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March 14, 2018

Council of SL Muslim Organizations in UK (Cosmos-UK)
Council of SL Muslim Organizations in UK (Cosmos-UK), an umbrella organization of twenty six SL Muslim organizations in UK, wish to convey the deep sentiments of the Sri Lankan Muslim communities based in various parts of the UK, who are gravely concerned about the destiny and fate of their families and co-religionists in their motherland Sri Lanka who continue to live in a climate of fear, hostility, insecurity and widespread attacks on mosques and businesses experienced by them, despite Sri Lanka's 'Yahapalana' (Good Governance) Government's (elected to power in 2015) widely publicized policy of promoting national reconciliation and building an amicable environment where all communities can live as equal citizens. These unfortunate and unhealthy developments have not only led to the gross violation of their constitutional rights to enjoy and practice their religion and culture, but also adversely affected the peaceful relationship which has prevailed between the Muslims and Sinhalese for over 1000 years, especially in the Post-war context.

Particularly, in the last few weeks, Muslims specially in the Eastern Province as well in the Central and surrounding provinces were subjected to a cycle of mortal fear psychosis as a result of a well-orchestrated hate campaign and hate attacks carried out by thugs and goons and organized by hate groups and movements with Sinhala Buddhist labels and extremist agendas. In February 2018, Ampara, in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, a mini-riot was waged by racist goons with clear signs of meticulous pre-planning, on the excuse of a sterilization pill which a customer supposedly found in a curry (or a kottu) purchased from a Muslim-owned eatery-later proved to an unfounded and unsubstantiated charge. The main culprits were reportedly let free due to the bias of the Police. Later, this month, in Digana area, in the Central Province close to Kandy, a personal road rage incident was exploited and was projected as a racist attack in the social media and once again racist goons took to the streets armed with clubs, swords and knives in organized groups and formations widely thought as pre-planned to extract revenge from the whole community.

Despite many representations made to the government and the law enforcement authorities specially the Police to nip this in the bud, the action taken was far below the expectations and even when taken was too little and too late. This space and 'dragging of feet', allowed the hate groups and goons to have a free hand to operate without fear or sanction who attacked defenseless Muslims mercilessly and also set on fire many of their business premises and Mosques. An innocent Muslim youth too died out of severe burn injuries suffered during an arson attack. There were also allegations of STF/ Police conniving with the attackers, which has harmed the confidence of the Muslim community on the law enforcement process.

It is disturbing that this kind of misinformed display of hate has been tolerated for this long in Sri Lankan mainstream society, although few decades ago, these sorts of sentiments would have been unacceptable and would have been easily identified as fringe positions that have no real support within the larger community. Further, it is important to note that the demonizing of Tamils too occurred in a similar manner. It should not be forgotten that it is a combination of the fear mongering and violence of July 1983 and the unleashing of state terror that escalated the Tamil struggle into one of the most costly wars of Sri Lankan history, and the country is still trying to heal the wounds of those years of conflict let alone recover from them. Thus, this preoccupation with yet another form of otherness arising from anti Muslim hate will be inviting a sure disaster. Another matter for regret has been that although the Post war period presented an opportunity for Sri Lanka to embrace the richness of its' diverse cultural identities, the Post-war governments through their sheer inaction appear to allow a xenophobic minority to define the nature of Post War Sri Lanka. It was however a positive development that many intellectuals and civic bodies as well as many leading Monks and Sinhala professionals have spoke out against this racist cancer and prevailed upon the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to take prompt action. Already COSMOS has written to the President and the PM and also met the High Commissioner in London to make representations and convey the community's concerns.

COSMOS therefore calls upon the GoSL, along with many civic minded organizations in UK and Sri Lanka committed to peace in Sri Lanka, to protect the just aspirations and the due rights of all Sri-Lankans in general, irrespective of their racial and religious differences (including all minorities), as per its' obligations under the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also the provisions of the Constitution of the country. COSMOS also calls upon GoSL to impress upon the law enforcement authorities to apply the law of the land without discrimination and arrest and deal with the culprits who have been responsible for committing many acts of wanton destruction, vandalism and indiscriminating attacks on places of worship and commercial establishments belonging to the Muslims who suffered immensely in the hands of the racist goons.

COSMOS also feels that there is also an imperative need to create a mechanism whereby religious leaders can meet and resolve contentious issues among the communities and also to promote positive peace and harmony among all sections of the Sri Lankan people, by stressing the multi ethnic and multi lingual character of the Sri Lankan nation and taking constructive measures to build a common Sri Lankan identity.

COSMOS will continue to monitor the emerging situation in Sri Lanka and work with relevant authorities and human rights organizations to ensure that the GoSL adheres to its' constitutional and international obligations. Report by: Liyas Abdul Wahid-General Secretary

Contact: COSMOS UK
Phone: +44 79 009 588 76
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