Sunday 22 July 2018

Sri Lanka declares emergency amid anti-Muslim violence

President Maithripala Sirisena said the decree would ‘redress the unsatisfactory security situation’.

Troops in Digana, a suburb of Kandy (AP/Pradeep Pathiran)
Troops in Digana, a suburb of Kandy (AP/Pradeep Pathiran)

By Krishan Francis

Sri Lanka’s president has declared a state of emergency amid fears that anti-Muslim attacks in a central hill town could spread.

Details of the emergency decree were not immediately announced, and it was unclear how it would affect life on the south Asian island nation, where Buddhist-Muslim tensions have flared in recent years as extremist Buddhist organisations have spread.

A tweet from the office of President Maithripala Sirisena said the decree would “redress the unsatisfactory security situation prevailing in certain parts of the country”.

It said the country’s security forces “have been suitably empowered to deal with criminal elements in the society and urgently restore normalcy”.

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A vandalized building in Digana, a suburb of Kandy (AP/Pradeep Pathiran)

The announcement came after Buddhist mobs went on the rampage outside the town of Kandy on Monday, burning at least 11 Muslim-owned shops and homes.

The attacks came after a Buddhist man was reportedly killed by a group of Muslims. Police later announced a curfew in the town.

Lakshman Kiriella, a legislator from Kandy, said in parliament that the attacks were “carried out by outsiders”.

“I am ashamed as a Buddhist and we must apologise to the Muslims,” he said.

Sri Lanka has long been divided between the majority Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist, and minority Tamils who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

The country remains deeply scarred by its 1983-2009 civil war, when Tamil rebels fought to create an independent homeland.

While the rebels were eventually crushed, a religious divide has taken hold in recent years, with hardline Sinhalese groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert and destroying sacred Buddhist sites.

Press Association

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