Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency for 10 days after continued clashes between people of the Buddhist and Muslim communities in the central district of Kandy, Reuters reported on Tuesday. The measure came a day after authorities sent troops to Kandy on Monday and imposed a curfew in the city.
President Maithripala Sirisena and his Cabinet decided to declare the emergency to “prevent the spread of communal riots to other parts of the country”, government spokesperson Dayasiri Jayasekara said. “It was also decided to take stern action against people who are instigating violence through Facebook.”
A group of senior ministers left for Kandy after Tuesday’s Parliament session to take stock of the situation, BBC reported. The former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, too reportedly met Muslim civil society organisation in Colombo.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who addressed the Parliament, condemned those behind the violence, the Sunday Times reported. “We as a government condemn these violent activities,” Wickremesinghe said. “We as a responsible government have no way to approve these illegal and violent activities. All of us having experience a 30-year-long war are aware of the value of peace and harmony.”
Lakshman Kiriella, the Leader of the House and a senior leader in President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party, said that Buddhists who allegedly instigated the violence should apologise to Muslims, the Daily Mirror reported.
There have been riots and arson attacks since the weekend in Kandy district, police said on Monday. Mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque, and violence was reportedly spreading throughout the country, according to Al Jazeera.
Tension has been growing between the two communities over the past year. Hardline Buddhist groups have accused Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites. Some have blamed the nationalist Buddhist organisation Bodu Bala Sena for the violence. In February, five people were injured and several shops and a mosque were damaged during clashes.
Muslims make up 10% of Sri Lanka’s population and Buddhists around 75%.