The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka wishes to express its deep concern and dismay at the recent violent events that took place in the town of Theldeniya and its surroundings over the past couple of days.
We wish to express our deep sorrow at the loss of human life caused by this cycle of religious intolerance and hatred orchestrated by certain prejudiced and violent elements in the country.
According to preliminary investigations carried out by the Human Rights Commission, it is observed that the Muslim and Sinhala communities in Digana, the area in which the tragic death of a person occurred due to the incident on 22nd February, appear to co-exist amicably and peacefully. The violence appears to be instigated by external elements in an organized manner causing communal division, death and destruction of property.
The Commission notes that the most recent cycle of violence based on religious intolerance is symptomatic of a series of similar incidents of hatred based violence that we have witnessed since the Aluthgama riots that took place in 2014. The more recent examples of religious violence took place in Gintota (in the South) and Ampara (in the East). In such instances a random incident appears to spark off sectarian violence with the involvement of outside elements. So also in the current spate of violence in the Theldeniya Town and surrounding areas. These sporadic incidents of violence are also occurring in the backdrop of sustained hate campaigning against certain religious groups on social media.
Hence, we call on you to take decisive action under the law to bring to book elements which are responsible for instigating religious hatred and violence in the Kandy District and also in other areas. We emphasize the need to take action not only against those who directly participate in such violence, but in particular, against those who instigate and provide organizational strength for such violence.
In this regard we wish to urge the Government to take action against such elements under section 3 of the International Covenant, on Civil and Political Rights Act No. 56 of 2007 which recognizes that anyone who propagates war or advocates national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence or aids or abets such acts is guilty of an offence.
The Commission is firmly of the view that if swift and decisive action is not taken against those responsible for sectarian violence, such incidents will not only continue but will escalate.
- Dr. N. D. Udagama
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
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