Muslims flee eastern Sri Lanka town following Sinhala mob attack

Leading ruling party politicians in eastern Sri Lanka say that several Muslim families have fled the eastern town of Ampara due to police inaction following anti-Muslim mob violence in the Sinhala dominated area.

Police said at least five people were wounded, and several shops and a mosque damaged in an attack by majority Sinhalese Buddhists late on Monday (26).

Police had been deployed to control the unrest, spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said.

Although mob leaders have been identified none have been arrested.

Deputy Sports Minister HMM Harees said that Muslim families have started fleeing the area fearing perpetrators of the violence, who are still at large.

Prime Minister accountable

The violence came a day after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe took over the portfolio of law and order.

“The premier as the law and order minister should be held accountable for not been able to safeguard Muslims from violence,” Deputy Minister Harees told journalists when he visited the vandalized Ampara Jumma Masjid Mosque on Tuesday.

In the presence of senior police officers, including Deputy Inspector General Nuwan Wedasinghe, Sinhala mobs were seen threatening and abusing the deputy minister for speaking to journalists.

Deputy Health Minister Faisal Cassim says police have confirmed that the perpetrators have already been identified as Sinhalese from the area.

In an emergency meeting with religious and civil society leaders, senior policemen have said that several individuals have been identified for posting statements in facebook bragging of the Monday night anti-Muslim attack.

Ruling party parliamentarian Mujiber Rahuman said that they will be “unable to safeguard the government in future if it cannot guarantee the security of Muslims”.

UN concern

The anti-Muslim attack in Ampara comes in the wake of a special report by the UN human rights chief, which questioned the governments commitment to safeguarding religious minorities.

“Several incidents targeting religious minorities, slow government reaction and response to some of those incidents and the controversial statements of some (then) key ministers have eroded the Government’s image of being fully committed to improving the human rights situation,” said Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein in his report on Sri Lanka to the 37th session of the human rights commission.

UPDATE: JDS has learnt from journalists in the area that families who left their homes in fear have returned on Wednesday (28) except an owner of one of the shops, which was destroyed during the attack. Police are yet to make an arrest.


Photo courtesy DOAM