A Short Press Item by Sankalp Phartiyal and Shihar Aneez for REUTERS — typically brief in the style favoured by news media worldwide — has appeared in more or less the same words** in several news reports in powerful print engines (see partial list below). They all bear the same title: “In Sri Lanka, a polarising politician reaches out to minorities but suspicion lingers”
Sri Lanka presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been a polarising figure for much of his political life. It is an image he is trying to change. When he was defence chief in his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s , he crushed ethnic Tamil separatist rebels, bringing a 26-year-long civil war to a close. But relatives of dead or missing Tamils have accused him of war crimes, including extra-judicial killings and abductions, in lawsuits filed against him in the United States.
Rajapaksa has denied the accusations.
His failure to publicly distance himself from radical Buddhist monks makes him a figure of suspicion in the minority Muslim community, as well as among some in the small Christian community.
In 2013, he was chief guest at the opening of a leadership academy run by a hardline Buddhist group, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). Groups such as BBS see the minorities as a potential threat to the Sinhala Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka.
But that hasn’t stopped Rajapaksa and his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party from seeking to woo Muslim and Christian voters after he recently declared he was standing in the election due to be held by Dec. 9. His overtures might work in parts of the Christian community fearful after Easter Sunday bombings of churches and hotels by Islamist militants that killed 250 people. Some Christians say they are looking for stronger security policies, even if that means going with a hardliner like Rajapaksa.
But Muslims are less convinced because they suspect a Rajapaksa government may turn a blind eye to attacks by Buddhist extremists. That is what some say happened in 2014 when anti-Muslim riots in the southwestern Kalutara district displaced thousands during the time of his brother’s presidency.
A spokesman for the Rajapaksa’s SLPP, Keheliya Rambukwella, said the riots were orchestrated to turn Muslims away from the Rajapaksa camp. As a politician who respected all communities and religions, Rajapaksa was doing the “right thing” by visiting houses of worship, Rambukwella said. “It gives a message very clearly that he wants communal harmony.”
Rajapaksa’s office declined a request for an interview with him.
The report presented above is from https://pressfrom.info/au/news/world/-145249-in-sri-lanka-a-polarising-politician-reaches-out-to-minorities-but-suspicion-lingers.html …. In some outlets a few lines have been omitted. Among the outlets peddling this tale are
NOTE THIS SEGMENT IN https://trulytimes.com/in-sri-lanka-a-polarizing-politician-reaches-out-to-minorities-but-suspicion-lingers.html
He has still to tour the Tamil-dominated north and east of Sri Lanka but has explained he would get the job done toward satisfying their aspirations, including more regional autonomy. Kinfolk of Tamils lacking considering that the conclusion of the war, former cadres of the Tamil Tiger insurgent group and people today who say their land has been occupied by the military, interviewed by Reuters in latest times, mentioned they feared a military services clampdown if Rajapaksa rose to electrical power.
But a single Tamil occasion, the Eelam People’s Democratic Occasion, is pro-Rajapaksa and claims only his leadership can satisfy regional demands.
The political calculations are obvious. Whilst Sri Lanka is 70% Sinhala Buddhist, some Buddhists help present Primary Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s rival middle-appropriate United National Get together (UNP).
Muslims account for about 10% of the island nation’s 21 million populace and Christians just about 7%.
Hardline Buddhist monks appreciated impunity for the duration of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s govt, antagonizing minorities who voted overwhelmingly versus him in 2015, claimed Hilmy Ahamed, vice president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka.
Muslims would not be safe and sound if Rajapaksa received the presidential election, said A.R.M Badiuddin, a previous nearby council head in Dharga City, about 80 km south of Colombo, which was caught up in the 2014 riots. “The Rajapaksas have betrayed us,” mentioned Badiuddin, on a working day Rajapaksa was due to take a look at a historic mosque, close to his village household. Muslims won’t forget about and will not support them.”
BLESSINGS AT THE MOSQUE
On Aug. 17, the generations old Kechimale Mosque, which seems out above the Indian Ocean, was unusually fast paced for a Saturday evening as it ready for the initially at any time take a look at by Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Mahinda. Hundreds waited for nearly four hours just before they arrived in the late night. Within the mosque, a cleric sought blessings for Gotabaya Rajapaksa so he could guarantee “unity and equality for all ethnicities in Sri Lanka”. Clerics claimed they welcomed everybody, declining to comment on the politics of the go to.
Rajapaksa is also seeking to win in excess of Sri Lanka’s Catholics, quite a few of whom have historically voted UNP. This month, he achieved senior Catholic priests in Kandy and Matara. He not long ago reported his federal government would immediately act on a demand from customers by the Archbishop of Colombo to established up an independent panel to examine the Easter bomb attacks.
Some have been skeptical of the motive but claimed Rajapaksa, nonetheless, may possibly win the help of Christians. “Everything is completed to gain votes, not in a real way,” a senior clergyman advised Reuters on problem of anonymity. “There is a risk this time that Catholics will vote for Gotabaya.”
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s spouse, Shiranthi, is Catholic and the couple fulfilled the Pope at the Vatican in 2014 and all through his 2015 Sri Lanka visit. Shiranthi also donated land and cash to a Catholic church in Colombo throughout Rajapaksa’s term.“They served us a lot”, the clergyman added.
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But Rajapaksa’s authoritarian design and style anxieties many Protestants, who make up about 2% of the population. “People are waiting to see regardless of whether he would in fact say that he is going from a very hardline stance to a more average stance,” claimed Godfrey Yogarajah, deputy secretary standard of the Entire world Evangelical Alliance.“We haven’t heard him say everything at all to that impact.”
Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal and Shihar Aneez Edited by Martin Howell, Robert Birsel
SPECIAL NOTES & QUERIES from EDITOR, THUPPAHI
A = I would like readers to provide documentary sources for the assertion that Gotabaya was a prominent participant at “a leadership academy run by a hardline Buddhist group, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)”
B = Again I seek information on the “anti-Muslim riots in the southwestern Kalutara district [which] displaced thousands during the time of his brother’s presidency” in 2014 ……………………..and wonder if this refers to what Sri Lankans identify as “the Alutgama riots”]?