xternal Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has said that there had been a “campaign” behind the riots that took place in Aluthgama, Beruwala and Welipenna on June 15 and 16 which has had as its aim the weakening or destabilising the Government. He had told this during a meeting with the Colombo based Ambassadors and High Commissioners of Muslim countries which had been convened in order for the Minister to explain the causes of the riots and the actions that had been taken by the Government to quell them and restore normalcy.He did not describe the cause of the riots as a conspiracy, but used the word “campaign” instead.
The Minster had told the heads of diplomatic missions of Muslim countries “this campaign has two aspects. In its internal dimension, it is a direct attempt to alienate the Muslim community from the Government. The external expression of this campaign has as its objective the purpose of driving a wedge between Sri Lanka and the Muslim countries, with a view to weakening our country in the international forums. The skillfully conceived and coordinated character of the campaign is apparent and substantial funding as well as other forms of material support from foreign sources is also in evidence.”
This was the first and the only occasion where the Government had disclosed this campaign in spite of the fact that the tension between several Buddhist organisations and the Muslims is about two years old and the conspiracy seems to be extremely serious. It seems that the said campaign is primarily aimed at the toppling of the incumbent Government, or regime change. However, the Minister stopped short of exposing the conspirators, for reasons known only to the relevant authorities.
However, the Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Manisha Gunasekara, an official serving under the same Minister, exercising a Right of Reply in responses to references made by Germany, Canada and Norway during the General Debate at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last month attributed the riots to a different situation. She said “On June 12, a Buddhist monk was assaulted by three Muslim youths, following a dispute. On June15, the Buddhist monk was proceeding to the temple accompanied by some other monks and lay persons, when stones were thrown at the group as they were passing the Mosque in Dharga Town. This incident led to the violence, which spread to Beruwala by June 16.”
Although one may argue that the Minister had given the bigger picture of the situation and the Ms. Gunasekara had presented only the immediate cause of the violence, another also might contend that Government had presented two versions to suit the occasions which seem to be contradictory.
When considering the two forums in which the Minister and the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN gave reasons for the violence, one can also contend that they should have swapped their versions. It is the UNHRC that deserves the Minister’s version or the conspiracy theory as it was the forum in which Sri Lanka had been told through two US sponsored resolutions adopted in two consecutive years to take action to stop the attacks on the religious minorities. On the other hand Ms. Gunasekara’s version is more appropriate to be presented before the envoys of Muslim countries, with or without that of the Minister.
The conspiracy theory is not new. Minister Wimal Weerawansa too has been talking for more than one year about a conspiracy which has the same dual purpose - alienation of Muslims from the Government and driving a wedge between the Government and the Muslim countries. But he is too blunt in putting it as a conspiracy for regime change and describing it as one funded by Norwegians.
Minister Peiris’s version on a “campaign” against the Government has to be taken as the official version of the Government.
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