Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province is ready to accommodate Rohingya refugees stranded in the island and facing threats from radical Buddhist monks.
This was affirmed by C.V. K. Sivagnanam, Chairman of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) following NPC member, M. K. Shivajilingam, making a Special Mention in the Council condemning this week’s harassment and threatening of 31 Rohingyas, mostly women and children, by few extremist Buddhists.Given the opposition to the Rohingyas in Sinhalase-Buddhist dominated South Sri Lanka, the government should allow the Tamil-dominated Northern Province to accommodate them, Shivajilingam suggested.
The Council had endorsed Shivajilingam’s condemnation and suggestion for settlement in the North. However, despite the willingness to welcome the beleaguered refugees into the Northern region as expressed by the North Provincial Council, the Council has no jurisdiction in the matter. Such decision making lies with the Central government.
“All we meant was that if the refugees cannot be accommodate anywhere else, we in the North will have no objection to putting them up here. Taking a decision on this is entirely the prerogative of the Center,” Sivagnanam explained.
There is empathy for the Rohingyas among the Tamil and Muslim minorities in Sri Lanka who have over the years suffered discrimination by ultra nationalistic elements in the Sinhala Buddhists majority country.
The Muslim community in Sri Lanka make up of around 10% of the population and the affinity they have with the Rohingyas is based on their faith.The Tamils of Sri Lanka who are mostly Hindu with some of them being Christian, view the Rohingyas as a minority like themselves who have seen much discrimination which led to the thirty year war in Sri Lanka following the Tamil Tiger separatist movement taking up arms.
The Sri Lankan government meanwhile has said that it is proceeding against police officers who looked on passively as a mob led by Buddhist monks threatened to storm into the houses of Rohingyas in Mount Lavinia despite the fact that the refugees were under the charge of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC). In one instant a police officer was seen touching the feet of a Buddhist monk who was inciting the crowds.
According to political sources the attacks on the Rohingyas will be investigated by the Colombo Crimes Division.
Meanwhile Sri Lankan cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratnehas blamed the police for inaction stating that the incident will be discussed at the next cabinet meeting whilem Akmeemana Dayarathma Thero, the Buddhist monk who led the aggressive demonstration, insisted to the media that no attack had taken place and challenged the government to prove that it had occurred.