The crisis waiting to happen during the past few days in May fizzled out into what turned out to be an anti-climax with the Ven. Athurelue Tathana Thera calling off his much-hyped ‘fast unto death’ after Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, the two provincial governors M.L.A.M. Hizbullah and Asath Salley resigned from their posts.
Although the fasting monk had demanded the resignations of the Minister and the Eastern and Western Province Governors, what he had not bargained for or what the country least expected was the solidarity expressed by the unprecedented resignations of four Muslim Ministers Rauf Hakeem, Kabir Hashim, M.H.A. Haleem and Rishad Bathiudeen; State Ministers Ali Zahir Maulana, Faizal Cassim, H.M.M. Haris and Ameer Ali and Deputy Minister Abdullah Mahroof. In a way these resignations also took the wind out of the sails of mischief-makers waiting for an opportunity to create more chaos and mayhem while the bottom fell out of the no-confidence motion (NCM) against Rishad Bathiudeen who had denied all the charges levelled against him in the NCM.
At a well-attended news conference held at Temple Trees soon after their resignation, they said they were resigning to ease the simmering crisis situation and to provide the space to the law enforcement agencies to carry out their investigations without fear or favour.
“The Muslim population has been terrified over the past two days,” former urban development, water supply and drainage minister Rauff Hakeem said. “We urge the government to expedite any inquiries so that we will be vindicated from these allegations. If any of us are found guilty, they should be punished.”
He said they would support the government ensuring its survival while remaining as backbench MPs, but that its survival would depend on the conduct of a thorough and impartial investigation so that justice could be meted to all stakeholders.
As if all this was not enough, the Ven. Galabodaaththe Gnanasara Thera speaking to the media on June 2 threatened to create a countrywide ‘sanakeli’ or pandemonium if the government failed to remove the ‘controversial’ Muslim politicians from Parliament.
Against this background considering the gravity of the situation and in efforts to mitigate the fallout from the crisis if it prolongs any further, the Maha Sangha representing the three Nikayas held a special meeting in Kandy where they expressed regret over the resignation of the Muslim ministers, state ministers, the deputy minister and requested them to resume their duties and fulfil their responsibilities to the country and the people.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has proposed the setting up of a Religious Reconciliation Board comprising members nominated by religious leaders to resolve various inter-religious issues that crop up from time to time and said legislation would be introduced soon to set up such a board after discussions with the Mahanayaka Theras and other religious leaders.
“It is essential to resolve the issues that have surfaced after the Easter Sunday bomb attacks and handover this task to the religious leaders,” he said.
How long can we continue in this fashion. The Easter Sunday carnage had not only badly damaged religious amity in this country but had also severely dented our economy with a beating delivered to the tourism industry which is a mainstay of our economy. Even though several countries had lifted their travel advisories on Sri Lanka, we need to build-up or uplift the confidence level of tourists who are a tangible and visible segment of the industry.
But the events such as what we saw in Kandy last week were not going to help much because if the situation got out of hand, the repercussions would have been even more bedlam and turmoil than the nightmare we experienced on April 21 and on May 13 and 14. We speak so much of reconciliation and communal amity and have been continuing to do so since the war ended on May 17, 2009. But have we progressed much further in this regard other than moving two steps forward and three steps back. How effective is the writ of the government if it allows individuals, whoever they maybe, to hold the government and by extension the entire country to ransom while our leaders are excelling in the art of spewing empty rhetoric and muddying the waters spreading more confusion, which is taking the country and the people nowhere; prompting peace-loving Sri Lankans to ask, ‘what on earth is happening to this country’.