General Secretary of the Ravana Balaya, Iththekande Sadhdhatissa
Q : What is your position with regard to the refugee situation?
The Government has not notified us of anything. We have already visited the Myanmar embassy in this regard.
The Government previously stated that no Rohingya had come into the country and later that those who had come had been sent away. If that is in fact the case, who is it that remains in the country?
The Government has to accept the responsibility. Instead of finding a solution to the problem, the Government is attacking the monks.
In addition to in Mount Lavinia, there are Rohingya Muslims in Mullaitivu, Ampara and the Northern Province. Further, there are Pakistani Muslims in the country. There is no one who is responsible in this regard. One can find out through the Department of Immigration and Emigration as to those who have come into the country having obtained on arrival visa and not left.
The Government is placing the blame on the monks and is attempting to make us wrongdoers. From what we know of what the Government is planning in this regard, monks might be arrested. No action is taken with regard to Minister, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s recent statement which has received international attention, yet the Government is making the fact that monks conducted a raid, a problem. They call us vagabonds. So as long as a proper solution is taken, there is no issue with us going to jail. What is being attempted is akin to taking serpents that are wandering elsewhere and placing them inside our clothes.
We do not have an economy that can maintain and sustain refugees. We are in debt to the entire world. The Government is not heeding any of these aspects.
There is no administrative mechanism and process in place in this regard. There are cases where Ministers and the President do not know about letters issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this context, the Government is saying whatever they feel. Recent statements made in this regard by Ministers Dr. Rajitha Senaratne and Dayasiri Jayasekara are therefore mere stories. They provide no solution to the problem.
Refugees must be placed in a camp under the monitoring of the Government and the Department of Social Services. Yet, their children are going to private international schools. They are renting houses here and there. What will happen to the sovereignty of the country?
The authorities have to take action. Instead they insult us. When the Police inform the courts, the courts issue orders. There must be a programme where the refugees are repatriated back to Myanmar or their countries of origin. Right now, we are becoming their keepers. This should not be the case.
Q : What do you believe in the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in this regard?
If the policy involving refugees is implemented via the United Nations, this must be done in a systematic manner. In this case, neither the Police nor the intelligence services knew. There is no one who is responsible. In this particular instance, there were women with children, and men who looked after them as caretakers were there. Where were the men, the fathers and the husbands and without them how can there be children? They say that they came to the country in 2008. We feel that there is an underhand game here. Showing kindness to those in dire straits is mentioned in Buddhism and as Sinhalese Buddhists we respect that. Yet, that said, we cannot be expected to place that which is burning atop our heads.
Q : What further action do you intend to take in relation to this matter?
In two to three weeks, a policy decision must be taken to send them to their respective countries and those countries cannot say that they are not willing to accept them back. When our people are in difficulty, there is no one to help us. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government must take action. We cannot have a situation where the children are going to school here. How can there by three to four children without the men present? We believe that this is also connected to the Muslim colony that Minister Rishad Bathiudeen is establishing in areas such as the Wilpattu. The Government must be careful. The intelligence services must monitor the situation.
The external world is dangerous. Problems that were previously not there could arise as a result. When we spoke of Muslim extremism and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Government stated that there was no such situation here. It was only when Sri Lankans died in Syria that the Government found out that such a situation in fact existed. As long as the Government solves this problem, they may imprison the monks if we have done any wrong.
Also, the Government is continuously engaging in a massive struggle attempting to pass laws to favour the Muslims and the Tamils by showing unseen compassion in order to win their votes. We demand that the Government puts a halt to this idiocy. They can have a separate programme or project to obtain the votes so as long as they do not place the country in harm’s way. These are wholly unnecessary issues that are being created.
We are a country that has been battered by problems and we are at the lowest ebb. In this context, we do not need to invite further trouble as we cannot afford such. We will continue to pressure the Government to solve this matter.