SRI LANKA: Concerned citizens’ statement against religious intolerance 

Dear friends,

We wish to share with you the following joint statement from non-governmental organisations and social activists based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Asian Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong

A Joint Statement from non-governmental organisations and social activists in Colombo, Sri Lanka forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

It is with great concern that we the undersigned protest against the growing trend of  increasing religious intolerance in Sri Lanka with regard to minority religions. We specifically condemn the recent violent attack on the Mosque in Dambulla by a group of anti social actors. The Hindu community has also been asked to move their temple from the vicinity. The Dambulla Khairya Jummah Mosque had been in existence for over 60 years and the mosque trustees have legal documents regarding its construction. On Friday the 20th of April 2012 a tense situation arose as regular Friday prayer at the Mosque was prevented by a gang led by Buddhist monks who claimed that it was an illegal construction. The group stated that both the Mosque and Hindu shrine were built on sacred Buddhist ground. It is further regrettable that law enforcement authorities could not take appropriate action to stop the forceful entry into the mosque and the intimidation of the community.

On the 23rd after a discussion with the Buddhist monks deputy minister Hizbullah made a public announcement to the media that the monks have agreed to give three months to identify alternative land and relocate the Mosque. However the very affected members of the community have not been part of this discussion and are still unable to express their opinion freely. While we are in support of reaching a solution through negotiations with the Muslim community, we would like to stress that any decision taken on this issue should not be unjust towards the minority communities in the context of post-war Sri Lanka.

The mosque has been in existence for over 60 years and the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim persons in the region had been living together in a spirit of amity for decades, if not centuries. Yet, today we see that that religious intolerance is on the rise and the state has done little to check this. The incident in Dambulla is not an isolated one. Last year a Muslim shrine (Dargha) was destroyed in Anuradhapura.  In Ashraf Nagar the military has taken over land that belongs to 69 Muslim families, including land that was allotted for a Muslim burial ground. In Illangaithurai Muhathuwaram (now renamed Lanka Patuna) a Shivan shrine was removed and a Buddhist statue was built in its place. A group of Buddhist monks and people attacked the four Square Gospel Church in Kaluthara North last year. The Police have prevented the church from functioning claiming that it would lead to a breach peace. In Ambalangoda the Assembly of God church was attacked in February this year. A pastor in Kalutara was attacked and a house belonging to a Christian was vandalized by Buddhist monks alleging that the church was engaged in conversions. The police failed to frame charges against Buddhist monks. Recently the government has also tried to pass the Town and Country Planning bill which allows for religious land to also been acquired in municipal and urban areas for economic, social, historical, environmental or religious purposes.  Even though the bill has been challenged in court and withdrawn there is a move to bring the bill back as law through other avenues. Such acts increase the sense of insecurity that minorities in general feel in this as regards the practice of worship and co existence.

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious community in which religious acceptance and protection of religious and cultural rights and the freedom to practice their religion anywhere in the country is a basic tenet of the Constitution and a protection assured to all citizens.

We appeal to the President, state institutions and officials, and those in the executive to take appropriate action on the incident in Dambulla that serves to build confidence among minority communities in the state structure and mechanisms.  We strongly believe that the people of this country, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Christian and Burgher wish to live in harmony with each other. We also strongly believe that it is a marginal amount of people who take to violence in riding rough shod over the rights of others. We strongly urge the state to take measures to curb the growing trend of intolerance and to do its utmost to make minorities feel in every way people of this country. In the post war context this is of the utmost importance for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. We also appeal to religious and community leaders to initiate dialogue at all possible levels so that minority communities feel secure. We pledge our support for a pluralist Sri Lankan society.

1.    Affected Women’s Forum (Akkaraippattu)
2.    Association of War-Affected Women
3.    Centre for Human Resource Development (Viluthu)
4.    Centre for Human Rights and Development
5.    Centre for Mass Communication and Media (Mannar)
6.    Centre for Policy Alternatives
7.    Equal Ground
8.    Families of the Disappeared
9.    Human Rights office Kandy
10.    IMADR- Asia
11.    INFORM
12.    Jaffna Civil Society for Equality
13.    Lawyers for Democracy
14.    Mannar Women’s Development Federation
15.    Mothers and Daughters of Lanka
16.    Mullaitheevu Women Development and Rehabilitation Trust
17.    Muslim Women’s Trust – Puttalum
18.    Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum
19.    National Peace Council
20.    Red Flag Movement
21.    Right to Life Human Rights Center
22.    Rights Now Collective for Democracy
23.    Sakhi Collaboration
24.    Stand Up Movement
25.    Voluntary Service Development Organization
26.    Women’s Action Network
27.    Women and Media Collective
28.    A.L.M Bashir- NESAM, Nindavaur
29.    A.Perinpanayagam
30.    A.Rajasingam
31.    A.S.Mohamed Rayees
32.    Ashila Dandeniya
33.    A.W.A. Jihad (Muthur People’s Forum)
34.    Aliyar Hazarat  (Sammanthurai)
35.    Ameena Hussein
36.    Anberiya Hanifa
37.    Ann Jabbar
38.    B. Skanthakumar
39.    B.Gowthaman
40.    B.F. A. Basnayake
41.    Beryl Perera
42.    Bhavani Fonseka (Attorney-at-Law)
43.    Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe
44.    Brito Fernando
45.    C.De Silva
46.    Cayathri Divakalala
47.    Chandragupta Thenuwera
48.    Chathurika Senanayake
49.    Chulani Kodikara
50.    Damaris Wickremesekera
51.    Darshana Liyanage
52.    Dayapala Thiranagama
53.    Dileepa Witharana
54.    Dishani Jayaweera (Attorney-at-Law)
55.    Divakalala Sundaram
56.    Dr. Camena Guneratne
57.    Dr. D. H. S. Maithripala
58.    Dr. Danesh Karunanayake
59.    Dr. Dharmasena Pathiraja
60.    Dr. Farzana Haniffa
61.    Dr. Harini Amarasuriya
62.    Dr. Kumar David
63.    Dr. Liyanage Amarakeerthi
64.    Dr. M. Vethannathan (University of Jaffna)
65.    Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan (Point Pedro Institute of Development)
66.    Dr. Nishan de Mel
67.    Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuthu
68.    Dr. Philip Setunga
69.    Dr. Philip Setunga
70.    Dr. Ranil D. Guneratne
71.    Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe
72.    Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran
73.    Dr. Shamala Kumar
74.    Dr. Sumathy Sivamohan
75.    Dr. T. Jayasingam
76.    Dushi Kanapathipillai
77.    Ethayarani
78.    Faizun Zackariya
79.    Francis Devarani (Ampara)
80.    Fr. Nandana Manatunga
81.    Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
82.    Fr. Nandana Manatunga ( Human Rights Office Kandy)
83.    Fr. S. Maria Anthony, S. J.
84.    Fr. T. S. Josuwa (Kavithalaya Kala Mandram)
85.    Fr. Terence Fernando
86.    Fr. V. Yogeswaran
87.    F. Solomantine
88.    Gamini Viyangoda
89.    Godfrey Yogarajah (General Secretary, National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka)
90.    Gowrie Ponniah
91.    Harean Hettiarachchi (Programme Manager)
92.    Harshana Rambukwella  (Senior Lecturer- Open University)
93.    Hashintha Jayasinghe
94.    Himali Nawalage (Sales Manager)
95.    I.Malwatta
96.    J. C. Weliamuna (Attorney at Law)
97.    Jagath Weerasinghe (Artist)
98.    Jake Oorloff
99.    Jehan Mendis (Teacher)
100.    Jehan Perera
101.    Jensila Majeed
102.    Jeyasankar Sivagnanam
103.    Jezima Ismail
104.    Jovita Arulanantham
105.    Juweriya Mohideen
106.    K.Arulanandarajah (Kalmunai)
107.    K.Arumugam Asoka (Mahashakthi Foundation, Akkarappattu)
108.    K.E.Tharagowri, Kalmunai, Ampara
109.    K. L. Shafi Hatheem ( Kalmunai)
110.    K.Nihal Ahamed (Humanitarian Elevation Organisation, Addalaichenai)
111.    K.Niroshan (People’s Progressive Development Society, Akkaraippattu
112.    K.Praba (Thambiluvil)
113.    K. R. M. Wickremesinhe (Attorney at Law)
114.    K.S Ratnaval-(Attorney at Law)
115.    K.Sukirtha (Ampara)
116.    Kasun Pathiraja
117.    Krishna Velupillai
118.    Kumudini Samuel
119.    Kusal Perera
120.    L. Perinpanayagam
121.    Lakshan Dias
122.    L. Yaseen Bawa ( Bakary, Oluvil)
123.    Lal Wijenayaka (Lawyers for Democracy)
124.    M.A.C. Humaid ( Health Education, Social and Sports Organisation, Akkaraippattu)
125.    M.A.M. Rifaz (Addalaichchenai)
126.    M. Casim Kulanthahi Mararaikar ( Kalmunai)
127.    M.I. Haidar (Akkaraipattu)
128.    M.I. Rezard (Muthur Youth Social Development  Organisation)
129.    M. M. Nazeer ( Oluvil)
130.    M.R.M Naufil (Mannar Grand Mosque)
131.    M. Thiruvarangan
132.    Mahaluxumi Kurushanthan (Mannar)
133.    Mahesh De Mel (Director, Waves of Hope)
134.    Mahinda Hattaka
135.    Mahisha Warusavitharana
136.    Malcolm Peter (Alliance Development Trust)
137.    Manjula Gajanayake
138.    Mano Ganesan, (Civil Monitoring Commission)
139.    Manzoor A Cader. (Rtd Registrar  Sammanthurai)
140.    Marisa de Silva
141.    Mawlavi Bazeer (Sammanturai)
142.    Melani Manel Perera  (Christian Women Journalist)
143.    Melanie Perera  (Alliance Development Trust)
144.    Melisha Yapa (Marketer/Banker)
145.    Menaha Kandasamy
146.    Minna Thaheer
147.    Mohammed Mahuruf
148.    Mohideen Bawa Parikari Ibralebbai. (Oluvil)
149.    Monroe Jayasuriya (National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka)
150.    Mujeeb Rahman
151.    N. L. Pakeer Ali (Oluvil)
152.    N.Shanthi (Akkaraipattu)
153.    Nadya Perera
154.    Mirak Raheem
155.    Nandala Maduranga Kalugampitiya
156.    Navin Weeraratne
157.    Nicola Perera
158.    Nimalka Fernando
159.    Niyanthini Kadirgamar
160.    Pala Pothupitiya (Artist)
161.    P. Thanbirajah
162.    P.N. Singham
163.    Padmini, Women’s Centre
164.    Peter Rezel
165.    Priya Thangarajah (Law Student)
166.    Prof. Jayantha Seneviratne
167.    Prof Maithree Wickramasinghe
168.    Prof. Priyan Dias
169.    Prof. S.H. Hasbulla
170.    R.M.B. Senanayake
171.    Raghu Balachandran (Methodist Church of Sri Lanka)
172.    Rajani Chandrasegaram
173.    Rajasingam
174.    Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon  (Campaign for Free and Fair Elections)
175.    Rajiva Godagedara  (Accountant)
176.    Ralston Weinman
177.    Ramyadarshanie Vithanage
178.    Rev. Daisy Aseervatham
179.    Rev. Oswald Firth
180.    Rifana Buhary
181.    Rohan Salgadoe
182.    Romola Rassool
183.    Rukaiya Mohideen
184.    Ruki Fernando
185.    Rukshani Attygalle Abeyeratne (Attorney at Law)
186.    Ruwani Botheju (Alliance Development Trust)
187.    S. Mohamed Rayees
188.    S.C.C.Elankovan
189.    S.N.S.Rizli (Addalaichchenai)
190.    S.Yoga (Ampara)
191.    S.Ziyath, (Addalaichchena)
192.    Sam Perera
193.    Sanathanan Thamotharampillai (Artist)
194.    Sandamali Herath (Marketer)
195.    Sanjaya Senenayake
196.    Sanjayan Rajasingham
197.    Santhasilan Kadirgamar
198.    Shafinaz Hassendeen
199.    Shanaka Cooray ( Lawyer)
200.    Sheik Thajudeen
201.    Shifan Ahmed
202.    Shreen Saroor
203.    Sr. Kathleen A.C.
204.    Sr. Rasika Pieris
205.    Sriya, Women’s Centre
206.    Sultan Mohamed Faizal (Mannar Mosque Federation)
207.    Surangi Ariyawansha (Center for Human Rights)
208.    Suren Raghavan
209.    T. Sivapalan
210.    T.Pakiyawathi, Aalaiyadivembu (Ampara)
211.    U.K. Abdul Raheem (Naleemi, Oluvil)
212.    U. P. S. A. Gafoor. (Rtd, RM Coconut Cultivation Board.- Oluvil)
213.    Udan Fernando
214.    V.K.Ranjani (Thandiyadi, Akkaraippattu)
215.    Vamadeva Kurukkal (Uduvil)
216.    Vasuki Jeyasankar
217.    Visaka Dharmadasa
218.    Wijith Rohan Fernando (Senior Lecturer, University of Kelaniya)
219.    Y. D. Ravindran  (Attorney at Law)

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Document Type : Forwarded Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-027-2012
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Freedom of religion,