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Voicing concern over the possible attempts to promote Muslim extremism in Sri Lanka, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated that the emergence of hard line groups within the majority community is a consequence of the increasing insularity amongst minority ethnic groups.

Delivering the keynote address at the ‘Defence Seminar – 2013’ in Colombo today, he stated that the indications of increasing communalism amongst ethnic groups in the country is a cause for concern.

“The increased insularity of ethnic groups was visible during the three decades of conflict in Sri Lanka, and it is a matter of some concern that this separation still persists under conditions of peace and stability,” he said.

Rajapaksa stated that the fragmentation of the Sri Lankan identity into ethno-religious identification is not only unfortunate in itself, but it can also lead to other problems in the long term.

For example, it is clear that there are some in the Tamil community who identify more with the Tamil community of Tamil Nadu than with their fellow Sri Lankans, he said, adding “similarly, it has been observed that there are some foreign groups that wish to encourage Sri Lankan Muslims to identify themselves more with the global Muslim community, thereby reducing their integration with the rest of the population.”

He stated that the country’s police and security forces are concerned regarding instances where “extremist elements” have been in transit in Sri Lanka prior to their arrest.

“It is a known fact that Muslim Fundamentalism is spreading all over the world and in this region. This is a situation that our Law Enforcement agencies and Security Forces are concerned about, particularly as there have been instances where extremist elements have been in transit in Sri Lanka prior to arrest and handing over to appropriate authorities,” he said.

“The possibility that such extremist elements may try to promote Muslim extremism in Sri Lanka is a cause for concern,” he added.

He pointed out that one of the “consequences” of the increasing insularity amongst minority ethnic groups is the emergence of hard line groups within the majority community and that this in turn causes further tensions amongst other communities, which leads to a vicious cycle of greater fragmentation of the Sri Lankan identity.

“Sri Lanka had enough divisions in the past that ultimately led to conflict; we must learn the lessons from our past and ensure that history is not repeated. This is a critical challenge that faces the entire nation today,” Rajapaksa said, addressing a gathering of more than 300 participants, comprised of 66 foreign delegates, ambassadors and defence attachés.

The Secretary of Defence and Urban Development was the Guest of Honour at the seminar, themed ‘Post Conflict Sri Lanka; Challenges and Regional Stability’ organized by Sri Lanka Army at Colombo Galadari Hotel today (03).