Sri Lankans will continue to unite against terrorism, the country’s envoy to Saudi Arabia vowed during a national day of mourning for the victims of Sunday’s deadly bomb blasts. Speaking to Arab News as Sri Lanka held its first mass funeral following the Easter attacks on churches and hotels, ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Azmi Thassim, said his country would stand firm against hate and that communities would unite and rebuild.
“I am confident that we will be able to congregate the communities. I am confident that as Sri Lankans, we will put our country and human values first and we will be together to work through it and we will become a more powerful country,” the envoy said.
As the death toll from the bombings continued to rise, a state of emergency was declared in a bid to prevent further attacks.Thassim said that the Sri Lankan community has never supported the radical ideologies of any extremist group, and he commended Muslims, Christians and Buddhists in the country for their unity. Sri Lanka will this year commemorate 10 years of peace since the end of its civil war which spanned almost three decades.
“Hate speech in our country has been there for some time, from different communities. Our government is very strict and people that incited hate were taken into custody. Our government will continue to take serious action regarding hate speech,” he said.
The ambassador expressed his appreciation for all the messages of condolences that have come from citizens, expats and official representatives of Saudi Arabia.
“Our country has received messages from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the minister of foreign affairs, the secretary-general of the OIC, the secretary-general of the Muslim League and the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in condolences in support to our country, to our people and the families of the victims,” Thassim added.
There are approximately 175,000 Sri Lankan nationals living and working in Saudi Arabia. Thassim said the embassy was working closely with Sri Lankan authorities to ensure support for any national in Saudi Arabia who has been affected by the attacks.
“We’ve received calls from up to two dozen Sri Lankans who claimed their loved ones were hurt or killed. Our embassy has informed our authorities to send us confirmed information about such requests so that the embassy can responsibly inform the sponsors and our nationals.”