Arrest Rohingya refugee attackers - Minister

Minister Rajitha Senaratne yesterday called for the arrest of the mob of monks who attacked a Rohingya safe house on Tuesday (26).

“Regardless of whether they are clergy or not, action needs to be taken”, he said addressing the weekly Cabinet media briefing. He also asked that the IGP investigate into the actions of police officers who stood by and failed to control the mob.

The 31 Rohingya refugees who have been transferred to the Boosa army camp for safety after the attack had been housed in a two storey building in Mount Lavinia by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) until their application for asylum to other countries are processed.

“This is not the first time we have had Rohingya in the country. They first came here in 2008. Where were the monks then? They had no problem then because Rajapaksa was in power,”, the minister said.

In March 2008, 55 Rohingya refugees were rescued off the coast of Mullaitivu. Having been taken into Sri Lankan custody, in July 2008, they were released to the care of the UNHCR. By 2012, they had found asylum in the US and left the shores of Sri Lanka. In February 2013, the Navy rescued another two boat loads of 170 Rohingyas from the Eastern coast. By 2015 November, they too had been resettled in the US and Canada.

In April this year, the Navy rescued 30 refugees, among them was a pregnant woman, they had already been registered as refugees in India when they arrived. In August, they were housed in Ratmalana rented by the UNHCR through its partner organization Muslim Aid.

The government of Sri Lanka which is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention is bound by the principle of non-refoulement which states that, “No refugee shall be returned to any country where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.

“Sri Lanka has over two million of its people living as asylum seekers or refugees outside of this country.Those countries have given them shelter and work. And our people here are attacking 30 people”, Minister Senaratne said.

Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said the Emigrants and Immigrants Act of 1948 does not enable asylum seekers or refugees to be granted citizenship or permanent residence in the country.

“As a Buddhist I am very disappointed by such animalistic acts.The Buddha’s vision was to protect the persecuted.The problem here is that Buddhists have become Sinhala Buddhists”, Minister Senaratne said.

In reply to allegations made by opposition MPs that the children of refugees have been given access to local schools, Minister Jayasekara said it was the government’s responsibility to extend basic human rights to those who live in the country, a fundamental principle of Buddhism.

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