The deadly communal riots ongoing between Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka need an urgent solution.
Sri Lanka has a history of serious minority-majority conflicts still being probed by the United Nations. With the current crisis threatening to plunge the country back into civil war, the UN must pressure Sri Lanka to enact laws that allow its Human Rights Commission and its armed security forces to control the riots.
A state of emergency has been imposed, but an alleged genocide of Tamils during the civil war is still under investigation by the United Nations and hangs heavy over the new outbreaks of violence.
The reason that such riots are a frequent occurrence in South Asia is that authorities blame tensions at the inter-communal level – when in fact they are an administrative problem.
As such, changes to the law need to be enacted to prevent communal violence. The UN should intervene and ask the Sri Lankan government to enact two laws allowing for (1) dispersal of assembly by use of civil force and (2) use of armed forces to disperse assembly.
These laws will eliminate local magistrates being dependent on government ministers for maintaining peace in their areas, hence ensuring speedy control of riots.
Sri Lanka will be successful in controlling and stopping the riots only when (unlike India) it has the power to prosecute the magistrates and officers of armed forces who are derelict in their duties to stop the violence. In India the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 and of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 happened because those executive magistrates and officers who failed in their duties to stop earlier riots were not prosecuted.
Sri Lanka should also enact laws so that the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission should be able to request a United Nations Peace Keeping Force if the country’s own security forces fail to control the riots.
Hem Raj Jain
Author of “Betrayal of Americanism – The Cause of Financial and Economic Crisis”.