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Inaction against Buddhist rioters costs Rajpaksa Muslim votes in pres polls
Sunday January 11, 2015 0:00 AM, Agencies

If Maithripala Sirisena has been able to unseat the two-time winner of the Sri Lankan presidential elections Mahinda Rajpaksa, one of the reasons behind his defeat also is keeping the Muslims on promises while hobnobbing with radical Buddhists for political gains.

Sri Lanka Muslims

The Muslim leaders in Sri Lanka kept asking Rajpkasa to take action against the Buddhist rioters who were involoved in a series of attacks on Muslims since June 2014. Rajpaksa, however, not only evaded action but allegedly also encouraged the Buddhists, especially the Bodu Bolo Sena (BBS) extremists.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Mahinda Rajpaksa's brother and defense secretary in the erstwhile government, had once made a public appearance supporting the Bodu Bolo Sena (BBS).

Its result was that Muslim leaders one by one deserting Rajaksa crossed over to the opposition camp.

The first to go was the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) of Rishad Bathiudeen, Industry and Commerce Minister in Rajpaksa cabinet. According to Y L S Hameed, General Secretary of the party, the Buddhist radicals behind the attacks were "sponsored" by the state to woo Sinhala votes.

"But Rajapaksa's calculations went wrong," Hameed is quoted as saying by the media.

Two days later, Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) also resigned as Justice Minister and announced joining Sirisena.

Rajpaksa received a further blow when Faizer Mustapha of his own Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) quit the party and also resigned as Investment Promotion Deputy Minister.

Sri Lanka has a population of roughly 2 million Muslims of whom about 1.4 million are registered voters, accounting for 10.7% of votes.

"At least 90-95% of them cast their vote for Sirisena," said a leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

The Muslim leaders alleged that the Colombo-based Sinhalese extremist organisation, Bodu Bala Sena, was behind the anti-Muslim violence but Rajpaksa did not take any action despite strong demand from the community.

"They (Bodu Bala Sena) engaged in hate speech and attacks against the Muslim population. We were made victims and the government remained as a mute spectator," claimed Hameed of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC).

Muslims also alleged that the anti-Muslim riots were too synchronised, and too organised to have been a random one. The police and the army were also criticised for not containing the rioters, who continued to attack and burn the properties of Muslims long after the curfew was imposed.

"Irrespective of who is responsible for the terrible events that unfolded... none would dispute that it was a serious dislocation of the ability of the state to maintain the rule of law,"Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) had said after the riots.


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