Dubai — As mobs continue to sweep through Muslim neighbourhoods in Sri Lanka’s central hills, destroying stores and restaurants despite the state of emergency and heavy deployment of security forces, many Sri Lankan residents voiced their concerns to Gulf News.
Hashan Gunasekara, a Buddhist living in Kandy, said: “I was born a Sinhalese Buddhist. When these riots were taking place, my roommate’s Muslim parents and younger sister were trapped in the town of Digana hiding in a different home and they were scared for their lives. There was substantial damage to property. Two of my work colleagues had their families trapped in the other towns where the riots had escalated. My father’s workplace is near the flashpoint and when I called to check on him, he said they had closed the office and he was leaving. I could not get in touch with him for many hours after he left. The people who were behind these attacks should stop for a moment and think: What if it was their parents? Brothers, or sisters? Wives? How would they feel? Despite our peaceful religion, strong actions should be taken by the government to punish the people who have caused this incident.”
Arshad Booso, a young Muslim from Wattala, expressed his disappointment at how the warm and friendly Sri Lankans are partaking in violence. He said: “The excuse used to start these riots was the death of a ‘Sinhalese’ truck driver killed by four ‘Muslim” youth. If only these people saw it as a truck driver dying as a result of four youth without the racial tags being attached. I would have thought that after going through a war lasting over 25 years, people would have learnt their lesson by now. Not a single religion practised in Sri Lanka promotes violence. Not Islam and definitely not Buddhism either. Sri Lankans need to know that they will not get anywhere with all this racial division and corrupt leaders.”
Lisanthi Jayawardana, a young Sri Lankan woman, believes that Sri Lankans have learnt to deal with issues like these over the years. “Is there racism in Sri Lanka? Yes. But it’s a lot less compared to how it is shown in the media. We have too many roots despite different ethnicities, backgrounds and religions, to allow another ‘war’ to happen. A small group of power-hungry people should not and will not be allowed to stop all the love, friendships and understanding we have built up through all these years. This situation will be controlled, because people are much smarter than they were 30 to 40 years back. We have learnt our lesson. We know what to avoid and when to fight for our rights.”
A former Navy Admiral, who wished to remain anonymous, said “All the communities here have existed as brothers and sisters for many years. The violence is a very unfortunate issue. However, even after the incidents, the people of Sri Lanka are continuing their day-to-day life together.”
Other residents living in the capital aren’t feeling the edge of the violence and say that life is going on quite normally in the areas further away from Kandy. Ryan Cornelio, a resident of Colombo, said: “The recent situation in Sri Lanka is limited to a small part of the country, and is unlike what international media are making it out to be. While this incident is unfortunate, the security forces have done a great job in ensuring the safety of people, limiting rumours and ensuring calm in the rest of the country. As an expatriate living here, I’ve always felt safe. The people here are peace-loving and tourist friendly.”