Minister Rishad Bathiudeen (far right) addresses staff after re-assuming duties as State Minister Buddhika Pathirana (far left), and Ministry Secretary Ranjith Ashoka (second from left) and other top officials look on
Sri Lankan business chambers have failed to stand with Muslim-owned small and medium-sized enterprises at their darkest hour, a leading Muslim politician in the country said yesterday.
“It was very sad for me to see the silence of the Chamber of Commerce as the backlash on Muslim-owned businesses raged,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on July 30 at his ministry.
Making his first official address after re-assuming duties in the same portfolio, Bathiudeen lashed out at Ceylon Chamber of Commerce for keeping mum when various communal elements openly encouraged local consumers not to buy anything from Muslim-owned businesses in the aftermath of Easter Sunday attacks.
“The chamber should have come out and openly voiced that no one should take such revenge actions on Muslim-owned businesses as a response to the barbaric actions of terrorists like Zahran,” noted Bathiudeen. “You all know there was violence in places like Kurunegala, Hettipola and Minuwangoda where 29 mosques were damaged and so many Muslim-owned businesses were destroyed leaving those families depending on the businesses also destitute,” he added.
On May 14, communal violence spread in the North-Western Province damaging mostly Muslim-owned businesses and SMEs.
The Ceylon Chamber recently was at the receiving end of harsh criticism from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over the business chamber’s call for more transparency regarding several agreements the government intends to sign with the US government, which are deemed controversial.
Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama also recently lashed out at Ceylon Chamber for being selective in their advocacy.