PROPERTY TORCHED DESPITE POLICE ALERT
VANDALS attacked a Muslim–owned 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)