Colombo, May 14 (newsin.asia): On Monday, Sri Lankan police clamped an Island-wide curfew from nine at night until four in the morning of May 14 and government blocked social media platforms to help quell anti-Muslim violence in the North Western Province and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the country.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned that stern action will be taken against those taking the law into their own hands.
“I have given full authority to the security apparatus to take strong action against those breaking the emergency law and the curfew. The security apparatus will take strong action against lawbreakers, “ Wickremesinghe said in a statement late on Monday.
“These groups are attempting to cause more unrest in other areas. The objective of causing problems at this time is to inconvenience police and the military, to disrupt people’s lives and to destabilize the country. For this reason, the government decided to impose a countrywide curfew.”
“If the country’s peace is broken and there are ethnic problems, stability will collapse. Owing to these disruptive actions, the security apparatus is hindered from carrying out its investigations,” the Prime Minister said.
He was referring to investigations into the April 21 suicide bomb attacks by two radical Islamic groups in which 253 people, including 44 foreigners, were killed in Colombo, and two other towns.
According to an informed source, the trouble started in coastal Chilaw town north of Colombo when some drunken men attacked Muslim properties. It was put down quickly enough. But violence spread to other settlements further inland. Attacks took place regardless of the curfew.
It then spread to Gampaha, a politically sensitive Sinhala-Buddhist dominated town nearer Colombo, causing concern in the capital city which has a large Muslim population.
Although the suicide bombers belonging to the National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and the Jamaathei Millathu Ibraheemi (JMI) had killed mostly Catholics and foreigners, the Sinhala Buddhist majority community felt gravely threatened by the Islamic radicals.
They were very angry with the government for not taking action against some Muslim politicians suspected to have been in cahoots with the terrorists.
When the most aggrieved community, the Catholics, did not react following appeals made by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Sinhala-Buddhists took up the cudgels. This is how anti-Muslim rioting spread to the Sinhala-Buddhist areas in Kurunegala and Gampaha districts.
“People are feeling the absence of a government,” said a senior journalist. “At this crucial juncture, President Maithripala Sirisena, who holds the Defense portfolio, should not have left for Beijing with an entourage of 27 people to attend an international Dialogue on Asian Civilizations,” the scribe said.
There seems to be complacency at the top with the President declaring that 99% of the terror network had been destroyed when every day, police and the other Security Forces, were recovering arms and explosives in many parts of the island.
Another cause of widespread fear across communities is the diffuse and indeterminate nature of the Islamic radical groups. They seem to have affiliates and safe houses all over the island. Neighbourhoods are shocked by the discoveries.
A leading Defense Correspondent said that the terrorists not only had very sophisticated weapons but Rs. 7 billion in bank accounts and Rs 140 million in cash.
According to Azad Sally, Governor of the Western Province, the funds were used to buy off law enforcement officials.
“The Tamil Tigers took 24 years to reach this level of funding and weaponry,” said a veteran Defense Correspondent who had covered Tamil militancy from the 1980s.
Another experienced Defense Correspondent said that people are gripped by fear because of the absence of a controlling authority. The absence of the President from the country is being felt and commented upon adversely.
Army Commander Lt.Gen.Mahesh Senanayake went on TV on Monday to assure the people that the forces will use the maximum power to bring the situation under control.
“This has assuaged feelings of despair somewhat,” a member of the Sri Lankan cabinet said.