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Sri Lanka tensions persist


UNREST: A Sri Lankan soldier guards a mosque in the capital
Colombo amid fears that anti-Muslim riots in the central region of
Kandy could spread to other areas of the island; and (below)
members of the People’s Liberation Front group and Buddhist monks
hold a rally calling for calm following the deadly communal violence
UNREST: A Sri Lankan soldier guards a mosque in the capital Colombo amid fears that anti-Muslim riots in the central region of Kandy could spread to other areas of the island; and (below) members of the People’s Liberation Front group and Buddhist monks hold a rally calling for calm following the deadly communal violence

PROPERTY TORCHED DESPITE POLICE ALERT

VANDALS attacked a Muslimowned res­taurant in Sri Lanka last Sunday (11) in an alleged “hate crime”, police said, as tensions remain high across the island following a week of violent riots.

The restaurant in Anamaduwa – 130 km (81 miles) north of the capital Colombo – was targeted despite police being on high alert after a spate of anti-Muslim attacks.

A state of emergency was declared last week as 11 mosques were torched and 200 Muslim-owned businesses destroyed in ri­ots by Sinhalese mobs that left at least three people dead and around 20 wounded.

A curfew was lifted in the central district of Kandy, the epicentre of the violence, but soldiers remained on the streets, equipped with emergency powers to detain people to maintain law and order.

Some social media networks including Facebook remain blocked across Sri Lanka. Officials say this was done to prevent the spread of hate speech against Muslims.

A senior police official said disciplinary action would be taken against officers in the Anamaduwa area for failing to prevent the restaurant attack.

“We are treating this as a hate crime. An investigation is on to identify those respon­sible,” he said on condition of anonymity.

The UN’s political chief last Sunday con­demned the anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka as he wrapped up a three-day visit to the Indian Ocean island-nation.

Under-secretary-general for political af­fairs, Jeffrey Feltman, urged the government to bring the perpetrators of the violence and hate speech to justice.

Feltman, who met Muslim leaders during his visit, “condemned the breakdown in law and order and the attacks against Muslims and their property,” a UN statement said.

He said he received assurances from gov­ernment leaders that they are moving for­ward with democratic reforms.

President Maithripala Sirisena an­nounced last Saturday (10) that he would appoint a three-member panel of retired judges to investigate the unrest that has drawn concern from rights groups and the international community.

Police were deployed to mosques across Sri Lanka last Friday (9) to guard worship­pers from the island’s minority Muslim community during weekly prayers. There were no reports of violence.

Hundreds of Buddhist monks and activ­ists staged demonstrations in Colombo last Friday (9), denouncing violence and urging authorities to punish those responsible.

Police said nearly 150 people were ar­rested over the violence, including the sus­pected leader Amith Weerasinghe, a Sinha­lese man known for anti-Muslim activism and outspoken social media posts.

Muslims make up 10 per cent of Sri Lan­ka’s 21 million people. The majority of the population are Sinhalese, a largely Buddhist ethnic group. (Agencies)