JHU slams US report

by Easwaran Rutnam

The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) has slammed the annual US report on religious freedom, which says that the JHU did not fare well at the last general elections.

JHU spokesman Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe said that the JHU was a party built on Buddhist values and the party would do whatever it took to protect the country from religious extremists who worked with sinister agendas.

"We do not accept the comments on Sri Lanka made in the US State Department report. The US has made every attempt to interfere even in Sri Lankan politics and now they are trying to support extremist attempts by certain Christian groups in our country," the JHU spokesman said.

The international religious freedom report by the US State Department, released on Tuesday, noted that there was an improvement on religious freedom in Sri Lanka particularly after the JHU lost ground at the last General Elections.

The report said that in Sri Lanka the number and scale of attacks on Christians and Muslims appeared to be lower than in previous years.

The report also noted that for the first time in the post-war era, a pilgrimage was allowed to the Madhu Church site in Mannar. The Madhu Church area had been the scene of intense fighting during the latter years of the war, and the historic statue of Our Lady of Madhu had been moved to another location to protect it from the fighting.

"During the campaigns prior to both the presidential election in January 2010 and the general election in April 2010 the JHU was alleged to have carried out a number of attacks on churches in an effort to mobilise Buddhist voters and gain their support. The JHU lost ground in the new parliament, however, dropping to two seats, and there was a noticeable decrease in attacks on churches as the reporting period reached its end," the US State Department report said.

The US government discusses religious freedom with the Sri Lankan government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. US embassy officials conveyed US government concerns about church attacks to government leaders and urged them to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. Embassy officials also expressed concern to the government about the negative effect of anti-conversion laws on religious freedom.

The US government continued to discuss general religious freedom concerns with religious leaders, the State Department said.

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