Following violent clashes in Aluthgama on Sri Lanka’s south-western coast the last couple of days, the area witnessed a heavy military presence on Tuesday.
Violence continued in the area Monday night, with Buddhist hard-liners torching over half a dozen homes and shops, reports said. The death toll from the communal riots, which began on Sunday when Buddhist hard-line group Bodu Bala Sena held a rally in the Muslim-majority town, went up to four.
As many as 45 persons were arrested on charges of inciting riots and breaching the curfew that was imposed soon after the incidents. “Twenty five have been remanded, the rest obtained bail,” police spokesperson Ajith Rohana told The Hindu .
As of Tuesday, nearly 10,000 police and Special Task Force personnel have been deployed in the area. “But we needed more strength, so we sought the military’s help,” he said.
Sunday’s clashes were also discussed in the Sri Lankan parliament on Tuesday, with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe, leader of the United National Party (UNP), observing that a BBS leader’s speech made at the rally on Sunday had incited racial hatred. “Without quelling a situation like that the government has created an atmosphere in which racial hatred is provoked,” news agency Adaderana quoted him as saying.
Mr. Wickramasinghe, a former Prime Minister, accused the Sri Lankan government of silently letting certain individuals take the law into their own hands.
In response, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne told the Parliament that the government was looking into the incident.
Meanwhile, the incident, which has sparked concern within Sri Lanka, also drew much international attention. The United States and Canada have condemned the incident, while outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights >Navi Pillay expressed deep alarm at the inter-communal violence in Sri Lanka.
“The Government must urgently do everything it can to arrest this violence, curb the incitement and hate speech which is driving it, and protect all religious minorities,” Ms. Pillay said in a statement.
“I am very concerned this violence could spread to Muslim communities in other parts of the country,” she said.