Sri Lanka declares Emergency after anti-Muslim riots

Colombo: Sri Lanka has declared a nationwide state of emergency for 10 days to rein in the spread of communal riots on Tuesday, a day after mob attacks against the minority Muslim population in an Indian Ocean island’s central district of Kandy.

“At a special cabinet meeting, it was decided to declare a state of emergency for ten days to prevent the spread of communal riots to other parts of the country,” the spokesman, Dayasiri Jayasekara, told Reuters.

The announcement came after angry mobs made up of the majority Sinhalese ethnic group swept through the hill town of Kandy on Monday, burning at least 11 Muslim-owned shops and homes, and at least one mosque. One Muslim man was killed whose body was pulled from the ashes of the burnt building.

The latest tensions, coming a week after similar mob attacks against Muslims in an eastern region, erupted after a Sinhalese truck driver was injured by a group of Muslim men in what has been described as a road rage incident. The man died from his injuries on Saturday.

Hundreds of security personnel, including Special Forces, were deployed in Kandy district and curfew has been imposed on Monday.

Rishad Bathiudeen, Sri Lanka’s minister of industry and commerce who was in Kandy to survey the damage said, “How are minority communities supposed to feel when the police stand by and watch while their houses and their businesses are destroyed by violent mobs?”

Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, executive director of the Centre for Human Rights Sri Lanka, condemned the “unfathomable police inefficiency” that he said led to the violence.

Some observers blame the hardline Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) group for the ongoing violence. Muslims account for 10 percent of the population and Buddhists Sinhalese make up nearly 75 percent.

Anti-Muslim violence has been on the rise in Sri Lanka in recent years, an anti-Muslim campaign was launched following the deadly Aluthgama riots in June 2014.