The violence in Kandy was unleashed by a group people who had come from outside and not by the people in the area, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament today.
“Buddhist and the Islamic clergy in Digana and Theldeniya were engaged in a dialogue to resolve the issue peacefully but a group of extremists who had come from outside were the culprits who were engaged in violence,” he said speaking during an adjournment debate in the House on Monday’s incidents in Kandy.
The Prime Minister said there had been some shortcomings in the maintenance of law and order during the incidents in Theldeniya and underscored the fact that action would be taken against the law enforcement officers who had failed to carry out their duty.
He told the House that arrangements would be made to provide compensation to those who were affected by the violence and that Cabinet had decided to impose a state of emergency and other laws for a period of seven days if needed.
The Prime Minister said he was making this statement to inform Parliament about the incidents that happened in Ampara and Digana during the past few days.
“A conflict had arisen after an argument over some foreign matter that had been found in the food bought by some persons who had come to have food at Cassim Hotel on D.S. Senanayake Street on February 26 night. Thereafter a riotous mob had damaged four Muslim shops and a Mosque. The moment this matter came to be known, police had taken necessary steps. But it had been reported to me that there had been certain lapses when enforcing the law. Therefore a separate inquiry is being carried out on this incident by the Batticaloa DIG on the instructions of the IGP.
Also, on February 22 a lorry driver who had come to the Karaliedda filling station in the Teldeniya police area around 2.00 a.m. had been assaulted by four Muslim youths who had come in a three wheeler. The assault victim had been admitted to the Kandy General Hospital and he died on March 3. The four suspects involved in this incident have been arrested and remanded.
“Secondly, an extremist group creating a riot on March 4 night had set fire to two shops, a Muslim shop and the adjoining shop in the Teldeniya police area. The police had taken immediate steps to bring the situation under control. The area had been secured through police mobile patrols, STF personnel and with additional police forces. Twenty four suspects involved in the incident were arrested immediately and remanded till March 19.
“In this situation, again an extremist group had created a riot on Monday and four shops and two mosques had been damaged. To prevent the situation from spreading a police curfew was declared in the Kandy administrative district till Tuesday morning while the police curfew is still continuing in Pallekele and Teldeniya police areas.
“Also a body of a 24-year-old person had been discovered inside a burnt shop in the Digana, Kengalle area. Investigations are being carried out in this regard and a team from the CID had also been sent there.
“The National Security Council met last evening. Necessary instructions were given to the police and the Service Chiefs to be ready to control any unrest and enforce the law against any acts of sabotage. I gave instructions by telephone throughout the night to people’s representatives, religious leaders, police and the Joint Chief of Staff.
“We as a government vehemently condemn all racist and violent acts. As a responsible government we cannot condone such unlawful and violent acts. All of us who have experienced a 30-year war know the value of peace, harmony and unity.
“It seems that certain sections that are greedy for power are planning various ploys and acts of sabotage and the disruption of normalcy. Their only trump card in arousing racism. Their only objective is to obtain power by creating violence in the country. It is clearly seen that false and misleading information creating hatred among communities is being spread using social media in an organized manner.
“A certain group has been spreading through social media over the last nine months that there is a threat to the Sinhalese from the Muslims. False statistics had been presented to that end. Some Muslim groups had responded to this. This group had spread racism through a long period of time. A tense situation had arisen due to this. The majority in this country are Sinhala Buddhists. As Sinhala Buddhists we will protect that heritage. There has been no damage to those rights or heritage. There is no threat. We will not allow such to happen.
“As Sri Lankans there are other races and religious communities living in this country. All races and religions have a right to engage in their cultural and religious activities. This is the Sri Lankan concept of D.S. Senanayake. We will protect it. Therefore we express our regrets over the damage caused to the Mosques.
“The government will not hesitate to take stern legal action against such organized acts of sabotage. I also wish to thank the Buddhist monks, Muslim Moulavis, area correspondents of the media and other persons who understood this situation and acted with restraint.
Also compensation would be paid to the deaths caused and property damaged in these unfortunate incidents. I would like to finally request from all citizens to act with restraint in a rational and intelligent manner without falling prey to traitors who try to fulfill their objectives through racism,” the Prime Minister said.
(Yohan Perera and Ajith Siriwardana)