Sri Lankan monk ends hunger strike as Muslim politicians quit

Cardinal criticized for visiting hunger-striking monk who claims Muslim politicians are linked to terror attacks
Sri Lankan monk ends hunger strike as Muslim politicians quit

Muslim cabinet member Rishad Bathiudeen (center) leaves after taking part in a press conference in Colombo on June 3 after his resignation. Sri Lanka's Muslim ministers resigned en masse on June 3 over widespread hate attacks against their community in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings that hit the Buddhist-majority nation. (Photo by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP)

ucanews.com reporter, Negombo
Sri Lanka
June 4, 2019
An opposition Sri Lankan lawmaker who is also a Buddhist monk has called off a "successful" hunger strike aimed at putting pressure on several Muslims to resign from top government positions.

Venerable Rathana Thera stopped his hunger strike on June 3 after learning Industry Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and provincial council governors Azath Salley and M.L.A.M. Hizbullah had resigned from their government positions that day.

Salley and Hizbullah said they were resigning in protest at what they said is the government’s inability to ensure security for Muslim communities in the wake of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks that killed 253 people.

Sinhala Buddhist mobs have destroyed over 500 Muslim-owned businesses and homes since the terrorist attacks. At least one Muslim man has been killed in the chaos.

The monk-politician has alleged the three men have links with the radical Islamic group National Thowheed Jamath, whose members carried out the attacks which targeted several churches and hotels.

There has been no evidence shown to support such allegations.

Venerable Rathana Thera began his hunger strike outside the Sri Dalada Maligawa temple in Kandy on May 31. Massive crowds came out to show their support for him in several Sri Lankan cities and towns.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, has been criticized for visiting Venerable Rathana Thera and for supporting the politician-monk.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera tweeted that Cardinal Ranjith’s visit has further inflamed tensions in the country.

In a show of solidarity for the three men who have stepped down, eight Muslim government officials quit their portfolios on June 3 but remain in government and in their parties.

Bathiudeen was facing a no-faith motion in the parliament scheduled for June 18-19 but given his resignation this has been annulled.

There are 19 Muslims among the island nation’s 225-member parliament.

Of Sri Lanka's 21 million people, 70 percent are Buddhist, 15 percent Hindu, 9 percent Muslim and 7 percent Christian.

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