Published: Fri, March 09, 2018
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Lanka govt. to impose emergency in Kandy district for 10 days

Lanka govt. to impose emergency in Kandy district for 10 days

Sudarshana Gunawardena, director general of the Government Information Department, said the "police curfew was imposed in the Kandy district until Tuesday morning".

Police had been placed on alert in Kandy, home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics, to ensure that the "situation does not spiral into inter-communal conflagration", the government said.

The crisis spurred opposition parties to shelve a no- confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for alleged mismanagement of the economy that was originally set to be filed on Monday.

The attack took place following the death of a Sinhalese youth who had allegedly been assaulted by a Muslim mob, a police officer who declined to be named told Reuters. Police said two dozen people had been arrested in the wake of the riots.

The emergency declaration gives authorities sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects for long periods, and allows the government to deploy forces where needed.

Rauff Hakeem, a senior Muslim minister in President Maithripala Sirisena's administration, said the attacks bore the hallmark of good coordination and only targeted Muslim-owned properties.

"The president has instructed the police to impartially, comprehensively and promptly deal with those engaged in criminal activities and those causing or attempting to cause ethnic and religious tensions, irrespective of their ethnic or religious identities and political affiliations", said a statement issued by Sirisena's office.

Religious and ethnic violence can turn deadly in Sri Lanka, where Muslims account for 10 percent of the population and Sinhalese make up almost 75 percent.

The curfew in the district was extended after the body of a Muslim man was pulled from the ashes of a burnt building, threatening to further raise communal tensions that have flared up across Sri Lanka in recent weeks.

It is the first time in seven years Sri Lanka has resorted to such a measure. The country remains deeply scarred by its 1983-2009 civil war, when Tamil rebels fought to create an independent homeland.

"While it is positive that the government wishes to prevent further violence, any steps taken to address the problem, however, must meet Sri Lanka's obligations under global human rights law, including the absolute prohibition on torture, unfair trials and arbitrary detention", said Biraj Patnaik, the group's South Asia director.

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.

An internet company official, meanwhile, said the government had ordered popular social media networks blocked in areas near the violence, and slowed dramatically across the rest of the country.

In November last, 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.

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