Anti-Muslim attacks question security coordination

16 May 2019 12:22 am - 22     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Tears in the eyes of the families mourning the loss of Easter Sunday terror victims had not dried up when Sri Lankans heard that another group of citizens- Muslims- had come under attack by angry mobs on Monday (May 13).  The mob attacks were reported mainly in Kuliyapitya and Minuwangoda areas. In a brutal retaliation over the involvement of the ISIS terrorists and a group of local extremist Muslims in the Easter attacks, the mobs created havoc in Minuwangoda where around 41 shops were vandalised. Apart from that 4 houses and four vehicles owned by Muslims along with  Minuwangoda Jumma Mosque were also destroyed. According to eyewitnesses, the mobs who arrived on motorbikes were armed with rods and swords. “They have not only vandalised our shops and houses, but also looted money,” villagers complained. Police arrested 23 people for inciting violence against Muslims. Yet, the affected people alleged that the authorities were doing little to disperse crowds when the mobs continued with the attacks going from village to village.

 

Lack of planning by security forces?

Intelligence sources at the scene of destruction told the Dailymirror that the attacks could have been prevented if there was proper security coordination and if the commands were given to take action at the right place at the right time. Meanwhile, Muslim businessmen speaking to the Dailymirror claimed that they had informed the police to increase security in Minuwangoda area in fear of retaliation; which originally started in Chilaw on Sunday (May 12). Their pleas went unheeded as the authorities had allegedly turned a blind eye to their request until the attacks took place in Minuwangoda and Kuliyapitiya which ultimately made the authorities to send army buffels and commandos to the area. 


According to eyewitnesses, what is more distressing and questionable is that the attacks in certain areas had taken place while armed forces were in the vicinity. The co-owner of the most famous all-night eatery in the Minuwangoda town -- Fawz Hotel, T. I. Isham, blamed the police for failing to disperse the crowd. “The police were watching. They were doing little to disperse crowds,” he said.


Industry and Commerce Minister, Rishad Bathiudeen who made a visit to the Minuwangoda Jumma Mosque on Tuesday (May 14) and met with the villagers heavily criticised the forces for failing to prevent the attacks and pleaded with the Government to take the security issue seriously.


“Mobs attacked shops and the mosque in the presence of the armed forces and police. All what people expect from the army is the security for their lives. Those who attacked these innocent Muslims are similar to the terrorists who blew themselves up on Easter Day. How ridiculous is it to attack innocent families who survive on the income from their own small businesses in retaliation for the terror attacks carried out by the ISIS? Is this what they call humanity?” Bathiudeen asked.

Minister Rishad Bathiudeen visiting Minuwangoda Jumma Mosque on Tuesday

 

Those who attacked these innocent Muslims are similar to the terrorists who blew themselves up on Easter Day. Mobs attacked shops and the mosque in the presence of the armed forces and police 
- Minister Rishad Bathiudeen

 


What mobs couldn’t destroy 

The Fawz Hotel on Airport Road, dating back to 1970s, is known to be a ‘must visit’ for patrons travelling to and from the airport. The owners of the Fawz Hotel are the main contributors for annual Vesak pandals in Minuwangoda town as well. According to Isham, his shop had come under attack twice.


“After the first group of attackers arrived around 6.15 pm, MP Edward Gunasekara along with the police came to inspect the damages to our shop. It was minutes after they had left that the people who were watching, while the MP was talking to us, suddenly started attacking the shop. We had no option, but to run for our lives,” Isham described the incident. While the shops in Minuwangoda town, with banners of Muslim names including Mohideen and Fawz, had turned into ashes, shops with banners such as Nimalee and Jayanthi were seen unharmed. Among all the negative stories being reported on the communal harmony of Sri Lankans, the incident, where Isham and other employees at the Fawz Hotel were provided with shelter in a house, belonging to a Sinhala family show that however ugly racism raises its head, the core values of peace-loving Sri Lankans still exist.


“Until the attackers left the scene, a Sinhala family sheltered us, showing how deep our relationships between the communities have been over the past,” said Isham.

 

Flames of racism destroyed Sinhalese shops too

Chandima is the owner of Ekko – the largest textiles shop in Minuwangoda town. Owned by this Sinhala Buddhist lady, the shop employed Muslim workers as well. The mobs attacked the front door of Ekko, but did not set it on fire. Nevertheless, the shop was caught on fire. The fire damaged all the stocks prepared to be sold till August as the adjourning Muslim-owned shops were fuming fire. 

 

“The attackers are so stupid to attack shops and land the country’s economy in problems. The loss of my shop would be more than 20 million. The destruction could have been minimised, but the Fire Brigade came hours later than expected,” said Chandima.


Meanwhile, Islamophobic graffiti were found on the gate of a Muslim-owned pasta factory -- Diamonds -- which was reduced to ashes. Some parts of the factory were still on fire even when the  made a visit to the area on Tuesday.


Fifty-seven-year-old M.H.J.P.Perera has operated a glass shop in Burulapitiya for the past 10 years. His family is  Roman Catholic except his daughter who is married to a Muslim; which is why he now thinks their family business – the glass shop – was attacked by the mobs. “About twenty motorcycles were outside my shop. When they started attacking, I shouted saying ‘I am Sinhalese. Please do not attack.’ My pleas went unheeded as the mobs continued destroying my property,” he said.


 
Outsiders had the support of locals

The affected families firmly believe that the majority of the goons travelled from nearby areas to carry out the attacks, with the support of a few locals. Isham of the Fawz Hotel said that he noticed several familiar faces among the mob that attacked his shop. “Although everyone said the attackers were outsiders, I could recognise a group of men, those who had even eaten from our restaurant, leading the mob,” he said.


Isham has complained to the police regarding a suspected theft of money in the cashier, lockers of the shop and inside his jeep parked nearby. 

 

“The CCTV shows them entering my shop and pulling out the DVR wire which disconnected the CCTV. About Rs. 85, 000 in the cashier and Rs. 200, 000 in the lockers has been stolen. About Rs.  300, 000 of foreign currency kept inside my jeep is missing too,” Isham said.


It was not even a month since Mohomed Nijabdeen from Galloluwa obtained a loan to buy a freezer and opened a meat shop adjoining his house. He is devastated as his only source of income was jeopardized. “I had just closed my chicken shop to finish fasting. My wife was serving us food when we heard shouts and noises. Our gates have been cut with swords. We didn’t go outside. My grandchildren stayed tethered to their mother for safety,” he said. 

 

When would this end? How should we end this?


Rev. Fr Dudley Saparamadu from Burulapitiya stressed that there is nothing logical about condemning innocent Muslims for the actions of a few. “Everyone who is responsible for these attacks should stop using people’s lives to get their own political agendas and purposes fulfilled. All lives matter regardless of faith or race,” he said. Muslims in Sri Lanka are now finding themselves in limbo, distancing themselves from the terrorist attacks, while bracing for attacks against their own communities. Since the goal of terrorists is to divide the country, it is incumbent on Sri Lankans of all faiths and backgrounds to frustrate that objective by standing united in the face of terror.

 

Everyone who is responsible for these attacks should stop using people’s lives to get their own political agendas and purposes fulfilled. All lives matter regardless of faith or race
- Rev. Fr Dudley Saparamadu

 

Experts opine that terrible things that have been done in Sri Lanka and many parts of the world in the names of religions or faiths were results of forces like greed, hatred and fear for which religious beliefs are themselves the best remedy. Unfortunately, religion is being used as the perfect immunity to outbreaks of reasonableness in the public discourse. What did we learn from the war that lasted for nearly 30 years ? What did we learn from the Gintota, Kandy and Ampara communal clashes? What have we done to bring about policy reforms to these issues? 


Our world is fast succumbing to the activities of people who are staking a claim for the future as the next generation while being extremists and racists. Unfortunately for the Sri Lankan Muslim community – less than 10% of the population – this isn’t the first time they have dealt with such a hostile backlash. In fact, it will likely continue unless immediate action is taken. 

A Catholic priest taking photographs of Fawz Hotel, Minuwangoda which was attacked

Pix by Pradeep Pathirana and Lahiru Harshana

  Comments - 22

  • CITIZEN Thursday, 16 May 2019 06:46 AM

    It was without doubts a failure of Sri Lankan military and forces. Every attack happened during curfew. Videos show how forces watch while this mayhem unfolded.

    sivkumaran sivaguru Thursday, 16 May 2019 08:04 AM

    Let us assume there are no Tamils or Muslims in this country. Will the racial riot will continue? Of cause it will continue by selecting some groups among the sinhalese. This is sick!!

    Balthazaar Thursday, 16 May 2019 07:17 AM

    True. We are now finding ourselves in limbo, distancing ourselves from the terrorist attacks, while bracing for attacks against our own communities. Losing old Sinhalese friends..Being subject to discrimination...will become normal for us.

    Edrisinghe Thursday, 16 May 2019 07:32 AM

    Well said reporter. Hats off for the true informations. Hoping for a peaceful Sri Lanka. The innocent Muslims are patient as Islam teaches peace and patient. If they take revenge Sri Lanka won't survive. But Muslims are peaceful communities not a foolish and stupid to damage properties like those mobs.

    Andrew Silva Thursday, 16 May 2019 08:19 AM

    It appears the security forces are muddled up like the politicians

    Terrence Thursday, 16 May 2019 08:59 AM

    These are terrorist acts committed by persons and the law should apply in confiscating the properties,wealth etc of these perpetrators similar to the way the Police applied in confiscating the properties of the terrorists who bombed our Christian Churches Hotels etc and use these monies for the reconstruction of the properties destroyed and damaged and these terrorists should be dealt severely under the law which will be a deterrent for future incidents of this nature. Always terrorists are not concerned about his other human beings since governments come forward in restoring these properties etc. and the funds are obtained by taxing the people .

    Lord Wolfstein Thursday, 16 May 2019 09:50 AM

    Religions have only brought misery on humanity. From the persecution of Christians in the Roman empire to the constant persecution of the Jews through the millennia, the crusades and witch-burnings to Belfast and ISIS. Murder and torture always took place in the name of the same god. This trend has also joined the Buddhists and Hindus. As an atheist, I argue that religions have created only to enslave and oppress people in order to give power and wealth to an elite. Karl Marx commented correctly: "Religion is the opium of the people".

    telegraph Thursday, 16 May 2019 01:49 PM

    " question security coordination" or security cooperation by some of its members.

    Irfan Ghouse Thursday, 16 May 2019 04:14 PM

    Hope you are all good and well. I'm a Sri Lankan Muslim living and working in the UK for the past 20 years. My beloved wife is Buddhist. We were shocked, appalled and utterly devastated for what happened on Easter Sunday. It genuinely brought tears. We both grew up in Sri Lanka during the height and might of the LTTE. Why can't we all live in peace? Political decisions and actions promote terrorism and civil unrest. They will always try their utmost to divide communities and to create civil unrest to benefit their darker motives. Have a moment and think? If we all lived in peace and harmony would we need politicians?

    James Campbell Thursday, 16 May 2019 04:23 PM

    As a man from Northern Ireland, I grew up among sectarian violence and as a regular visitor to Sri Lanka it breaks my heart to see this starting in such a beautiful country. It is now that the people of Sri Lanka need to stand together for PEACE. Stand together for the future of your country. UNITY IN DIVERSITY IS THE STRENGTH OF SRI LANKA

    Samir Citizen Friday, 17 May 2019 02:10 AM

    This is taking the country backwards in terms of development and safety of people. Hope all can take this situation seriously and handle it with a little bit of patience

    Christopher Friday, 17 May 2019 03:58 AM

    I've been to fawz hotel once.It gives the impression that you are in an eatery located in an arabic country.Arabic lettering was all over the place

    decentgent Friday, 17 May 2019 10:58 AM

    Immediately identify and arrest these attackers and jail them for life, confiscate their assets and help victims repair their shops n dwellings. This has happened during curfew hours. What were security forces doing and watching when this mob was going on rampage? MP Jayasekera should be questioned why he was shielding the culprits.

    Kumara Saturday, 18 May 2019 11:16 PM

    Please dont follow any discrimination..those muslims are innocent. Be helpful to them in return they will be helpful. If we behave with them good they will behave good with us."surely good will return only good".

    MODA BURUWA Sunday, 19 May 2019 08:32 PM

    I feel sorry for this gentleman in the photo above BUT all this started by his own community in the name of the religion they follow .

    SN Monday, 20 May 2019 12:36 PM

    Unless proper Law

    SN Monday, 20 May 2019 12:45 PM

    Thanks for the article

    shawn@ Saturday, 25 May 2019 10:20 PM

    Be patience brothers and sisters

    ra Sunday, 26 May 2019 05:06 AM

    history repeats itself. behaviour of the past is behaviour of present and future. If anyone could examine the riots against minority in Sri Lanka, they would not get surprised. we can only get surprised if there is not riots against minority in Sri Lanka after any incidents like Easter Sunday

    World Sunday, 26 May 2019 12:26 PM

    People of Sri Lanka, just leave religious difference a side and think as a country. If there is no justice, law and order in this land, there will be no peace or development to this country. The politicians want unrest to keep people mind busy.

    rara Tuesday, 28 May 2019 04:49 AM

    I am not a Muslim but I like to have a public inquiry about these riots. This inquiry should find those ignored or supported violence. if found guilty, they should be punished regardless of their ranks.

    SECURITY LOOKING THE OTHER SIDE Friday, 31 May 2019 02:19 PM

    NOT security coordination - BUT security IN ACTION


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