Sri Lanka’s president declared a state of emergency yesterday amid fears that anti-Muslim attacks in a central hill town could spread.
Details of the emergency decree were not immediately announced, and it was unclear how it would affect life on the South Asian island nation, where Buddhist-Muslim tensions have flared in recent years as extremist Buddhist organizations have spread.
A tweet from the office of President Maithripala Sirisena said the decree would “redress the unsatisfactory security situation prevailing in certain parts of the country.” It said the country’s security forces “have been suitably empowered to deal with criminal elements in the society and urgently restore normalcy.”
The announcement came after Buddhist mobs swept through the town of Kandy on Monday, burning at least 11 Muslim-owned shops and homes. The attacks came after a Buddhist man was reportedly killed by a group of Muslims. Police later announced a curfew in the town.
Lakshman Kiriella, a lawmaker from Kandy, said in Parliament that the attacks were “carried out by outsiders.”
“I am ashamed as a Buddhist and we must apologize to the Muslims,” he declared.
So far no violence has been reported in any other part of the island nation.
Sri Lanka has long been divided between the majority Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist, and minority Tamils who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian. The country remains deeply scarred by its 1983-2009 civil war, when Tamil rebels fought to create an independent homeland. While the rebels were eventually crushed, a religious divide has taken hold in recent years, with hard-line Sinhalese groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert and destroying sacred Buddhist sites. AP