The Muslim community countrywide brought the economy to a standstill yesterday when they staged a hartal in protest against police brutality, targeting them in Aluthgama, which left streets deserted and shops shut. Former Deputy Mayor of Colombo, Azath Salley said police around the island had oppressed the peaceful hartals organized by the Muslim Rights Organization (MRO) yesterday. He added that police countrywide, including Maradana and Colombo Fort and the Jamiyyathul Ulama (of Kandy, Madawala and Akurana) had instilled fear in shop owners and shop keepers by threatening them against participating in the hartal.
MRO President, Mohommad Mifsal stressed that they will organize protests countrywide unless the government takes action against the police and Special Task Force (STF) officers who attacked Muslims in the Aluthgama area.
Mifsal said they had officially informed the Inspector General of Police, N.K. Ilangakoon about the matter.
Meanwhile, United National Party Western Provincial Councillor Mujibar Rahuman said, he also requested people to close their shops and support the hartal to protest against the clashes, that took place in Dharga Town, Aluthgama and Beruwela areas.
“We asked every right thinking person to close their establishments. Police and STF personnel had told shop owners and shopkeepers that their businesses would be destroyed if they refused to open their shops. They collected personal information by taking their contact numbers. It is a fundamental right to engage in a peaceful hartal. We did not shout in the streets. We merely closed our schools and shops as a way of protesting against the manner in which the government handled the violent situation in Aluthgama. We say enough is enough,” Salley said.
We decided not to stage a hartal today, after the Jumma prayers, because groups who want to sabotage it could use it against the Muslims, he said.
Salley also added that the Chairman of the Addalaichenai Pradeshiya Sabha, Anzeer who had been travelling under Police protection yesterday, to hand over a letter to the Government Agent, had been brutally assaulted by the STF and was presently hospitalized.
The MRO and Salley primarily objected to the Bodu Maha Samuluwa meeting organized by the Shasanarakshaka Bala Mandalaya on Sunday (15) which was attended by the Bodu Bala Sena and Sihala Ravaya.
Salley exclaimed, “The statement that only four vehicles were in the motorcade under Police escort is a blatant lie and so is the first stone coming out of the mosque, in which Muslims were hiding through fear. Those shouting in the march were carrying schoolbags filled with stones and we have video evidence to prove that it was not our people who threw the first stone. The police high up who escorted the motorcade through the main road route is an utter fool.”
He noted that the President’s promise, made on Wednesday (18), to provide compensation to the displaced and those who have had their business torched, gutted, looted and vandalized was doubtful, as the media reports had carefully omitted the words ‘in part’ from his comments. Salley also added that no Muslim leader or Muslim Minister had participated in the peace talks held in Kalutara in the immediate aftermath to bring about an end to the violence and instead the government had gathered minions from Muslim organizations, who were wholly unprepared to converse with a degree of authority.
He questioned as to whose contract the police was operating on.
By Umesh Moramudali
and Ruwan Laknath Jayakody