ucanews.com reporter, KalutaraUpdated: June 16, 2014 05:48 PM GMT
Special tasks force soldiers patrol Aluthgama, where witnesses say that tension remains high
Police have imposed a curfew after three Muslims were killed and more than 150 people injured during clashes between a Buddhist extremist group and minority Muslims in two coastal towns last night.
Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization, led a march with 3,000 participants including 100 monks on Sunday beginning in the town of Aluthgama.
“Clashes began after the demonstration by Bodu Bala Sena,” said Muhammad Ifthikar Janeel Marikar, a Muslim Provincial Council member. “Three people have been killed, 30 houses have been set on fire and 500 houses were damaged last night.” At least 47 Muslim-owned shops were also torched.
“Monks and demonstrators chanted anti-Muslim slogans and used loudspeakers to say things against the Muslim community,” he said. “They created a bad environment which has made tensions so high that another clash could take place at any time.”
In the wake of last night’s violence, local Muslims accused the police of giving the BBS a “free hand” and of failing to protect their shops and homes after BBS marauders were allowed to continue carrying out attacks despite the curfew.
“A Buddhist extremist mob attacked my goat farm, which included 600 goats, and many of them had their heads and legs cut off,” said Marikar.
Aluthgama and Beruwala, where the curfew has been imposed, are majority Muslim towns in the coastal belt, situated about 65 kms south of the capital Colombo. Muslims, who make up about 10 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million population, have been the subject of frequent attacks by the BBS in recent years.
The Venerable Galabodawatte Gnanasara Thero, BBS General Secretary, warned anyone who was considering reprisals against Sinhala Buddhists, the dominant ethnic and religious group in the country.
“If any Muslim harms a Buddhist monk or a Sinhala Buddhist layman, that is the end of his life,” he said.
“Politicians and the police do not protect majority Sinhalese Buddhists but protect Muslims and we should work together to defeat the enemy,” he said during a speech at the rally. “We do not have a Sinhala Buddhist leader who protects us.”
President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed the incident via Twitter yesterday. “The government will not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands. I urge all parties concerned to act in restraint. An investigation will be held for law to take its course of action to bring to book those responsible for incidents in Aluthgama.”
The US embassy in Colombo also released a statement condemning the attacks.
“We urge the authorities to investigate these attacks and bring those responsible to justice. We also urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law,” said the statement.