Religion as last refuge of scoundrel

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Saturday 19th August 2023

Former Minister Mervyn Silva, who became a law unto himself during the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, which unashamedly shielded him, has embarked on a much-advertised mission to save Buddhism. He has been looking for a cause to champion in a bid to make a comeback, and he is now trying to protect Buddhism, which in fact has to be saved from the likes of him.

Speaking at a hurriedly-summoned press conference, Silva declared, the other day, that he would not allow anyone to obstruct the Buddhist monks engaged in building/rebuilding temples in the Northern Province. He issued a not-so-veiled threat to those who have reportedly prevented the construction of temples in the North; he said he would not hesitate to bring their heads to the South, if needs be. He has earned notoriety as a troublemaker, and the police had better take action to prevent him from carrying out his threats.

Some Tamil political parties lost no time in lodging complaints with the police against Silva, calling for his arrest for threatening to decapitate them, according to a report we published yesterday. Their concerns are to be appreciated, and Silva has to be kept at bay. But the protesting Tamil politicians need to be asked why they did not protest against the LTTE’s killing spree, which lasted for about two and a half decades; the Tigers beheaded thousands of civilians belonging to all ethnic communities. Among their victims were pregnant women and infants. What moral right do those who endorsed the LTTE’s terror campaign or did not protest against it have to condemn violence? That, however, does not mean that the police should not take action against Silva’s threats.

Silva and others of his ilk have to be kept on a tight leash. One may recall that the UNP thugs were responsible for the anti-Tamil pogrom in 1983, when they were given a free hand. Hence the need for the police to take prompt action to ensure that the underworld characters flaunting various causes are prevented from unleashing violence in the name of protecting Buddhism.

The government is duty-bound to prevent extremists from taking the law into their own hands in all parts of the country if it is serious about fostering ethno-religious reconciliation. It must also ensure that all places of archaeological significance are protected, and politicians do not obstruct the officials of the Department of Archaeology from carrying out their duties and functions. The entire country must be multi-ethnic and multi-religious, and nobody should be allowed to turn some parts thereof into mono-ethnic/religious enclaves.

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