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‘Brainwashed Muslims’ must be ‘forcibly rehabilitated’ says Sri Lankan legislator

The head of Sri Lanka’s Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security said “brainwashed Muslims” must be forcibly rehabilitated, adding that the government can no longer “please” the community by appeasing their demands. 

Sarath, the former Public Security Minister, told reporters in Colombo that though Muslim organisations have raised objections against the Bureau of Rehabilitation Bill, which was passed last year and gives the security forces the authority to run so-called rehabilitation centres, it must be forcibly implemented.

In particular, Weerasekera pointed to the recent arrest of four Sri Lankan Muslims by the Gujarati Anti-Terrorist Squad, which said the four had suspected links to the Islamic State (ISIS).

“The four Muslims who Gujarati ATS arrested are highly radicalised,” he claimed. “Police found a cellphone and in it was a recorded video, of a sermon (bayyan) which pledges allegiance to take the ISIS ideology forward… They planned to attack Jews, Christians, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for committing crimes against the Muslim community.”

He told the reporters that until February this year, all four were members e National Thowheeth Jamath (NJT),  an Islamic extremist group that reportedly had links to the former Rajapaksa regime.

“This is a dangerous situation,” he said comparing the individuals to members of the LTTE stating that while it was easy for the army to make out the enemy, it was not as straightforward to pinpoint a person with an ideology.

“What we should do is rehabilitate any individuals whom we think have been brainwashed into believing that they would be martyrs,” he continued. “But each time we present the rehabilitation bill, four Muslim organisations raised objections and filed cases. They have alleged that it goes against their fundamental rights. We cannot please them this way. We have to rehabilitate them, even if it means forcibly.”

Several organizations including Harm Reduction International, the International Drug Policy Consortium, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have called on the Sri Lankan government to withdraw the draconian Rehabilitation Bill. 

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch said the Sri Lankan government’s proposed "‘rehabilitation’ efforts appear to be nothing more than a new form of abusive detention without charge".

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