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FeaturesNewsAn eye witness account of anti Muslim violence in Aluthgama by a member of Parliament

An eye witness account of anti Muslim violence in Aluthgama by a member of Parliament

by
Burned ( Dinouk Kolambage)
”I witnessed what happened. After the procession when the rioting began I called the police stations that administer the areas. When I called the Matugama police station, they told me that the OIC was not in. The Welipanna police told me that they had only one vehicle and didn’t have personnel.
 Other police stations were silent. When all this happened the police were made to act deaf and blind. The Police have consistently acted deaf and blind to the actions of Gnanasara Thera leading up to this violence” – 
UNP MP PalithaThewarapperum

 
Unfortunate riots were not by chance  .
UNP MP PalithaThewarapperuma who was an eye witness to the recent riots in Aluthgama and surrounding areas was injured after a mob had attacked his vehicle while transporting victims. Speaking to the  he said that his offer to resign was due a cause he believed in and should not be viewed narrow-mindedly in order to portray him in bad light. Following are excerpts of the interview:
UNP MP PalithaThewarapperum
Your recent offer to resign in the event the IGP does not take the blame for the riots and resigns, created a lot of news and controversy. ?
The reason I offered to resign was because this country witnessed a very unfortunate tragedy at the hands of a rampaging mob. We have   experienced this once before, resulting in a thirty-year long war. At the end of the thirty years, none of those who instigated it died but instead it was normal peace loving citizens. The riots were not something that happened by chance. It was planned.
They said that because the STF and police dispersed them that they moved away having reposed their confidence in the STF and the police. Thereafter the police had just watched and let the mob torch the mosque. They had thrown a claymore bomb at one mosque, it was not a petrol bomb or some other inflammatory device, it was a claymore bomb
The government also for a long time gave blessings and patronage to these organisations to create the necessary background leading to a catalyst to trigger a riot of this sort. I am telling you with utmost responsibility that the catalyst was the speech made by Gnanasara Thera. The Government and the police permitted a rally to be held and this speech to be made after they were very much aware of the tense situation that prevailed in the area following an alleged assault of a monk.
The district leader of the UPFA and cabinet Minister Kumar Welgama had clearly opposed the move to hold a rally by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). It was despite such opposition that the rally was held and the speech was made. After the rally was held they permitted the crowd to hold a procession. All Sri Lankans of all races and ethnicities have seen the consequences and the results of these actions. All this happened while the police and STF were watching. If you take one example that this riot was planned, a son of a jewellery shop owner who resides in Australia had called his mother on Sunday and told her not to put any jewellery in the shop because according to his knowledge that morning ‘here would be some sort of violence.’ Now, the point is this person from Australia knew something was going to happen, but the police acted deaf and blind.  This same mother had kept all her jewellery in the house situated in Military road and the mob had come and looted her house.

Thereafter, the mob had taken the mother who was alone and handed her over to the STF who were stationed a few metres away and told the STF to look after the lady while they torch the house. This was what happened. Everyone who witnessed these incidents were publicly saying how the police and the STF acted as bystanders.

That is why I told the IGP that he can’t shy away from his responsibility, He has to take the blame initially and thereafter inquiries should be conducted on the action taken by the officers who were stationed.
 In an issue like this, what is required is not palming off the blame by transferring the DIG or interdicting a Sergeant.  What I told the IGP was that in order to quell the hatred that has arisen among those affected, to give them some sort of comfort after the Police force let them down, he had to resign..
In your previous answer, you said that the riots were planned. On what facts do you base this statement?
Listen to me, Kumar Welgama is the District Leader and the District Leader is usually the person who has a lot of power that runs through the decisions pertaining to the entire district. Now when the district leader calls for the cancelling of the rally and the rally is still held there should be some other unforeseen power directing it, isn’t it?
That doesn’t suffice, does it?
I witnessed what happened. After the procession when the rioting began I called the police stations that administer the areas. When I called the Matugama police station, they told me that the OIC was not in. The Welipanna police told me that they had only one vehicle and didn’t have personnel.
 Other police stations were silent. When all this happened the police were made to act deaf and blind. The Police have consistently acted deaf and blind to the actions of Gnanasara Thera leading up to this violence.
We have seen all the events leading up to the riots. This is not something that the Sinhala Buddhists did. Sinhala Buddhist people don’t do things like this, this was done by thugs and criminals.


 It was the people who profess the religion of Gnanasara thera who committed it. About 2000 to 3000 people who profess this religion committed these crimes. One group of people who were guarding a mosque that was burnt told me that if the STF and the police were not present, they would not have permitted the mob to burn the mosque. They said that because the STF and police dispersed them that they moved away having reposed their confidence in the STF and the police.

There is a perception among many that your actions during the last few days is to get the Muslim votes, and that everything you have done is purely a media circus based on political motives?
Who are the people saying such things? Tell me who these people are.
A lot of people are saying so, including many in the media?
Who are the people who are saying such things?
Tell these people be it individuals, institutes, or media to go to Welipitiya, to Military Road, to Dharga Town, to Aluthgama and meet the people. Tell them to ask these people how they built their businesses. Tell them to go to the houses which were burnt and ask these people what a lot they sacrificed to build them.
I don’t even understand the ethical basis of the question you have asked me. I am doing this for all the people of this country.
If I was looking for votes would I have rushed all alone in the middle of the night to a place filled savages? These were savages on rampage. Do you think I would have been thinking of votes at that time?
I don’t even understand the ethical basis of the question you have asked me. I am doing this for all the people of this country.
If I was looking for votes would I have rushed all alone in the middle of the night to a place filled savages? These were savages on rampage. Do you think I would have been thinking of votes at that time? After I doused a fire in one farm I was surrounded by about 100 of these savages who wanted to kill me.
Would I have been thinking of votes during this time? These were savages, not animals.
Animals have some sort of respect to people who treat them well, but these people were worse than animals.
If I was looking for votes would I have rushed all alone in the middle of the night to a place filled savages? These were savages on rampage. Do you think I would have been thinking of votes at that time?
If I was thinking of votes would I have gone all alone in my van to bring in there children who were trapped in a hostel while these savages were running rampage? Would I have been doing all of this while thinking of votes? They smashed my vehicle and I was assaulted by this mob while the police were looking on.

I told the police I was going; they knew that it was I who was driving the black dolphin van. Within ten minutes I put the people into my vehicle and was driving back behind a police van when they surrounded the van and began attacking it. It was during this time that a mother of a nine-month-old baby was hit on the face by a stone. The child’s head was also hit by a stone.

Would I have put all of this at risk for mere votes? That’s a very insensitive statement and I despise it. Even before this when an incident occurred during the Provincial Council elections in which I was contesting I got involved. At that time no one went there and it was only I who went at 3  am. I called a politcal organiser of the area and asked him also to intervene, and his reply was “Malli this is the time of an election; don’t go and get your hands burnt in these issues.” But that’s not how I do politics.
I went there for the people who were suffering. Even after this, the monk in Katugahahena told me that the youth who attacked the farm in Welipitiya had come and met him and repented for their sins. They had told the monk that if not for me they would have torched the farm that night and would have been in jail. So people have now understood their folly. Recently,  while I was driving on the highway there was an accident and I saw people screaming. I stopped the vehicle immediately and lifted the injured people and put them in my vehicle and drove to the hospital. I told my wife to get out of the vehicle and put her in the dickie because I had to give space to the injured.
Today my wife is in hospital, having suffered fractures as a result. You think I do these things for votes? What kind of stupid question is that? There was an incident before as well when these monks attempted to stop a ceremony in a Kovil. People have the right to their religious freedom, but these monks came with SSP Roshan Silva and a riot squad of about thousand to stop this ceremony. I told SSP Silva to let them go ahead with the ceremony, but he instead told me that “ if the ceremony goes ahead I will take these people in coffins.” This is what the police told me.
 Can you believe it? These are the very people who have to protect the rights of the masses of this country, but that was his reply. You think I did these for votes? What kind of thinking is that? I do what I have to do as a normal citizen of this country, and that I will continue to do.
 Did this mob include villagers? Because there is a notion that it mainly included people who were not villagers?
As a Buddhist I can’t lie. The Monk in one of the temples of the villages was directly responsible for this. It was this same monk that came to stop that ceremony in the Kali Kovil. It was the monk who provoked the youth in the area to commit these acts. They assaulted the child who was in my hand.

The monk provoked the youth by saying that another monk was killed inside a mosque, that’s how the youth took to the streets. But there were many people in the mob who were not villagers. There is no one in this district who doesn’t know my face. I remember one of them who was drunk pulling my shirt after I slowed the vehicle and asking me if I was a Thambiya.

No one in this district would ask me a question like that. They stoned and attacked my vehicle for about one Kilometre and I drove past them. No one who knows me would have done that.  All this was while the police and STF were watching. I used a small hole in the windscreen for visibility because the windscreen was also smashed and drove past them.
Thank god the petrol bombs that were thrown did not ignite. If they did that would have been the end of it for all those in my vehicle. All of this happened while the Police were watching. You think I would have done this for votes? I do it because I have to do it as a human being; the fact that no one does it is the problem.
These were not done by normal people. The curse of these children will fall on all those who participated and maneuvered this crime. They will have to pay for it. The government has to take the responsibility, isn’t it?
Where do you think the country is headed from now on?
I don’t know. I really don’t know. These were not done by normal people. The curse of these children will fall on all those who participated and maneuvered this crime. They will have to pay for it. The government has to take the responsibility, isn’t it? This is the government who finished a 30-year long war.

 Let us assume that the 15th was sporadic, then why couldn’t they protect the people on the 16th night? I was assaulted on the 16th, Welipanna was torched on the 16th. If 15th was sporadic how did they let all this happen on the 16th? I really don’t know where we are headed.   When I received calls the people told me that the STF was there, I told them not to worry if the STF is stationed nothing could happen.

That was the trust I had on the STF and they betrayed me and the people the most. Thereafter, I kept getting calls saying that the mob was running amok and when I went there all I could see was the STF and the police providing protection to the mobs and not to the innocent people whose houses were torched and brought to the ground.

DM

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