Sri Lanka situation ‘extremely worrying’, say OIC envoys

‘The lives and livelihoods of Muslims are threatened’

June 04, 2019 10:36 pm | Updated 10:36 pm IST

A Muslim woman standing outside her burnt house in Kottampitiya. | FILE

A Muslim woman standing outside her burnt house in Kottampitiya. | FILE

Communal violence targeting Muslims in Sri Lanka has regional and global security implications, envoys of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries in Sri Lanka have cautioned, urging the government to take “every measure necessary” to prevent such incidents.

“The developing situation over the past few days has been extremely worrying with regards to the safety and protection of the Sri Lankan Muslim community, including some foreign Muslim refugees. The lives and livelihoods of Muslims, including their local stores and large business establishments, are threatened by the prevailing conditions with unforeseen, dangerous consequences,” they said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

Further, they sought “swift and stern judicial” action against perpetrators of communal violence, regardless of their “religious and political influence” in Sri Lankan society.

Their message comes a day after all nine Muslim Ministers stepped down from their positions, in the wake of a fasting Buddhist monk’s demand that three prominent Muslim politicians — a Minister and two Governors — resign over Easter bombings. Scores of people marched in support of the monk, until he called off his hunger strike on Monday evening. The collective resignation of Ministers has stirred Colombo’s political circles, even as it pointed to the extent of the Buddhist clergy’s influence.

As many as 14 OIC-member states have missions in Colombo. Select envoys, who attended an Iftar ceremony hosted by President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday, had a discussion with him following the event, on the developments since the April 21 Easter terror attacks. Conveying their concern over the “demonising” of Muslims by sections and the growing instances of hate speech, they requested President Sirisena to take steps to de-escalate tensions, sources present at the meeting said.

Speaking at the ceremony earlier, President Sirisena had said “the country will be doomed” if conflicts arise due to different ethnicities.

After the resignation of two Muslim Governors on Monday — following allegations linking them to Easter attacks suspects — President Sirisena appointed former Colombo Mayor A. J. M. Muzammil as Governor of the Western Province on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a three-member committee has been appointed at the Police Head Quarters to receive any complaints against former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, and Governors M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, Azath Salley, who resigned on Monday.

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