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Emergency in Sri Lanka enters Day 2: Opposition slams govt for inaction; police and armed forces given more powers

The state of emergency in Sri Lanka entered the second day on Wednesday, with the Opposition slamming President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe for alleged inaction in the Buddhist-Muslim communal clashes in Kandy district.

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 was quoted by Daily Mirror as saying.

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

Claiming that the government was using the Emergency as a tool to divert attention from its failures, party MP Anura Dissanayake told the parliament, "We will not be able to create national harmony among the different communities as long as racism was cultivated in the minds of the people. We as a country will not have a good future if racism prevailed in the country."

Talking on the same lines as Dissanayake, another Opposition leader Wimal Weerawansa alleged that the government deliberately neglected providing security to the riot-affected area in order to "suppress burning isssues" in the country.

In the Sri Lankan Parliament, 11 Muslim MPs led bu a Cabinet minister Rishard Bathiudeen sat the Well of the House, seeking government's assurance on protecting Muslims across the country, The Island reported.

Sri Lanka on Tuesday declared a state of Emergency for 10 days to rein in the spread of communal violence between majority Sinhala Buddhists and minority Muslims in the country's scenic Kandy district that left two persons dead and damaged several mosques and homes.

More powers given to police, tri-forces

Police fired teargas to disperse rioters in curfew-bound central Sri Lanka hours after a state of emergency was imposed in a bid to quell anti-Muslim violence, an official said Wednesday.

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.

Daily Mirror reported on Wednesday that police and the tri-forces (army, navy and the air force) have been empowered to arrest anyone who creates violence or communal disharmony and sentence him or her to 20 years imprisonment or life imprisonment.

The police also imposed curfew in Kandy, a central Sri Lankan district from 8 pm on Tuesday to 6 am on Wednesday. The police had also imposed indefinite curfew in Pallekele and Teldeniya areas of Kandy on Monday, The Island reported.

Leave of all policemen in the country have been cancelled with immediate effect, Daily Mirror reported.

Sri Lanka's army soldiers remove the debris of a vandalised building in Digana, a suburb of Kandy. AP

Sri Lanka's army soldiers remove the debris of a vandalised building in Digana, a suburb of Kandy. AP

No immediate impact on tourism

The Sri Lanka Tourism Devlopment Authority on Tuesday claimed there will be no immediate impact on tourism sector due to the ongoing tensions in Kandy.

Expressing confidence over the security situation, SLTDA Communication Consultant Rasika Jayakody told Daily Mirror, "The SLTDA and the tourist police are equipped with backup plans in case of any disruptions to transport or any other issues."

On the directive of Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) in the interest of national security, access to certain Social Media sites and messaging platforms will be restricted with immediate effect until further notice

Sri Lankan stock market drops to three-week low

Sri Lankan shares dropped to their lowest close in nearly three weeks on Tuesday amid investors’ concerns about communal violence.

The country declared a nationwide state of emergency for 10 days on Tuesday to stop the spread of violence, after clashes erupted between majority Buddhists and members of the minority Muslim community.

“Market came down with investors worried over the government declaring state of emergency,” said Atchuthan Srirangan, a senior research analyst at First Capital Holdings PLC. “Investors are waiting to see how foreign investors will react to this state of emergency," he added.

UN leader to visit Sri Lanka this week

UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman will visit Sri Lanka this week, the UN spokesman said on Tuesday.  Feltman, the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, will arrive on Friday for three days of talks with Sri Lankan leaders and is expected to visit Kandy where two people were killed in the violence.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the visit was planned before the state of emergency was imposed. "We are obviously concerned over reports of the ongoing communal violence and we welcome the government's commitment to addressing the tensions and achieve reconciliation," he said. "We urge all Sri Lankans to resolve their difference through dialogue," he added.

United States denounces communal violence

The United States issued a statement on Tuesday denouncing the communal violence and said that human rights and rule of law are essential for peaceful co-existence. "Rule of law, human rights, and equality are essential for peaceful coexistence.  It is important that the Government of Sri Lanka act quickly against perpetrators of sectarian violence, protect religious minorities and their places of worship, and conclude the State of Emergency swiftly, while protecting human rights and basic freedoms for all," the US statement read.

Death of Sinhalese man led to rioting

Violence, triggered by the death of a Sinhalese man at the hands of a mob last week, erupted on Monday in the Theldeniya area of the central hill district popular with tourists. The government sent troops and elite police commandos to Kandy to restore order and enforce the curfew.

Sirisena and the Cabinet decided to declare a state of emergency for 10 days following the violence prevailed in some parts of the country, Minister of Social Empowerment SB Dissanayake told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Muslims claimed that around 10 mosques, 75 shops and 32 houses belonging to the minority community were badly damaged in the attacks by the Sinhalese Buddhists, forcing police to fire tear gas shells and impose an overnight curfew to prevent clashes between the two communities.

The situation, however, remained tense in part of Kandy, home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics, after charred remains of a Muslim man were recovered on Tuesday from a burnt building.

Sirisena issues statement, warns of strict action against miscreants 

Sirisena said stern action would be taken against anyone who spreads violence in the country. Making a special statement over the inter-communal clashes, he assured action against the elements which spread violence at a time when the government was taking measures to establish political stability, peace among communities and reconciliation in the country.

He also said stern action would be taken against those who breach peace and provoke citizens by spreading rumours and false news by various means, including social media platforms. He said necessary action has been taken after convening the National Security Council to discuss the prevailing situation.

With inputs from agencies


Updated Date: Mar 07, 2018 17:39 PM

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