Negombo citizens call for unity | Sunday Observer

Negombo citizens call for unity

28 April, 2019

An organisation known as Unity of Negombo Citizens (UNC) pledged it would not let further harm befall any community in its efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and to protect the lives of all communities, at a media briefing held last Thursday (25).

UNCs aim is to erase the label ‘inhuman behaviour’ tagged onto Sri Lanka recently and to maintain peace and harmony in the country for future generations. The organisation represents the multi-ethnic and multi-religious backgrounds of the citizens of Negombo.

“I’m a Muslim but I’ve never been involved in terrorist activities. Not only I, but most other Muslims are’nt. Please don’t label all Muslims as terrorists. I was a resident of Negombo and left to live in Colombo because I felt insecure in Negombo,” said Sheik Hasmathullah. He expressed his sadness in not being able to physically support the Catholic community in their time of grief. “We want to express our sympathies and support them in their time of need. Some of them are our family; others are friends. All these years we have been together and now because of a very small group who have done this, we have been targeted,” he said.

Convener, National Fisheries Societies Movement, Herman Kumar, also a resident of Negombo said that many representatives from the Muslim community from Negombo couldn’t participate at the media briefing as they were not allowed to go out of their homes.

Resident and Human Rights Activist, Prasanga Fernando thanked the Catholic Bishops of Sri Lanka, the Police and the Security Forces for the roles they played after the disaster. He noted that Sri Lankan politicians, from the government and opposition have acted irresponsibly without any regard for the lives of the citizenry. The 225 parliamentarians failed to protect the 65,000 square kilometres from terrorist attacks. “What if it was a large country?,” he questioned.

The bomb blasts were attacks on democracy. Some political factions fish in murky waters and had sent ‘Ninja Warriors’ to attack shops in Negombo, he said. Though the media had failed to report there had been violence and fear mongering with Muslim shopkeepers being served letters to keep their establishments closed for a week. There had been some attacks on shops and houses, he said.

He questioned as to who would benefit from riots and communal unrest in the country and cautioned citizens not to get caught in such traps. He called for the government to ban all extremist organisations which threaten peace. All communities must be flexible to join in the efforts of unity putting down cultural barriers at this time of grief and need.

Roman Catholic nun Rasika Peiris said “We cannot justify what happened last Sunday or reverse what happened. As citizens of the country, we have a huge responsibility. We cannot pass the ball. The leaders seem not ready to take up responsibility. We need to emphasise that they need to take responsibility. We understand the grievances of our Muslim brothers and sisters. No one is ready to listen to their struggles and pain. This is a good opportunity for us to extend our hand of support and say that we are with you. There are extremists in all religions, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Islam – it doesn’t mean all of us are extremists. It is time for us to break all these human-made barriers and elevate humanity,” she said.

Moulavi Nusrath Nowfel (Haqquani) from the All Ceylon Islamic Professionals’ Association condemned the attacks and called upon the government to deliver stringent punishment on the perpetrators. The Muslim community should stand together with all other communities in Negombo and the country to eradicate terrorism, he said and urged the Muslim clerics, and other administrators of mosques to extend support to achieve this purpose.

“It is empathy we should show – try being in their own shoes,” he said. He encouraged the citizens to stop blame shifting and to get together as one country to rise to the challenge of supporting those who are affected by the act of terrorism and to establish peace and harmony in the country as Sri Lankan citizens and not as segregated communities.