BBS at last week’s heated Cabinet meeting, an angry President Mahinda Rajapaksa retorted that arresting the fierce monk would ‘turn him into a hero’. Action against the BBS and its rampaging monks would worsen religious tensions in the aftermath of Aluthgama, the President countered.But 10 days after the worst communal violence Sri Lanka has seen in decades, things look bad enough.
Hundreds of Muslim homes have been destroyed or partially damaged. Four people – the fourth victim a Tamil watchman of a farm raided by mobs in Mathugama on Tuesday (17) night whose name the authorities never revealed – are dead. Eighty-eight people, including 16 Sinhalese and at least two Buddhist monks, were injured in the violence. Hundreds of families have been displaced in the 48-hour riots that reduced some homes and home businesses to ashes that fateful Sunday night.Intermittent clashes between religious or ethnic groups are being reported in several areas, including the capital since Sunday, 15 June. Last weekend, an abaya shop in Dehiwala was pelted with stones and on Tuesday night, a shop in Beruwala was torched by an unknown group.On Saturday (21) morning, news that the Panadura NoLimit showroom had been completely gutted by in a pre-dawn fire shattered an uneasy calm that was settling over southern and western Sri Lanka. The Panadura showroom is the largest in the NoLimit chain. The well-patronised, Muslim-owned clothing chain has been on the hardline groups’ radar for well over a year.Their allegations against the enterprise have bordered on the preposterous: the monks claim devious management schemes to hand out free sweets to make Sinhalese women infertile and convert Sinhalese staff members by marrying them off to Muslim employees. The authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire, but theories currently being floated are an electrical short circuit and an attack motivated by the fact that the NoLimit showroom did not participate in the Harthal to protest the Aluthgama violence that was held in Colombo last Thursday (19).The clear assumption by the Police, even before inquiries are concluded, is that it was either an accident, or the attackers were angry Muslims. This partisan behaviour on the part of the Police has been even more apparent in its treatment of the moderate monk and sworn Bodu Bala Sena rival, Watarekke Vijitha Thero, who was found bound in a ditch in Panadura last week, with slash wounds on his body.