Chairman of the Wennappuwa Pradeshiya Sabha Susantha Perera, whose controversial decision to ban Muslims from trading at the Dankotuwa Sathipola (weekly fair) sparked outrage and resulted in a court order yesterday, is defending his action.
Speaking to RepublicNext this morning, Perera said his intention was only to keep the peace and prevent what he thought would prove to be a tense situation.
“I have no grudge against the Muslim community. I only implemented this temporary ban to ensure peace in the area,” he said.
“There is no point taking action after something has happened due to tension among communities,” he added.
The Marawila Magistrate Court yesterday issued summons to Perera, seeking an explanation on his decision and the letter he had sent to the Dankotuwa requesting them to implement the ban.
Perera acknowledged the receipt of the summons ordering him to appear before the Court on Friday (28) with an explanation on what grounds he issued his directive.
The Magistrate had summoned Perera after Dankotuwa police had gone to courts seeking legal advice about the ban, he said.
The directive issued by the chair of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-controlled Wennapuwa Pradeshia Sabha issued widespread criticism on social media and elsewhere. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera called it Arpatheid in Wennappuwa.
Perera took to Facebook last night to respond to the Minister:
“The decision to temporarily restrict Muslim vendors from participating in the weekly market of Dankotuwa is currently being grossly misrepresented as an act of apartheid. Wennapluwa PS is not in the business of willful racial segregation or targetting any business under the virtue belonging to a particular religion. Unfortunately, some have decided to twist the context of my decision to request Muslim vendors to refrain from taking part in the weekly market. This difficult decision was made as a result of conflict amongst Muslim and other vendors in the Dankotuwa weekly market and was meant as a precautionary measure to mitigate further escalation of the conflict at the request of the general public and the local religious leaders. The police were instructed to carry out a preliminary investigation, so further assessments can be made, and until then, Muslim vendors were requested to refrain from doing business for everyone’s safety. The unfortunate reality is that due to the events from recent history, any interactions with the Muslim community is a delicate matter and due to the extenuating nature of the circumstances, difficult decisions had to be made. Please do not politicize this action during these sensitive times to further anyone’s political ambitions.“
Meanwhile, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Former Secretary to the Media Ministry Charitha Herath who also represents the SLPP called for a disciplinary inquiry.