People’s Rights Group (PRG), an advocacy and lobbying rights Group based in the UK, operating with the purpose of taking up issues and/or assisting the victims of human rights violation arising inter-alia from hate speech/crimes, discrimination, harassment, bigotry, double standards, views with grave concern and much disappointment, the extremely vitriolic and hateful speech made by the Chief Prelate of the Asgiri Chapter in Sri Lanka, Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero, considered as one of the most influential and foremost authority looked upon by the Sinhala Buddhist community in Sri Lanka. This speech will undoubtedly have an adverse impact on the laudable efforts being made to heal the wounds of the horrific terror attacks, which made an otherwise serene Easter Sunday, the darkest day in recent history.
Ven. Thero’s extremely threatening, provocative and most hateful address, undoubtedly put the security of the already vulnerable Muslim community at further extreme danger and risk, at the most challenging time in their history, having being subjected to regular media hate-bashing and demonization. PRG considers it unbecoming of a prelate of his calibre to make explosive statements such as the stoning to death of Muslims and urging Sinhala Buddhists to refrain from frequenting Muslim-owned shops and consuming food offered by Muslims, in total violation of the principles of the peaceful religion of Buddhism. Further, it also goes contrary to and undermines the dignity and equal status afforded in the Constitution, to the numerically smaller communities; in this case the Muslims, who have been living in amity for over ten centuries and who supported the country at all crucial moments.
In the Post –Easter aftermath, the people of Sri Lanka showed admirable resilience and restraint, due to the matured leadership provided by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and also by the Buddhist prelates and leading monks, which not only averted a bloodbath, but also led to many initiatives for introspection, confidence building and reconciliation among the people already in extreme distress and fear. The Muslims too disowned and condemned those who were responsible for this despicable tragedy, stood up with the affected communities and also worked resolutely to help the authorities to apprehend the culprits and dismantle the terror network. However, it was unfortunate that anti-Muslim communal violence witnessed in Aluthgama, Ampara and Digana re-emerged, with many hate groups, some with devious political agendas, carrying out well-orchestrated hate attacks on the Muslim community in the North Western Province. No constructive action was taken to apprehend and punish those responsible, in respect of any of these spate of crimes against the Muslim community in the Post-war era. Thus, the failure of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the impunity it has given to perpetrators therefore has emboldened the hate peddlers to further drive the besieged community towards a climate of fear and insecurity, which has the danger of pushing even the moderate mainstream towards radicalism.
In the aftermath of a conflict, the rule of law is paramount in creating a safe and secure environment in which recovery can take place. It is in this context that the vitriolic speech of the Ven. Prelate fanning the growing unfounded paranoias about the Muslims, causes extreme concern. It is really pathetic to witness that the rule of law has taken a huge plunge in Sri Lanka, in view of the looming impunity crisis and laws dealing with hate speech/attacks as well as ICCPR being applied selectively. This does not augur well for the future, as it erodes public confidence in law enforcement and the legal system. Therefore, it behoves on all parties to act swiftly to reverse this trend and to restore the credibility of the legal system in Sri Lanka.
PRG therefore, strongly urges the religious, political and community leaders to act with extreme restraint in the face of all provocations by disgruntled elements, to create mayhem and disorder in the country and to bring back the likes of the bloody and inhumane war which engulfed Sri Lanka for over three decades in its recent history. PRG also calls upon the GoSL to act decisively and swiftly to ensure that all hate peddlers and culprits are held to account, irrespective of racial or religious divides, law enforcement authorities act fairly and justly, and to create viable mechanisms to dispel mutual mistrust and fear among communities. PRG strongly feels it is imperative for the GoSL, to intervene decisively without delay, in keeping with its international obligations under the UN Charter and UDHR to safeguard the fundamental rights of its citizens.
PRG also appeals to the international community to use their good offices with the GoSL to help in the process of protection of human rights and to ensure that Muslims as well as other numerically smaller communities enjoy their fundamental rights to practice their faith and culture as equal citizens of Sri Lanka. PRG on its’ part, will always monitor and work towards highlighting human rights violations arising from hate, bigotry, harassment and discrimination, and lobby for justice and equality for those affected by them, liaising with relevant governmental, human rights and international bodies, where deemed necessary.
The video of Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero’s speech with English Subtitle
Statement on the Provocative Speech Made By Ven Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero