Pro-govt civil society criticises govt, accuses opposition of inciting violence

A group of civil society activists who were instrumental in bringing the current administration to power in 2015 yesterday (21) criticised the United National Front (UNF)-led Government for its inability to prevent the Easter attacks, while also berating the main Opposition for its alleged role in inciting communal violence.

Organised by the Civil Society and Trade Unions Collective, speakers at the event included such vociferous critics of the Rajapaksas as Ven. Dambara Amila Thero, Dr. Chandraguptha Thenuwara, National Peace Council Executive Director Jehan Perera, NSSP leader Vickramabahu Karunaratne and Centre for Policy Alternatives Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu.

Conceding that civil society does have legitimate criticisms of the Government, Dr. Thenuwara said it has no confidence in the no-confidence motions filed against both MP Rishad Bathidueen and the entire Government.

“The Government is acting like it has no power. If there is no power, obtain it. This is what Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe doesn’t seem to understand,” he said, charging that Wickremesinghe aims to “please everyone”.

Puravasi Balaya convenor Saman Rathnapriya recalled that, pre-1983, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) had a handful of members, whose membership grew by leaps and bounds following the communal violence that erupted in the south in July that year.

In a fiery speech, Rathnapriya accused the Sri Lanka Podujana Party of playing politics with the attacks. He also alleged that the previous Government, on the orders of the then defence secretary had secured the release of Easter bombings mastermind Zahran Hisham when he had been arrested for a previous episode.

Ven. Amila Thero, meanwhile, espousing the importance of coexistence, said boycotting Muslim owned businesses does not make sense in a largely capitalist economy such as Sri Lanka’s where ethnic divisions don’t or at least shouldn’t affect the bottomline.

The end result is that the economy as a whole would be affected, he said.

The monk, who is a lecturer of archeology at the Sri Jayawardenapura University, also noted the futility of what he called forced coexistence where religious minorities feel compelled to participate in the rituals of the majority religion for fear of being labelled unpatriotic.

“There is no need to hide your identity for a false sense of coexistence,” he said.

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Referring to a controversial remark made by Minister Mangala Samaraweera recently that Sri Lanka is not a Sinhala Buddhist country, Amila Thero said there was no need to antagonise the former on speaking an objective truth that is based on statistics.

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