Anti Muslim terror spreads while Sri Lanka government blocks social media

Mosques were attacked and property set ablaze by Sinhala mobs in the picturesque hill country of Sri Lanka for the fifth day of anti-Muslim terror while armed troops looked on.

Following two days of riots in the Kandy district, with the participation of Buddhist monks, Sri Lanka arrested 24 troublemakers and declared a state of emergency.

A curfew was imposed in the whole district while police combat forces and military were deployed.

While the curfew was in force, mobs speaking in Sinhala were seen roaming in Menikhinna, Katugastota, Kahalla, Ambatenna, Akurana and Wattegama towns attacking mosques and business premises owned by Muslims.

Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Rauff Hakim, a minister in the ruling coalition who visited Wattegama area on Tuesday (6), had posted footage of arson attack.

Residents from the area have been severely restricted from sharing information with the outside world by an internet blockade thrust upon them.

Social media Blockade

Leading mobile provider Dialog Axiata with a majority Malaysian ownership, announced that it had been instructed by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority to "restrain internet access" in the Kandy district.

A few hours later Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told reporters in Colombo that Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) will block social media networks such as Facebook Inc. Viber and Whatsapp across the country for three days “to prevent the spread of communal violence”.

Police say that seven have been arrested for the violence in Menikhinna on Tuesday night.

In contrast, thirty activists in eastern Sri Lanka who protested against the violence were arrested on the same day.

While Muslim government ministers and community leaders have warned earlier that violence would spread, reports reaching JDS speak of police Special Task Force (STF) involvement in attacks.

A “Buddhist Country”

The president, who is also the commander in chief and the prime minister in charge of law and order who promised "stern action" against perpetrators have come under heavy criticism from Muslim ministers and lawmakers in the ruling coalition for failure to provide security.

President Maithripala Sirisena who appealed for calm in a pre-recorded address to the nation referred to Sri Lanka as “a Buddhist country”.

An angry Opposition Leader R Sampanthan of Tamil National Alliance told parliament that the violence against Muslims goes beyond a “purely a law and order situation”.

The veteran Tamil politician blamed the structure of the state where “people of a particular community have a feeling that they are superior and others are inferior”.

Photos courtesy dharisha @tingilye &  Meera Srinivasan @Meerasrini



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.