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SJB urges probe into Catholic statue vandalism

  • Also asks for confirmation of suspect’s mental health status

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The main Parliamentary Opposition the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has pointed out that an impartial investigation should be carried out into the recent incident where several glass enclosures containing Catholic statues in Mannar were damaged.

It also noted that if the suspect arrested in that connection is suffering from a mental illness as the Police have stated, it should be confirmed in an acceptable manner.

On the nights of 13 and 14 July, a total of six glass enclosures containing statues belonging to the Catholic faith, including two at two Churches, had been damaged by a group of unknown individuals, and the investigations into the incident had led to the arrest of a single suspect, who is in turn suspected to be a mentally ill patient.

Speaking to The Morning, the SJB’s Human Rights Affairs Head and Parliamentarian Dr. Kavinda Heshan Jayawardhana said that the fact that it took nearly three days for the Police to arrest the suspect involved in the incident was problematic.

“We have bitter memories of similar incidents, one of which was the vandalising of several Buddha statues in the Mawanella area in December 2018. In that case, if the relevant investigations had been carried out properly and the suspects arrested, the Easter Sunday bombings would not have taken place,” he opined.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jayawardhana had also recently visited the sites of the damaged enclosures.

“About six such enclosures were damaged, including two in two Catholic churches. The Police should conduct a fair investigation and confirm with evidence that the person currently under arrest is actually a mentally ill person. Also, the authorities should not just give up the matter claiming that the suspect is mentally ill,” he added.

Speaking to The Morning recently, Mannar Bishop Fidelis Lionel Emmanuel Fernando said that the Police had assured the Church that a thorough investigation into the matter was being conducted. He added, however, that they are not worried about this being an incident related to language or religious violence.

In December 2018, Islamist extremists had vandalised several Buddha statues in the Hingula area in Mawanella and it was later revealed that a group, including the National Thowheed Jama’ath Leader Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zahran (Zahran Hashim), was behind the attacks.