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Special police unit to handle religious disputes: SLMC and JHU against; Over 200 complaints on the first day

SL police ( file photo)
A special police unit to handle religious disputes will be established today at the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, the government announced.  The religious disputes unit would operate similar to the tourism and environmental police units that currently operate, Police Media Spokesperson SSP Ajith Rohana said.  According to the Police spokesman that the unit will function under the guidance of a Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and there will be eight police officers at the unit under an ASP.

The police officers will be given a special training on multi-ethnic and multi-religious rights, according to the police spokesman. Complaints can be lodge at the unit by telephone or e-mail.
President Rajapaksa recently said that a special police unit will be established under the Religious Affairs Ministry to deal with complaints related to religious activities.
Sri Lanka police form religious hate crimes unit after attacksAFP
COLOMBO – Sri Lanka police Monday announced a new unit to investigate religious hate crimes after attacks by Buddhist monks on churches and mosques last year raised concerns about religious freedom.
Police Inspector-General N. K. Illangakoon said the new unit would swiftly investigate any complaint relating to “religious matters” on the majority Buddhist island amid rising tensions over the attacks.
“This unit will cover the entire country and deal with complaints relating to religious matters,” Illangakoon told reporters.
The move follows a series of attacks since early last year on mosques, churches and Muslim-owned businesses by nationalist Buddhist groups who accuse religious minorities of undue influence on the island.
Videos shared on YouTube have shown mobs led by Buddhist monks throwing stones and smashing a Christian prayer centre in southern Sri Lanka in January this year while police looked on.
Senior Buddhist monks have also been caught on video threatening violence against their moderate colleagues who advocate religious tolerance.
Moderate Buddhist monks and Christian and Muslim leaders have accused police of failing to prosecute those behind the attacks.
Religious affairs ministry secretary M. K. B. Dissanayake said the new unit was expected, through swift investigations, to ensure that isolated incidents did not escalate out of control.
The country is emerging from nearly four decades of ethnic war which according to UN estimates claimed at least 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.
Tamil rebels were fighting for a separate homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who are Hindu, on the Sinhalese-majority island.
Seventy percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million people are Sinhalese Buddhists, while Muslims are the second-largest religious group making up just under 10 percent.
President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is a Buddhist, warned monks in January last year not to incite religious violence.
However police broke up a protest denouncing religious extremism last year, sparking opposition allegations that the government was tacitly supporting the violence.
Hakeem ridicules setting up of special police unit
Minister of Justice and Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Rauff Hakeem, while condemning the invasion of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce coming under the purview of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), said that there was no use in setting up special police units to handle religious related violence.
 He told The Island that the police already had enough powers vested in them to tackle such problems, but the government must do its utmost to control religious extremists like the BBS urgently. 
Senior DIG (Western Province) Anura Senanayake said that the Special Unit, placed under ASP Bandula Perera, would become operational with effect from today (28) from the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and all complaints received by it would be settled amicably, failing which legal action would be taken against the offenders.
 He said that unethical conversions, religious disturbances and threats to religious personalities would be investigated by this special unit.
 Leader of the National Unity Alliance Azath Salley said that the BBS had been involved in illegal activities for the past one and a half years, but the government had ignored it.
It was only under pressure that the government had decided to do something by setting up a special police, he added. “President Rajapaksa has, by setting up a Special Unit, admitted the fact that the regular police cannot act against extremist groups like the BBS.
Salley said that the BBS had to be controlled by the government without allowing it to create problems for the Muslim Community.
By Lal Gunasekera

JHU not in favour of Special Police Unit  .
Showing its displeasure over the setting up a special police unit under the Religious Affairs Ministry to inquire into complaints on religious matters, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) said today the move would result in unnecessary consequences in the country.
 It states that if there was a need to create a mechanism to inquire into complaints on religious matters, it should have been done through the parliament in a much more appropriate manner.
“Such impulsive moves cannot be trusted. This may ultimately lead to having several separate religious police units in the country and many other negative consequences,” JHU General Secretary and Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka told a news conference today.
 He said a move by the JHU to submit a Bill connected to religious affairs in parliament was turned down. “We were discouraged by some MPs when we wanted to submit a Bill outlining a proper mechanism to address issues pertaining to religious affairs including unethical religious conversions,” he said. 
 The minister said all laws should apply to all religious groups equally and not only on Buddhist monks. “The laws should apply not only to the Bodu Bala Sena or the Sihala Ravaya but even on groups like the Tauheed Jamaat and Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph,” he said. (LSP)
Over 200 incidents reported already
Over 200 incidents were reported to the new police special investigations unit established at the Religious Affairs Ministry today.
The Sinhala Rawaya lodged the first complaint at the newly commissioned police unit while Muslim Tamil National Alliance leader Azath Salley later lodged 284 complaints.
The Sinhala Rawaya said it filed a complaint at the new unit against the Thawheed Jamad Muslim group while Salley lodged complaints over incidents mostly targeting Muslims in the country.
Two other people had also lodged complaints related to incidents involving religious issues.
The special police unit to handle religious disputes was established at the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs on the instructions of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Police spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana said that the unit will function under the guidance of a Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and there will be eight police officers at the unit under an ASP.
The police officers will be given special training on multi-ethnic and multi-religious rights, according to the police spokesman. Complaints can be lodge at the unit by telephone or e-mail. (Colombo Gazette)

Report by Indika Sri Aravinda

Existing laws sufficient to tackle religious disputes: SF  .

The special police unit established to deal with religious violence is not necessary as there are provisions in the existing laws to deal with such incidents, Democratic Party Leader Sarath Fonseka said today.

 He told a news briefing that no special police was needed to deal with religious issues and that police could deal with these matters under the existing laws of the country.

 Mr. Fonseka said if the new police unit was to serve any purpose it must not be biased or under the control of any politician or religious leader.
“This unit should not try to safeguard any ‘senas’ or any other religious group,” he said.

 Justifying his earlier statement that it was the dictatorial politics in this country that led to the resolution adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Mr. Fonseka said international organisations such as the UN had played a major role in helping to free several nations from dictatorship. He said this while referring to the challenge posed to him by the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP) which wanted him to name a single nation which had been saved by the UN.

 Mr. Fonseka who referred to his party’s policy statement which was launched today said it contained ten points including good governance, national integration, law and order, economic development and health and education. He said the party will work on an action plan with the advice of experts in the respective areas.

“Our policy will not be like the Chinthanas which are kept on the ‘Lipbokkas’ or the fire place without proper implementation,” Mr. Fonseka said. (Yohan Perera and Sanath Desmond)
Daily Mirror


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