COLOMBO: Muslim ministers in Sri Lanka resigned on Monday in protest at the harassment faced by the community since the deadly Easter suicide bombings.
Muslims have been targeted in anti-terror operations and by angry mobs after Islamic extremists carried out attacks on churches and hotels that killed 258 people, including 45 foreigners.
Rauff Hakeem, who is minister of city planning, water supply and higher education and leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, told a news conference that all those representing Muslims would resign. They included Cabinet ministers, their deputies and non-Cabinet ministers.
“Resigned from my Cabinet ministerial portfolio along with my Muslim fellow parliamentarians with the paramount interest in safeguarding the international reputation of our motherland Sri Lanka and the protection and wellbeing of all people of our country,” he tweeted.
“My Muslim fellow parliamentarian and I earnestly urge the government to act decisively in restoring and enforcing law and order, to protect the innocent civilians from hate crimes and arson & take step to end the culture of impunity for which this government was elected.”
Sri Lanka has been under a state of emergency since the Easter attacks.
Hakeem said the government should carry out an internal inquiry about why Muslims had been placed in such a precarious position as they had been in living in fear and shock since the bombings. Muslims had been remanded during the holy fasting month of Ramadan and were being detained under terror legislation for trivial offenses, he added.
“Muslims are made into scapegoats in these operations,” he said.
Thousands of people demonstrated in the city of Kandy in support of a prominent monk, Athuraliye Ratana, who went on a “death fast” to demand the sacking of three top Muslim politicians he accused of supporting the bombers.
The Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith backed Ratana’s protest because, he said, the Buddhist cleric was fighting for the rights of victims and justice had not been served.
But Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya called for calm.
“The whole Muslim community should not be penalized for the crimes by a few,” he tweeted.
“It is critical that allegations are investigated and necessary action be taken asap, as Sri Lanka’s political landscape should not get further divided on communal lines. No more escalation please!”