Communal riots in Lanka force a 10-day national emergency

RSTV Bureau
File Photo of Matripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka. (Representational Image).

File Photo of Matripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency for 10 days to rein in the spread of communal violence between majority Sinhala and minority Muslims in Kandy district that left two persons dead and left a trail of destruction.

Violence, triggered by the death of a Sinhalese man at the hands of a mob last week, erupted on Monday in the Theldeniya area of the central hill district popular with tourists. The government sent troops and elite police commandos to Kandy to restore order and enforce curfew.

President Maithripala Sirisena and the cabinet decided to declare a state of emergency for 10 days following the violence, Minister of Social Empowerment SB Dissanayake told reporters after the cabinet meeting.

Muslims claimed that around 10 mosques, 75 shops and 32 houses belonging to the minority community were badly damaged in the attacks by the Sinhalese Buddhists, forcing police to fire tear gas shells and impose an overnight curfew to prevent clashes between the two communities.

The situation, however, remained tense in parts of Kandy, home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics, after burnt body a Muslim man was recovered on Tuesday from the remains of a burnt building.

Fresh curfew was imposed today and heavily-armed police commandos of special task force were deployed in Theldeniya and Pallekele areas of Kandy after rioters disobeyed an overnight curfew and went on a rampage.

This will be the first time since August 2011, that a state of emergency will be in force in the Indian Ocean island nation.

The state of emergency allows the deployment of troops on the streets. It also empowers the authorities to search and arrest people without a warrant.

Sri Lanka has a long history of imposing a state of emergency during the LTTE rebellion, both in the south and the Tamil minority dominated north and east of the island.

“We decided to take strong action to control the situation and to deal strongly with all wrong doers,” senior minister Rauff Hakeem, who is also the leader of the main Muslim party Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), told reporters.

According to police, on February 22, the man was admitted to a hospital following an attack, where he succumbed to his injuries on March 3, after which the attackers arrested and were remanded to police custody till tomorrow.

The Sinhalese are a mainly Buddhist ethnic group making up nearly three-quarters of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people, while Muslims are just 10 per cent of the country’s population.

(With inputs from agencies)