INTERNATIONAL

Anti-Muslim violence in eastern Sri Lanka sparks concern

Sri Lanka’s Leader of Opposition R. Sampanthan on Wednesday condemned the recent anti-Muslim attacks in the Ampara district of Eastern Province and sought “stern action” against the culprits. His comments come in the wake of an attack on a mosque and several Muslim-run shops late on Monday in Ampara town. At least five persons were injured in the attack. Police have since deployed additional security in the area.

Following the development, President Maithripala Sirisena said such incidents are detrimental to reconciliation in the country. The matter was also discussed at Tuesday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, according to Ministers.

Muslims here identify themselves as a distinct ethnic minority, and constitute about 9% of the country’s population. Monday’s incident, said to have been triggered by a Sinhalese mob, has sparked concern among many Sri Lankans, given that the island has witnessed a spate of anti-Muslim attacks over the last few years.

20 incidents in 2017

Hard-line Sinhala Buddhist groups have openly engaged in hate speech against the community. In 2017, at least 20 violent incidents targeting the minority community were reported.

“This seems [to be] a targeted attack in our district, which has a sizeable Muslim population. We are worried because police response was rather slow. Since Monday, there is a lot of fear and anxiety in the community,” said Siraj Mashoor, a political activist based in Ampara. Muslims account for about 44 % of the Ampara district’s population, as per the 2012 census.

Centre for Policy Alternatives, a Colombo-based NGO, on Wednesday issued a statement condemning the “systematic hate campaigns that have targeted minorities” in the post-war context.