Saturday, 23 June, 2018

Sri Lanka declares state of emergency in wake of communal violence

Sri Lanka declares state of emergency in wake of communal violence Sri Lanka declares state of emergency in wake of communal violence
Anna Jefferson | 09 March, 2018, 16:32

He visited the island nation in February 2017 and in 2015 to take stock of progress in the country and engage national stakeholders on the peacebuilding process.

A curfew was reimposed on Monday in two police divisions of Kandy district till Wednesday, following the tense situation that claimed two lives.

The Sinhalese are a mainly Buddhist ethnic group making up almost three-quarters of Sri Lanka's 21 million people.

Images shared on social media show widespread damage to Muslim areas of Kandy, with stores and businesses destroyed and buildings vandalized.

Sri Lanka has a multiethnic population with a tremendous fusion of religions.

Since the turn of the century, a number of reports have appeared in Sri Lankan press saying that the birth rate among Muslims of the country was higher than those among Sinhalese Buddhists.

Meanwhile, following declaration of a state of emergency, foreign governments, including the U.S. and the United Kingdom, have asked their nationals visiting the island nation to "exercise caution, avoid protests and rallies, and comply with local security requirements".

According to a statement issued by Sirisena's office reads, "The president has instructed the police to impartially, comprehensively and promptly deal with those engaged in criminal activities and those causing or attempting to cause ethnic and religious tensions, irrespective of their ethnic or religious identities and political affiliations".

The government will "act sternly against groups that are inciting religious hatred", Cabinet minister Rauff Hakeem said after a meeting with the president.

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Police said there had been riots and arson attacks since the weekend in Kandy.

The emergency announcement came after Buddhist mobs swept through the towns outside Kandy, burning at least 11 Muslim-owned shops and homes.

"If arrests had taken place and cases were filed immediately, the Sinhalese would have felt that action had been taken as per law and would not have rioted", he reasoned.

The US Embassy in Sri Lanka said it was important that the government act quickly against perpetrators of sectarian violence, and protect religious minorities and their places of worship.

Declaration of Emergency gives sweeping powers to the security forces, including arrest and detention of suspects for long periods.

A senior government minister said the violence in Kandy is being stirred up by people from outside the area. The emergency was finally lifted in 2011.

While government officials did not specifically mention Buddhist extremists, many comments appeared aimed at them.

"We note that the leaders of the Muslim and Tamil political parties have already condemned these incidents and made calls to the government to take deterrent action".

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