5,081 people that is. The petition was created by a small group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens, following the systematic harassment of minority communities around the island over the past few months. What started out with banning Halal food, rapidly developed into arson attacks on Muslim owned businesses, defacing of Mosques and attacks on Churches.
That’s not to say that the issue cropped up recently. In 2012 an extremist Buddhist group, lead by monks, stormed a Mosque in Dambulla and torched the 50 year old building. The Buddhists in the area condemned the violence against their Muslims neighbours, stating that they have co-existed peacefully over the years. The government did what they do best– they ignored it.
Just as they ignored other isolated incidents of both Mosques and Churches being attacked as well in the recent past. They went as far as calling the public delusional and having cooked up the Grease Yakka attacks.
Then again, this has been an issue since the 1950’s; possibly beyond. The problem is undoubtedly deep-rooted, and we cannot allow it to fester as it has for all these decades. It has been the impetus of the 30 year conflict, and here we are once again, repeating the mistakes of our past.
We need to speak up. We need to work towards chipping away at the racism in Sri Lanka that’s preventing us from truly progressing. No amount of expressways, wider roads, wetland parks and cobble-stone pavements (all built on borrowed money as we sink deeper and deeper in debt), will help Sri Lanka progress.
So 5081 people spoke out. They called on the government to take action against the hate-speech, hate-crimes and racism. The petition was mailed to the President a few weeks back and has reached the Presidential Secretariat.
Here’s a link to the petition in case you’d like to read through it (there’s a Sinhala and Tamil translation available as well)-
You can check out the Facebook page too(it’s got lost of neat graphics and posters)- http://www.facebook.com/NoMoreHateInSriLanka
I do hope that all those who signed the petition will continue to speak out and fight against racism in Sri Lanka. Signing the petition is a good first step, but we need people actively working towards bringing about change.
Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world-class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.