work of numerous Buddhist scholars (ranging from the likes of Ven. Walpola Rahula to Prof KN Jayatillaka, but more importantly, scholars such as Prof. David J. Kalupahana, et al.) I read the Buddha more as: a philosopher who, unlike any other, stressed the importance of understanding the concept of radical impermanence which runs through all our activities and lives (a concept which is far more complex than what is narrowly and inaccurately defined as one which means that ‘all things that are born end in death’); a critic who went against the traditions of his time and valued critical reflection and inquiry at all possible times (e.g. the Kalama sutta; also note the advice given to millionaire Upali when the latter expressed willingness to follow the Buddha: ‘Of a truth, Upali, make a thorough investigation’); a brilliant social reformer who made timely use of ideas and concepts that ordinary men and women believed in, to introduce the notion of morality as a counter response to the dangerous nihilism promoted during that time by the likes of Ajita Kesakambali (e.g. the Buddha’s deft use of the concept of ‘god’ to narrate the different destinies confronting human beings, stressed in a way that makes ordinary people believe in that concept and thereby are inevitably influenced to do good to reach the world of gods, devaloka); a master linguist who developed words to bring out the nuances of meaning which were not captured in the language during his time and which still baffle the traditional Eastern and Western mind (e.g. the coining of the term paccuppanna meaning ‘arisen with a background’, which expresses the meaning that the present is conditioned by the immediate past; which was in contrast to the strict manner in which ‘time’ was categorized during the Buddha’s day as belonging to the past, present and future, a categorization which did not make allowance for the complex and nuanced connection of the past and present, for instance); and a teacher who employed similes which had an extremely sarcastic bite, to drive home a point which could be somewhat discomforting to a traditional, conservative, mind (e.g. in explaining the futility of praying for salvation and the end of suffering, the Buddha tells Vasettha that such praying is similar in effect to a man who, having approached the river desiring to get to the other bank, calls out: ‘Come here, other bank, come here!’).
But how, one may wonder, could this noble message of a profound philosophical teacher go so wrong in the hands of those preaching that teaching? The seeds lie in the very notion that the Buddha had advised his followers to be extremely mindful of: excessive attachment. From that springs all problems, and when that clashes with other ulterior objectives and motives of various groups (reasons pertaining to history, tradition, race, ethnicity, nationhood, politics, culture, ideology, etc.), Buddhism ends up being another tool in the hands of the politically-motivated. Promoting Buddhism becomes political, and in the process, Buddhism ends up being another political language.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong in the practice of preserving and promoting Buddhism. In fact, Buddhism should definitely be protected and promoted. What is problematic here, however, is the way in which it has been promoted and is sought to be promoted and preserved. The noble teaching of the Buddha becomes a problematic form of political-Buddhism when under the guise of promoting the teaching, various other ethnic, political and similar agendas begin to be nurtured and promoted to the detriment of those believing and following different other teachings or religions [This is perhaps the significant problem shared by those following Christianity and Islam, in particular. While all these teachings and religions are a great source of inspiration to the individual, they become extremely problematic when brought into the public realm of politics and governance where people respond differently to different teachings and faiths].
And more seriously, it is very easy and convenient for bigoted and narrow-minded followers with ulterior political motives to intentionally misinterpret and misunderstand the teachings if necessary. To take one example: in the case of Buddhism, it was once the late Ven. Soma Thero (a priest I admired, but critically) who pointed out that getting hold of the wrong end of the Dhamma could cause unimaginable disaster. For instance, wrongly interpreting the meaning of impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and no-self (anatma) could end up in promoting violence and terrorism – because if everything is impermanent, suffering and without a ‘self’, then causing harm to anyone doesn’t mean much! So, one can imagine how dangerous even these fundamental notions of Buddhism can become in the hands of those who are more interested in politicizing Buddhism.
Responding to Dambulla’s ugly political-Buddhism
It is another version of this kind of political-Buddhism that we witnessed in Dambulla, in the face of which the question arises over and over again: how should one respond to such acts and events? Three broad responses have come to be suggested during recent times. One, the need for a government-apology; two, secularism; three, citizen-initiatives condemning the acts as being not committed in their name.
One: the suggestion has been made that the government needs to apologize for what happened (as usefully made by Dr. Laksiri Fernando, et al). This argument, in general terms, lays much of the blame squarely on the government for being responsible for creating the conditions for inter-religious disharmony. A different version of this ‘government-is-the-culprit’ form of argument has been also raised by those who would not agree with some of the views expressed by the above mentioned authors. So, for instance, even Janaka Perera usefully points out that the real culprits for the present crisis are successive governments and that in the present case, the “ball is now in the government’s court” (Janaka Perera, ‘Dambulla Crisis: Who are the Real Culprits’ in Sinhale Hot News, 3 May 2012).
The suggestion, in principle, is a very valuable one. As regards the Dambulla incident, certain reports suggest that a politician is behind the instigation of the mob-attack; and if so, the government definitely should apologize. But, over-stressing the need of this demand for an apology from the government has the (unintended, but at times even intended) consequence of shifting the blame away from others who ought to be held equally responsible. The government becomes the main culprit, sometimes the only culprit, whereas others go unchecked.
Two: the above form of critique of political-Buddhism and the politicization of any religion leads to the famous argument which demands for a secular state and secular constitution. It makes perfect logic to demand so, and in principle, is a demand that one who is seriously concerned about inter-religious harmony cannot easily dismiss. But one of the nagging problems concerning the demand for secularism (through legal and constitutional means in particular) is that it often has the effect of reducing a complex problem (concerning religion) to a matter that can be addressed through law. Principally, ‘secularism’, when viewed as a term representing a particular mindset, is an immensely difficult destination to reach.
Generally, it calls for: an entire rethinking of the place of religion in life and society, its role in the matter of politics and governance, to what extent religion should be a guide in such matters, and more fundamentally, about how education of religion should be conducted from school-level upwards, etc. In the case of Sri Lanka to argue, for example, that Article 9 of the Constitution is what leads to religious fundamentalism is based on the inaccurate assumption that taking away the provision leads to a better, harmonious and peaceful society. And for the secular argument to be accepted by a majority of the people, it cannot be seen to be made by those who are rabid opponents of Buddhism and Buddhists; which, in other words, calls for a politics of persuasion which has to be undertaken from within.
Three: one of the prominent initiatives undertaken by citizens nowadays, given the advancement of information technology, is the mode of online-petitions. A very useful and important recent initiative concerning the Dambulla mob attack was undertaken in the form of a petition titled ‘Not in our name’ (see It is yet another important way of expressing the thought that the kind of violence witnessed in Dambulla is not acceptable, is condemned, and is not undertaken in our name. This is, to reiterate, not only an immensely useful form of public protest but also one which has today gained much support. It has, most usefully, generated greater awareness of the incident.
However, what is hoped in the case of such forms of protest is that one is not deluded into imagining that this form of protest could be very effective at the end of the day. While supporting such initiatives, one still needs to be quite skeptical about them. Firstly, it just could be the case that it is precisely this form of protest (online-petitions, etc) that those who instigate and promote religious extremism are comfortable with. And in a sense, the very form of online-protest carries the image of our helplessness in the face of such violence and extremism. Secondly, and perhaps more seriously, the problem with the ‘not-in-our-name’ kind of language is this: contrary to our imagination, the kind of mob attacks seen in Dambulla could be acts which are not carried out in our name in the first place. They may be acts carried out in the name of those who are anyway having very rigid and fixed views about the place of religion in politics. And given the polarization that exists in contemporary society (NGO – anti-NGO, peace activists-war mongers, anti-Buddhist – Sinhala-Buddhist, etc), it is generally understood that those who resort to such violence/silently approve of such violence (group A) and those who say such violence is not in their name (group B) are anyway not on the same page ideologically and politically. Politically, then, group B’s resistance in the present case doesn’t shock group A into adopting a markedly different attitude. In other words: group A has to be critiqued, first and foremost, from within.
Common inadequacy: where are the monks?
This then brings us to the principal question: who constitutes this group within group A? I believe this is none other than the sangha community: the community of Buddhist monks. In all of the above responses, what is essentially missing is the role of the Buddhist monk.
At the end of the day, it needs to be reiterated – not once, twice but a hundred times if necessary – that it is the community of Buddhist monks which can most effectively and significantly end this madness that is being carried out by some in the name of Buddhism. When Buddhist monks are seen to be acting in the way they did, no amount of criticism can prove effective unless those from within that community itself come forward and respond adequately. And it is this glaring absence of a critical response from the community of Buddhist monks which has been the most unfortunate absence in the overall responses that followed. It is this that all of us (especially those who are admirers of the Buddhist philosophy) must perhaps resolve to remind the monks, lay followers, and ourselves, whenever possible.
However, while not abandoning the forms of protest and critique so far adopted, it is also necessary to call for a further nuanced critique and also the adoption of a skeptical (not dismissive) approach to certain comforting arguments which are made concerning the matter of religious harmony in Sri Lanka. The two are inter-connected.
Firstly, the kind of critique necessary is not that which pins the blame entirely on a single monk: in this case, Ven Inamaluwe Sumangala. Rather, it has to be pointed out that this is a problem not limited to the attitude of Ven. Sumangala alone but could be shared by many others in the sangha community who not only directly support him but also do so indirectly, by maintaining a studied silence (and that too, in the name of ‘tolerance’!). Secondly, one needs to be somewhat more skeptical (but not dismissive) of the ‘reservoir of goodwill’ argument that we often raise (see Javed Yusuf, ‘Dambulla: A challenge for all communities’, The Sunday Times, 29 April, 2012). While one can broadly agree with the sentiment expressed, our continued reference to this sentiment could even have the indirect effect of making us utterly complacent and even irresponsible. A probing examination should remind us that while Dambulla-type incidents are somewhat rare, the Dambulla-type mindset may be a more prevalent and rooted one, given the silence of many in the ‘Buddhist-camp’.
In short, the critical intervention of monks in particular is quintessential if they are serious about protecting and preserving Buddhism (and not the grotesque and dangerous aspects of political Buddhism). This is their duty, their responsibility. And this critical intervention, to be sure, is not one which calls for the spewing of hatred and malice directed at monks by monks. Certainly not. As the monks would well know, one can condemn certain practices and policies without hatred or ill-will (ujjhana).
Therefore, before people cry out that Buddhism is too serious a problem to be left in the hands of the contemporary Buddhist monks, or that Buddhism should be protected not from politicians but from Buddhist monks, it is necessary for the monks to come out more openly and critically in expressing their views about the incidents, attitudes, policies and practices that the Dambulla-incident represents. This is also a vital task that critical Buddhist scholars (far more than laymen and women like us) should be mindful about.
It is the Vesak season, and one often remembers that moment which has traditionally been considered the most poignant in the story of the Buddha; the moment the Buddha passed away, the moment of parinirvana. There is great silence that envelops the moment. The Buddha, who is now physically weak, addresses the monks surrounding him and inquires whether there is any doubt in their minds about any aspect of the Dhamma. Venerable Ananda, who is deeply attached to the Buddha, musters up all courage in the face of the great and noble light that now flickers before him, and informs that he has confidence that there is not one bhikkhu gathered there with any doubt or problem. And yet, the Buddha, the ever-mindful, declares: “All conditioned states are impermanent. Strive on with diligence.”
But when witnessing the manner in which the words and teachings of the Buddha have been misused, I, perhaps like many others, tend to consider a different moment to have been the most poignant and moving in the entire life-time of the Buddha. That moment comes soon after the Buddha gains enlightenment, and just before Brahma Sahampathi invites the Buddha to preach the Dhamma.
In this moment, the Buddha, with great compassion, wonders (quite unexpectedly, to our minds) as to whether he should or should not go out into the world and preach the Dhamma. It is this moment, this picture of the contemplating Buddha, which captures that poignancy. For, it is a moment when the Buddha, now surveying the world, realizes that the decision to go out and preach the Dhamma contains enormous risks and challenges, that there are many in the world who have a lot of dust in their eyes, that they are deluded by wrong concepts, ideas and beliefs.
In other words, that moment contains the very fundamentals of the philosophy the Buddha thereafter preached: that element of radical impermanence; that blend of the good and the bad; the happiness and sadness that enwraps a single moment and event; the great opportunity that was before the Buddha on the one hand and the tremendous risks that very opportunity carried with it on the other; the incomparable message of freedom that now had to be spread, and the glaring possibility of a restriction of the freedom of others that very message of freedom, if improperly and wrongly understood, could bring to others.
It was perhaps a moment in which the Buddha saw hundreds of men and women cross the metaphorical river with the aid of the raft named the Dhamma and put an end to their suffering, while a thousand others failed, and failed miserably, and in the process, did all manner of things to the raft, the river and all around them. To strive on with diligence is what is required. And those words contain a very valuable lesson to the socially-engaged monk, in particular, who is genuinely and sincerely interested in preserving and promoting the noble teachings of the Buddha.

43.                     Sri Lankan Buddhists demand demolition of mosque

Dozens of Buddhists led by monks joined a demonstration on Monday urging Sri Lanka's government to proceed with plans to dismantle a mosque located in a sacred Buddhist area.
The protesters marched peacefully through Kalutara town, south of Colombo. Last month, thousands of Buddhist monks and lay supporters stormed the mosque in the central town of Dambulla, saying it was constructed illegally.
But residents say it has been there for nearly half a century, long before the area was declared a sacred zone. The government announced that the mosque and a Hindu temple would be demolished and relocated.
Muslim clerics and politicians have strongly opposed the decision. An organiser of today's protest, Asoka Menikkgoda, said the government should safeguard Buddhism, the state religion, and not yield to Muslim pressure.

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Tuesday, May 08, 2012 Sunday Leader
Rauf Hakeem
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has become the focus of attention over the recent dispute over a Muslim mosque located within the Dambulla sacred area and the onus is on party leader and Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem to ensure a peaceful settlement of the issue.
Meeting The Sunday Leader at his office located at the premises of the Carnival ice cream parlor in Colpetty, Hakeem took some time out of his busy schedule to respond to queries on the latest situation with regard to the Dambulla mosque issue and his role in an ultra nationalist government.
Since the dispute over the Dambulla mosque commenced a few weeks back, Hakeem and the SLMC have taken the firm stance that the mosque should not be relocated and that there was no necessity for an alternate land in the event the government tries to forcibly relocate it.
However, Hakeem denied media reports that the SLMC would quit the government over the mosque issue saying it would impress upon the government to address the issue in a just manner to all communities.
Following a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week, the SLMC leader ensured that the President would address the issue without allowing the matter to get out of hand.
When asked if there has been any finality over the mosque dispute reached with the President, Hakeem told The Sunday Leader that there is no finality in the issue.
However, he noted that the indication is that the status quo would remain since emotions have been aroused and any attempt to forcibly relocate will only aggravate the situation.
In a pensive mood, he observed that the government needs to reflect on this issue and resolve it without hastily resorting to any unilateral decisions.
“I indicated to the President that it is best we discuss this issue, to which he replied he needed time to study the issue a little more.”
The President had told Hakeem that he needed to talk to others including the Prime Minister before initiating a dialogue with the Muslim ministers.
A thoughtful Hakeem then said that as a mature politician and head of government, the President is in a very unenviable position.
“It is a challenging situation, which I’m sure he would handle pragmatically.”
The SLMC leader explained that the majority in the government is disturbed by the manner in which the whole Dambulla mosque issue was brought to focus. He noted that the government members are conscious of the consequences of the issue.  “On our part too, we feel we have spoken enough and need not be stirring the pot any further. Best to keep quiet now so that saner counsel will prevail upon this situation,” he said.
Difficulties in a nationalist govt.
Being a leader of minority political party in a government that thrives on nationalism and pushing such sentiments is not an easy task. The SLMC’s position in the government is therefore unenviable. Nevertheless, a resolute Hakeem when questioned about this issue responded calmly that one should speak at the right time. He explained that all minor political parties in a coalition would feel somewhat intimidated by the very size of the government and it’s quite natural.  “You need to be patient, pragmatic and where necessary speak your mind without allowing the worry of your leverage inhibit you when it comes to the right issues,” he said.
Nationalism vs. reconciliation
The UPFA government is currently under pressure locally and internationally to expedite the reconciliation process in post war Sri Lanka.
However, patriotism and nationalism being pushed by the government seem to be a stumbling block in this path to reconciliation and the Dambulla incident is witnessed as a fall out of nationalist extremism.
When inquired if the nationalism would hamper the country’s path towards reconciliation, Hakeem reminded of the saying; “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
“At time you feel like that some xenophobic forces trying to take cover under the label of nationalism or patriotism and disturb the path to reconciliation. We must have the courage of our conviction to speak our mind out when thuggery, intimidation and harassment is implied to achieve their objectives,” he said.
He made a point that in a multi ethnic country like Sri Lanka there’s enough space for everyone to prosper, provided every one agrees to resolve differences by way of discussions rather than through demonstrations and public shows of defiance.
Hakeem also warned that resorting violence could have its own repercussions as well.
He explained that the danger in resorting to violence on one side is that there is a tendency on the other side to resort to violence as well.
“Such tendencies need to be restricted by the mature intervention by the top not to allow racial hatred to dictate the agenda,” he said.
Being heard
Given Hakeem’s maturity and sentiments of bringing reconciliation to post war Sri Lanka, the question that remains is whether his voice and opinions are being heard in the government.
When asked if he felt he was being heard in the government, Hakeem is confident that his voice is heard at the right times.
Referring to the Dambulla mosque issue, the SLMC leader said the message has sunk in.
“We must also realise the limits of combative language and allow things to de-escalate,” he said.
He noted that members of the government were aware of the consequences of issues like the recent incident in Dambulla could have on the country.
“There is realisation that this issue has a tendency to polarise communities and therefore the best option would be to allow things to settle down for a while,” Hakeem observed.
“Time is a great healer!”
Confidence in reconciliation be that as it may, the main challenge before the government of which Hakeem is a member of is to bring about reconciliation.
Even three years after the end of the war, reconciliation still seems distant.
Hakeem however seems quite confident that the current administration headed by President Rajapaksa could bring about reconciliation.
He pointed out that the issue is that the country has not had a leader with such an overwhelming mandate particularly from the South, who has the capacity to market a reasonable compromise.
He observed that both Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and J. R. Jayewardana had squandered such opportunities since they hibernated for a long time.
“History tells us that economic prosperity is possible only when there is a strong climate of law and order where rule of law prevails.”
The SLMC Leader noted that in the post conflict situation, this government can exploit the prevailing conditions to maximise investment opportunities and with a massive development drive could take the country forward if a genuine attempt is made to resolve the contentious issues that remain particularly that of a political settlement.
Hakeem is currently engaged in an endeavor to get the TNA back to the negotiating table with the government in order to persuade the party to participate in the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to formulate the final political solution to the national question.
“I’m now making an attempt to talk to the TNA and the government to try and break this deadlock and create a win-win situation where the TNA could be persuaded to engage the government and to participate in the parliamentary select committee process,” he said.
He believes that the inhibitions on both sides could be overcome with some simple confidence building assurances.
Nevertheless, he says that it is too early to comment on any possibility of a success, since he has just begun to listen to TNA’s side of the story.
“I’m confident that their misgivings could be resolved by having a broader framework agreed upon. The trajectory of the talks thereafter will have to be managed by the stakeholders through consensus and where that is not possible, at least by reaching a majority consensus,” Hakeem said.
It was with a never give up attitude that he observed that the only option available when negotiations break down is more negotiations and nothing else.
Reaching the end of the discussion, Hakeem said on a positive note that he is reasonably confident that the current impasse on the path to reconciliation could be brought to an end.

45.                      Ayodhya and Dambulla: The situation in Sri Lanka is entirely different from India

12 May 2012, 11:25 pm ,

by Patali Champika Ranawaka
Was the JHU directly involved in the attempt to remove the Dambulla mosque?
This was the question posed to me by an Indian journalist who contacted me recently. I answered in the negative. His next question was whether the JHU would go in a procession and tear down the mosque in Dambulla in the same way that the Barathiya Janatha Party (BJP) tore down the Barbary Mosque in Ayodhya, which it claimed was the birthplace of God Rama.
I told him no.

I explained that the JHU’s stance was that the prayer hall in question had been built without obtaining permission from either the Ministry of Religious Affairs or the Urban Development Authority. I take great care when answering questions posed by Indian journalists now.

This is because some comments I made regarding the Koodankulam nuclear power plant were taken out of context by some of these same journalists, leading to a major diplomatic incident.
What I told a (local) media institution was that Sri Lanka and India needed a common mechanism for disaster management in the event of an accident occurring at the plant, and that there were three conventions in this regard, which have been approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
I told them that Sri Lanka would attempt to take forward discussions on this proposal with India at the next IAEA session in Vienna. It was reported by the local media institution that Sri Lanka was presenting a resolution to the Vienna sessions regarding signing an agreement with India!
This was later picked up by the Times of India, which claimed that Sri Lanka was going to present a resolution against India’s Koodankulam power plant at the Vienna session, and this was being done as a response to India’s vote against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva!
This resulted in many Tamil Nadu politicians such as Karunanidhi making thundering statements that Sri Lanka had no right to meddle in India’s internal affairs. These politicians, who speak of the rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka, forget that there are daily eight hour power cuts in Tamil Nadu, whereas the Tamil people in this country get 24 hour electricity.
They also conveniently forget that those displaced by terrorism in Sri Lanka were provided electricity free of charge, and that this is not the case in Tamil Nadu
The Indian parliamentary delegation that visited Sri Lanka recently also made various statements. On the one hand, what they see when travelling from the South to the North is how the 30-year long war had taken development in Jaffna and the Vanni back by decades. Thus, the initial impression would be that Tamil people in the North had been neglected.
When I spoke to Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who accompanied the Indian delegation, I advised him to also enlighten them about ethnic Tamil enclaves that exist in Sinhala majority areas such as Mattakkuliya, Wellawatta, Dehiwala, and Wattala. Comparing Marine Drive in Wellawatta with the Paranthan–Puthumathalan road will enlighten people as to how the Tamil community, which lived in Sinhala majority areas benefited from development schemes run by the Sri Lankan government, whereas those living in fear under the guns of the LTTE, were subjected to a very different fate.
This would enable anyone to understand that it was Tiger terrorism, and not pressure from the Sri Lankan government and certainly not some so-called racism practiced by the Sinhalese, that brought such suffering on the Tamil community.
Where Western diplomats, some Indian politicians and media, along with some of our own intellectuals and journalists have gone wrong is that they look at Sri Lanka’s issue from an Indian perspective. Some believe ethnic and religious riots, which take place in India are also common in Sri Lanka. They think Sri Lanka also practices India’s highly degrading caste system.
They liken the Maoist movement, popular among tribal peoples in India, to the JVP in Sri Lanka. On one occasion, former President J.R. Jayawardena likened the SLFP’s ‘Vijaya Group’ to the ‘Naxalites’ in India. As such, Indians claim we need a governing system along the lines of India’s political model.
I told the Indian journalist who posed the question about Dambulla that Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka do not behave the same way as the BJP, along with Hindus and Muslims, behaved in India. The JHU emphasized that the Dambulla issue was one for the government.
On April 16, 1981, then Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa gazetted the Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara urban development area. On June 28, 1984, then Minister of Lands Gamini Dissanayake brought these lands under the government. On March 24, 1994, Minister Sirisena Cooray took steps to redevelop the Dambulla sacred area. It was this situation that the Asgiri maha nayaka thera and chief incumbent of Dambulla Raja Maha Viharaya tried to explain.
Yet, some opportunists attempted to portray this as Sri Lanka’s version of Ayodhya. Another group tried to make this the first shot fired in anger during the upcoming Eastern provincial council elections. However, the Buddhist and Muslim communities were far more intelligent than they believed to accept such statements.
I also told this Indian journalist that the situation in Sri Lanka is entirely different from India. The Indian Express once carried a news report detailing how in 1984, as many as 3000 persons were killed due to anti-Sikh riots, which erupted after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by one of her own Sikh bodyguards.
However, not a single Tamil was harmed even after Tamil racism led to the assassinations of eminent personalities such as President Ranasinghe Premadasa and Opposition Leader Gamini Dissanayake, along with the attempted assassination of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
The riots of July 1983 occurred as the then government did not enforce the law. It was more a case of a complete breakdown in law and order. If not, we would not see so many Tamils back in Colombo and suburbs within a few months of the disturbances.
Meanwhile, TNA’s Mavai Senathirajah has apologised to the Tamil people for party leader R. Sambanthan’s decision to hoist the Lion flag at the joint UNP-TNA May Day rally in Jaffna. Mano Ganeshan however, has praised him for the gesture. It is encouraging to see Sambanthan embracing the national flag and national anthem.
The national flag and anthem also won approval from Tamil leaders including G.G. Ponnambalam in 1948. The TNA should be realistic even at this late stage. It must accept the fact that the dream of Eelam they saw in 1970 died with Prabhakaran. However, some hardcore separatists and extremists in Tamil Nadu still cling onto this dream.
This is akin to the dream still held by some living overseas of establishing a “Khalistan” in Punjab. It would become much easier for us to work for the upliftment of the Tamil people if the TNA accepted this fact. However, we must also be willing to come forward to undertake this endeavor with or without the TNA. courtesy: The