A peace mission during the riots | Sunday Observer

A peace mission during the riots

Waturakumbure Dhammaratana Thera
Waturakumbure Dhammaratana Thera

Muruthalawa: On Tuesday night (March 6), Waturakumbure Dhammaratana Thera patrolled the streets of the Muruthalawa village in Yatinuwara, even as violent mobs rampaged through the streets in other parts of the Kandy district. Together with 10 men from the village, the Buddhist monk walked through the village from dusk to dawn, to prevent violent incidents against its Muslim residents.

With bleak news reports of violence and burning emerging from various areas in the Kandy district last week, the story of the Muruthalawa monk stands out.

Visiting Muruthalawa on Wednesday, March 7, to ascertain the truth of this claim, the Sunday Observer was told of the remarkable dedication of a local monk to protect the town’s Muslim inhabitants.

Mohamed, a shop owner in the Muruthalawa town while confirming the story, said that the lives and property of all Muslims were protected due to the efforts of the Chief Incumbent of the Nelligala International Buddhist Centre, Waturakumbure Dhammaratana Thera.

“We owe our lives to him,” Mohamed said explaining that Dhammaratana Thera had spent the night in town without sleep, preventing any attacks from taking place.

Along with Dhammaratana Thera that night was the Sooriyagoda Sugathadharamarama Temple Chief Incumbent, Kanthale Wimalawansa Thera, Ambulugala Sumangala Thera, Hiripitiya Sumanadhamma Thera and ten youth from the village.

While petrol bombs were hurled at several establishments in the town that night, Mohamed says not only did the priest ensure these fires were put out, he had dissuaded the violent groups from carrying out further disruptive acts. While the mosque in the town was unharmed as a result, so were the many Muslim homes and businesses.

According to Waturakumbure Dhammaratana Thera on the day he was informed that the Muslim residents in the town were facing threats from various groups. “I was able to verify this information and thereafter, decided to take action to prevent any harm coming to the Muslim community in the town.”

As pointed out by the Thera, his actions were driven by two aims. One, he said was to prevent the Sinhalese youth of the area from getting embroiled in a unnecessary confrontation driven by the recent events, which in turn would have landed them in trouble with the law. “The other was to protect the good relationship between the Sinhalese and the Muslims in the area,” he said.

“Punishing those involved in the recent death of a innocent man is a separate matter altogether,” the Thera said explaining that, however, no harm by Muslims has ever been committed to the Sinhala community in the area and therefore, attacks on these innocents goes against humanity. According to the Thera the main issue faced by the community is that various forces from outside Muruthalawa were attempting to cause chaos in the area.

“Those who tried to act violently that night were not from this area,” he said, adding that the Police and Army must stop these organisations and individuals.

“It is impossible for me to protect the town around the clock, therefore, the law enforcement officials must prevent these people from creating issues,” he said.

The monk claimed that while the opinions of the ‘majority’ must be respected by all, the law should be enforced in a fair manner, equal to all citizens in the country. “The idea that there is no equality is being used to incite these acts of hate against innocents,” the Thera pointed out.

“I identified the need to protect this relationship,” Dhammaratana Thera said, adding that this was one of the main reasons he decided to protect the town that fateful night. - MB