I didn’t want to alienate Muslims by banning Niqab
By Buddhika Samaraweera
Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe admitted that he was reluctant to ban Muslim women from wearing clothing that covers their faces, because he felt that doing so would deprive the Muslim community from providing information about Islamist extremism.
Adding that the communal riots of 1983 caused the Tamil people to not provide information on the LTTE organisation, Wickremesinghe said it took more than two years to get them back to providing the Government and security forces with information. Such a situation would have been created if Niqabs and other face-covering clothing of Muslim women were banned, he added.
He was testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the bombings on 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, yesterday (13).
Members of the Commission then questioned the witness as to why the Intelligence services were not able to uncover the information on a possible terror attack in April 2019, if the Muslim community had provided information about Islamist extremism. In response, Wickremesinghe said the Muslim community had provided a lot of information about Islamist extremism to the security forces. However, he said it was up to the security forces to act on the information.
Meanwhile, when queried as to whether the inability to disclose information about the possibility of an attack was a weakness of the Intelligence services, he said it was clearly a weakness of the Intelligence services.
Meanwhile, an Additional Solicitor General questioned Wickremesinghe if there were any conflicts between the faction led by him in the United National Front Government and the faction with former President Maithripala Sirisena. In reply, he said there were no serious conflicts. There were some problematic situations that can be seen in any Government in general, but there was no serious situation, he said.