By Rathindra Kuruwita
The Sri Lankan government must rethink the lifting of the ban on five Islamist organisations that were banned following the Easter Sunday attacks, international terrorism expert Prof. Rohan Gunaratna said on Friday at the launch of his book, ‘Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday Massacre: Lessons for the International Community.’
The ban on the following Islamic organisations was lifted last week, subject to strict conditions: Jamiyathul Ansaari Sunnathul Mohomadiya (JASM), Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamma’ath (SLTJ), All Ceylon Thawheed Jamma’ath (ACTJ), Ceylon Thawheed Jamma’ath (CTJ) and United Thawheed Jamma’ath (UTJ).
Calling the lifting of the ban a “fatal error,” Gunaratna said: “If you look at National Thawheed Jamma’ath bomb maker Hastun and Sara Jasmin, his wife, they were radicalised by Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamma’ath (SLTJ). The first Sri Lankan to go abroad and fight for ISIS was an All Ceylon Thawheed Jamma’ath (ACTJ) member.”
Gunaratna said Sri Lanka must also not lift the ban of hardliner Islamic preachers and books.
“Both Zahran and his mentor Nawfer were radicalised by an Indian preacher known as PJ. He came to Sri Lanka six times, and finally we prevented him from coming in when the Indian High Commission warned us. If these preachers are allowed in, we will have a serious problem. What I found was that Zahran found it really hard to recruit among Sri Lankan Muslims because most do not accept the ISIS ideology,” he said.The Sri Lankan government must issue a white paper each time a terrorist attack takes place to ensure that there are no conspiracy theories, he said.
Dr. gunaratna added that his investigations had revealed that Zahran Hashim carried out those attacks because of ideological convictions. “Zahran would never have carried out those attacks for Gotabaya Rajapaksa or any Sinhalese leader contrary to some conspiracy theories,” he said.
The Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, who had done Sri Lanka a great service by preventing anti-Muslim violence in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks, too, had started to believe in those conspiracy theories, Gunaratna said.
“The government has given him all the documents, and I hope he will change his views. His lawyer sat through all sessions of the Presidential Commission on the Easter Sunday attacks, and he knows the Sri Lankan intelligence agencies were not behind this. It is a false allegation to say Zahran was on the payroll of intelligence agencies,” he said.
Sri Lanka also needs a de-radicalisation programme to rehabilitate those who have fallen victim to extreme ideologies of all kinds, he said.
“There are extremists in all religions, and if we don’t get a de-radicalisation programme on track, we will face another attack,” he said.