by Easwaran Rutnam
It started with vehicles having stickers saying ‘Sinhale’ but that soon spread to walls of Muslim-owned houses in Nugegoda being spray painted with the same words.
The police said they are investigating the spray painting incident and will take appropriate action on those accused of being involved.
The ‘Sinhale’ or Sinhala blood campaign is being promoted by opposition UPFA Parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila and the Sinhale National Movement.
The campaign has drawn mixed reactions on social media with many opposing what could result in fresh tensions erupting between the Muslim and Sinhalese community.
The issue had been discussed among members of the cabinet last week and concerns were raised that the campaign may lead to communal clashes.
Human rights groups, which have been pushing for a stable and peaceful Sri Lanka where the rights of all communities are protected, have also raised concerns over the ‘Sinhale’ campaign.
“Reports of new campaigns that may seek to sow hatred and incite discrimination, hostility or even violence against minorities in Sri Lanka are deeply concerning. The past years in Sri Lanka have seen a disturbing trend where some political leaders have sought to manufacture religious tensions. This has resulted in a jump in attacks on religious minorities like Christians and Muslims. Sri Lanka’s political leaders must do more to stop this trend, not try to add fuel to the fire,” Olof Blomqvist, Press Officer Asia/Pacific at Amnesty International told The Sunday Leader.
He noted that while recently proposed legislation against hate speech was too broad and replicated language from the PTA that has in the past been used to restrict freedom of speech and punish dissent, the government of Sri Lanka needs to send a very clear message that it will not tolerate incitement to violence.
“Ending impunity for past attacks on minorities would help drive that message home,” he added.
The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka urged the government to arrest those responsible for the spray painting of the word ‘Sinhale’ on the walls of Muslim residents in Nugegoda.
President of the Muslim Council N. M. Ameen told The Sunday Leader they were monitoring the developments arising from the ‘Sinhale’ campaign.
Gammanpila meanwhile says no one can challenge the fact that Sri Lanka is ‘Sinhale’ and that even historically, pre-independence, Sri Lanka was recognized as a Sinhala nation.
The campaign has spread so fast that even some police motorbikes were seen last week carrying the ‘Sinhale’ stickers.
The Sinhale National Conference says the Tamil, Sinhala and Burger communities in Sri Lanka lived together in the past.
A gate in Nugegoda spray painted with the word Sinhale
The Venerable Yakkalamulle Pawara Thero said that all communities accepted the Sri Lanka national flag and lived in Sri Lanka recognizing it as a Sinhala nation.
However, he claims minority political parties divided Sri Lanka from being a Sinhala nation to a nation recognizing all communities.
He said that monks had in the past fought for the nation and some even sacrificed their lives to protect the Sinhalese identity of Sri Lanka.
The Ven. Pawara Thero said that their organization will not allow the ‘uprising’ that they are taking forward to be politicized.
He said that youth in several parts of the country are supporting the campaign to protect the Sinhala nation.
Monks have in the past pushed for a Sinhala only nation and this led to violent communal clashes. The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) was the most prominent organization which led a campaign against some Muslim beliefs when the former government was in power.
However once the new government took office, the BBS went silent. The Sihala Ravaya, another group of monks who were known to be responsible for attacks on churches, has also taken a back seat after the new government came to power.
However now the emergence of the new group led by the Venerable Yakkalamulle Pawara Thera has raised fears of fresh tensions in what has been a rather peaceful atmosphere after January 8 last year. Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said that intelligence reports on the activities of those attempting to promote ‘Sinhale’ have been gathered and it has been found that a journalist was also involved.
The minister said the government has no issue with anyone campaigning against the government but there is an issue if anyone attempts to create communal clashes.
He said that stern action would be taken in the near future to prevent any attempt to destabilize the country.