07 March, 2018
The unrest in Kandy began on Sunday after the funeral of a truck driver from the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community who died days after he was involved in an altercation with four Muslims, the government has said.
"At a special cabinet meeting, it was chose to declare a state of emergency for 10 days to prevent the spread of communal riots to other parts of the country", government spokesman Dayasiri Jayasekara, was quoted as saying by state media. Violence erupted yesterday following which police imposed curfew in the Theldeniya area.
Police said a magisterial inquiry into the death was presently underway while a team from the Criminal Investigations Department had also been dispatched to Kandy to conduct a probe into the clashes.
The government strongly condemned the violence and vowed to take stern action against the perpetrators. "We are urging our people to remain calm, but when their houses and livelihoods go up in flames, how long will they bear it?"
Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka specialist with the International Crisis Group, said radical Buddhist groups - who make up 75 percent of the population - have targeted Muslims with "a significant degree of regularity" in the last five years. Mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque, and violence was reportedly spreading throughout the country, according to Al Jazeera.
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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also ordered an investigation into alleged police inaction in handling the clash. "But a state of emergency must not become a pretext for further human rights abuses", he said.
Police have arrested several people and had extended the curfew after the body of a muslim man was removed from a burnt building.
Last November riots in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged.
That violence was instigated by a Buddhist extremist group whose leaders are on trial accused of spurring religious conflict. Muslims account for 10 percent of its population.