Sri Lankan business chambers have failed to stand together with Muslim owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in difficult times, recently re-appointed Minister of Industry & Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.
“It was very sad for me to see the silence of the Chamber of Commerce as the backlash on Muslim owned businesses raged,” the Minister said in a statement issued to the press yesterday (1).
“As various communal elements openly encouraged local consumers to not to buy anything from Muslim owned businesses in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks, the Chamber of Commerce kept totally silent. The Chamber should have openly voiced that no one should take such revenge actions on Muslim owned businesses as a response to the barbaric actions of terrorists like Zahran,” he said.
Communal violence spread in the North-Western province damaging majority Muslim owned SMEs on 14 May.
According to the UK based Muslim Aid, 196 businesses were damaged due to the communal violence that took place in areas such as Kurunegala and Gampaha. Approximately 80 businesses were damaged in Wariyapola, the most from any area.
“Muslim countries stood with Sri Lanka when the human rights investigations were pursued by Geneva. At the time former President Mahinda Rajapaksa sent me and some other Muslim Ministers to visit Muslim countries to canvass their support to Sri Lanka, and we got their assistance-along with various types of relief from them as well. At the end of the war, Sri Lanka could not afford to buy crude oil since we were short of cash and, after Muslim Parliamentarians’ request, Iran stepped in to give Sri Lanka crude oil for six months on credit, to the value of $250 Mn,” Bathiudeen said.
Minister Bathiudeen first assumed duties in his portfolio early in 2011 and now has become the only Lankan Parliamentarian and Cabinet Minister to hold this portfolio four times in a row until he resigned in June 2019 with other Muslim Ministers. With his re-appointment, he now re-gains this portfolio for the fifth time in a row.