Clashes mark day 2 of Lanka emergency over Buddhist-Muslim riots

07 Mar 2018


The state of emergency in Sri Lanka entered the second day today, with the opposition lambasting President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe, alleging inaction in the Buddhist-Muslim communal clashes in Kandy district.

Police fired teargas to disperse rioters in curfew-bound central Sri Lanka hours after the emergency was imposed in a bid to quell the anti-Muslim violence, it was officially announced today.

At least three police were wounded in the overnight clashes at Menikhinna, a suburb of Kandy, which has been a focus of the new trouble, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

Seven people were arrested for breaking the curfew and trying to cause unrest in the multi-ethnic district, which is a popular tourist destination. Internet services were suspended in the district.

Schools across Kandy, 115 km east of Colombo, remained closed today as the government ordered more troops to reinforce police and stop the unrest spreading.

Former president and MP Mahinda Rajapaksa alleged that the Wickremesinghe-led UNP was not interested in resolving the communal problem in Kandy. ''This is not a political conspiracy. It reflects the inaction of the UNP. The government has deviated from its responsibilities. There is no one to turn to,'' Rajapaksa said.

Another Opposition party, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, hit out the government for cultivating "racism" across the country.

Foreign governments issued travel warnings following Tuesday's declaration of a state of emergency which gives sweeping powers to police and security forces to arrest and detain suspects.

More than 150 homes, shops and vehicles were set ablaze during two days of rioting. Two people were also killed in the unrest.

Tensions rose on Tuesday as the body of a 24-year-old Muslim man was pulled out of a burnt building.

Sri Lanka's Parliament on Tuesday issued an apology to the Muslim minority, which constitutes 10 per cent of the country's population of 21 million.

"We want to apologise to the Muslim community for the inhuman acts that have taken place," state enterprise development minister Lakshman Kiriella said in parliament.

In Parliament, 11 Muslim MPs led by cabinet minister Rishard Bathiudeen sat in the Well of the House, seeking government's assurance on protecting Muslims across the country.

City planning minister Rauff Hakeem described the riots as a "monumental security lapse" and recommended disciplinary action against those responsible.

Riots erupted on Monday after a man from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority died at the hands of a Muslim mob last week.

Mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country last week after a Muslim chef was accused of adding contraceptives to food sold to Sinhalese customers.

Last November riots in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged.

In June 2014 riots between Buddhists and Muslims left four dead and many injured. That bout of violence was instigated by a Buddhist extremist group whose leaders are on trial, accused of spurring religious conflict.

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