A monk accused to be one of the key inciters of the mob that attacked Rohingya refugees last week was remanded by a local Magistrate Court Monday. Venerable Akmeemana Dayarathana Theroof the Ultra Nationalist Sinhala Ravaya organization was remanded until October 09 by the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s Court after he arrived at the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) earlier today to give a statement regarding the incident that shocked the nation.
Another monk Ven. Rathnasara Thero also accused of encouraging crowds to carry out attacks against the Rohingyas who were under the protection of the UNHCR is yet to appear before the CCD. Two police officers had to be hospitalized in last week’s attack, in which monks and their supporters threw stones and smashed windows and furniture but according to reports some police officers were indulgent towards the attackers.
Government officials said several police officers were under investigation for failing to prevent the violence. Separately, five men and a woman have already been arrested. The thirty-one refugees, including 16 children and 7 women, had arrived in Sri Lanka five months ago after the Sri Lankan Navy found them drifting in a boat off the island’s north coast and is at present accommodated at a former detention centre near the Southern town of Galle.
Post war Sri Lanka, following the annihilation of the Tamil Tiger militants in 2009 has seen a brand of Buddhist ultra nationalism that has increasingly been hostile to Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority which make up around 10% of the population. Some of the communal minded Buddhist monks have close affiliation with Myanmar’s militant Buddhist clergy. Therefore the Rohingya issue is propagated by these Lankan monks as one that pitches Sri Lanka’s 75% Buddhist majority against Muslims instead of it being a humanistic issue.
Meanwhile in the absence of any comment by the newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapona, former Foreign Minister of Lanka, and at present the Finance Minister, Mangala Samaraweera stepped into his former shoes and out-rightly condemned the incident orchestrated by ‘Sinha-le” monks of the Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa. The group is the latest in a string of extremist Buddhist outfits to crop up, following in the footsteps of the infamous Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) who were responsible for the riots against Muslims in 2014 in the South of Sri Lanka.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack against the Rohingya refugees who were under the care of the UNHRC in Mt. Lavinia by a group of ‘thugs in robes’. In fact, I condemn these actions not only as the Minister in charge of Media but also condemn as a Buddhist, a Buddhist who is very proud the fact that Buddhism is a religion of non-violence and compassion,” he said in the backdrop of a larger silence from both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“In fact this is not the first time Sri Lanka has given temporarily shelter to such refugees. Way back in March 2008, the Navy rescued survivors of a boat after they were found adrift in the high seas. They were kept here until 2012 the year they were resettled in the US,” Sri Lanka’s former Foreign Minister said.
The minister further said that in a separate incident in 2013, the Navy rescued two boat loads of Rohingya survivors from a shipwreck in the Eastern coast of Sri Lanka.