Shaken but defiant despite violence

By Ashanthi Warunasuriya

 

The Muslim community in Kandy is shaken following the violence last week but is defiant to remain and not abandon their homes.

Nisha Shereef, a Muslim resident of Kandy said that the Muslim community in Kandy still does not feel safe despite the calm experienced on Friday.

She said that the Muslim community worked hard for reconciliation in Sri Lanka and were shocked at the manner in which the attacks took place last week.

Several Muslim owned houses, shops and other property, including mosques came under attack by Sinhalese mobs last week.

The attack took place following the death of a Sinhalese man at the hands of some Muslim men.

Shereef said that following the death of the Sinhalese man, Muslims in the area collected money to help the family of the victim.

She said that there was no discord among the communities at the time and the violence was instigated by outsiders.

Shereef told The Sunday Leader that several crime related incidents had taken place in Kandy and yet violence of this nature never broke out.

Despite the violence, Shereef said that she and most Muslims she knows in Kandy have no intention of leaving their homes.

President of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, N. M. Ameen said that Muslims and Sinhalese in Kandy have worked really well together and it was clear the violence had the backing of some outside groups.

He said that the Government has been urged to properly investigate the incidents and take appropriate action.

The leaders of Muslim organizations last week extended their fullest support to President Maithripala Sirisena to establish peaceful atmosphere conducive for all the Sri Lankans to live in peace and harmony.

The sentiments were expressed during a meeting held by the President with members of Muslim organizations at the President’s Office to discuss the current situation prevailing in the country.

 

The President, pointing out that only a small group of extremist elements were responsible for riotous acts, explained to these representatives that arresting them and taking legal action against them is already on process.

Meanwhile Amnesty International said the Sri Lankan authorities must take action against those responsible for attacks on the country’s Muslim minority.

On March 5, a mob set homes, shops and a mosque belonging to the local Muslim community ablaze in the Digana area of Kandy, in central Sri Lanka. This was the second serious incident of violence against a Muslim community in the country over the past week, following a chillingly similar attack in Ampara on February 26. Although several individuals have now been arrested for involvement in these recent attacks, impunity persists for previous incidents of violence against Muslim minority communities.

“The Sri Lankan authorities must put an end to the impunity enjoyed by groups that incite hatred and carry out acts of violence against religious minorities. They have a duty to protect vulnerable groups and hold the perpetrators accountable,” said Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director.

“The failure to hold to take action against these groups has only emboldened them further and plunged minorities in a deeper state of fear. This is not the first time such horrors have been visited upon the country’s Muslim minority. The scenes of the past week recall the attacks in Aluthgama four years ago showing how little has been done since then.”

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) also condemned the violence unleashed against the Muslim community, which claimed the life of Abdul Basith, a youth from Teldeniya and destroyed several Muslim homes and businesses as well as several mosques in the Kandy area.

CPA was also deeply concerned by the viral circulation of video clips inciting violence against the Muslim community. CPA is in possession of several such clips including one by a person claiming to be a Buddhist monk. The individual in the video uses demonstrably false information as fact to incite violence against the Muslim community and accuses the Chief Prelates of favouring Muslims over Buddhists.

CPA called on citizens from all communities to refrain from inciting further violence and on the authorities to take swift action to both arrest and prosecute perpetrators within the existing legal framework. Inaction or half-hearted action at this critical junction will deepen mistrust, fear and tension within and among communities, fuel hate and violence and cement a culture of impunity.

 

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