Photo credit: Shehara De Silva (via @Charindra_chan)
As a Sinhala Buddhist festival kicked off in Colombo yesterday, Sri Lankan flags associated with the racist ‘Sinha Le’ movement – displaying only the lion symbol – were seen being paraded as part of the procession.
The parade, held as part of the Buddhist Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo’s Perahera, was attended by Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as former prime minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, and ministers Chamal Rajapaksa and Namal Rajapaksa, amongst others.
As proceedings got underway, several Sinhala Buddhist flags and symbols were on display. As Sri Lankan flags were being waved, several Sinha Le flags also marched as part of the procession.
The Gangaramaya Temple was visited last month by British Minister for South Asia, Lord Tariq Ahmad, who spoke of “inclusivity of people of all faiths and beliefs defines the strength of a country’s human rights”.
The Sinhala only flags - Sri Lankan lion flags which have had the token representation stripes for Tamils and Muslims removed - have long been associated with racist Sinhalese movements.
In recent years the flags have been flown several times by extremist Sinhala groups, including those behind the ‘Sinha Le’ or ‘Lion’s Blood’ movement and other organisations accused of hate speech.
Sri Lanka's national flag, is dominated by a lion, the Sinhala national symbol, holding a sword facing two small strips, which were added to represent the Tamil and Muslim communities. In 1972, the government added four leaves of the Bo tree, a holy Buddhist tree, to the flag.
Tamils have long rejected Sri Lanka’s flag and other national symbols, with many raising black flags as a sign of protest instead on Sri Lankan Independence Day.