COLOMBO: The head of the Catholic church in Sri Lanka, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, told newspersons here that the clashes in the North Western Provinces have no religious nuances and that the attacks on Muslim properties appear to have been carried out by political and not religious elements.

“What we see is a more a political crisis where certain political parties and their agents at the base level run out of control and they go and attack unnecessarily these people. I don't think there are religious nuances,” the Cardinal said.

The Catholics of Sri Lanka, even those in Negombo where they are in sizeable numbers, have been quiet following the Cardinal’s appeal not to retaliate or take the law into their hands after eight suicide bombers, belonging to the National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and the Jamaathei Millathu Ibrahimi (JMI) attacked three churches and three hotels in the island on April 21 killing 253 persons, mostly Catholics attending the Easter Mass.

Fr.Edmund Thilakaratne ,a spokesman of the Catholic church said that if the Catholics were to take revenge against the Muslims, they would have done so in the first two days. But they did not because they had been persuaded by the Cardinal not to precipitate a fresh communal problem.

“The present riots, taking place two weeks after the Eastern Sunday carnage, appear to be the handiwork of outside political elements,” Fr.Thilakaratne said.

Sure enough the police on Tuesday arrested Dan Priyasad, lader of the Buddhist extremist organization Nawa Sinhale National Organization.He had surrendered to the police.

However international agencies had gone to town describing the rioting as a Christian-Muslim clash.

AFP described the rioters as “Christian-led”. But at the same time quoted a police officer saying: “There is a strong political element to the riots today. There are people trying to make political capital out of this situation.”

Muslim Leader’s Appeal

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader and Minister Rauff Hakeem on Tuesday called on the Prime Minister and tri-forces commanders to control the violent incidents in the country in absence of the President, who is in China attending a conference on Asian civilizations.

In a statement, Hakeem sought protection for “Muslims who are suffering for a dastardly crime committed by a few with whom the larger Muslim community has nothing to do with whatsoever”.

“With the danger of the terrible experience snowballing into a more complex conundrum, we urge the government and the Armed Forces to curb continued violence against the innocent Muslims in the country,” he said.

He said it was dreadful and frightening to witness the unfolding events as innocent men, women and children of the Muslim community are targeted in reprisal for the horrendous and beastly attacks by some extremists on April 21.