India-Sri Lanka T20: Hours before match, Colombo declares nationwide state of emergency

Last Updated: Tue, Mar 06, 2018 15:32 hrs
Sri Lankan riot police

Sri Lankan riot police seen here in action. Image: Twitter

New Delhi: Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency for 10 days to rein in the spread of communal violence, a government spokesman said on Tuesday, a day after Buddhists and Muslims clashed in the Indian Ocean island’s central district of Kandy.

The emergency was declared on the day when the first match of the tri-nation T20I series - Nidahas Trophy - was scheduled between India and Sri Lanka at Colombo's Premadasa Stadium.

As per a press release by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), it is understood that situation in Colombo is under control, hence, the match will happen as per the schedule.

"There have been reports of curfew and an emergency being called in Sri Lanka. The situation in the picture is Kandy and not Colombo. This is to notify everyone that after talking to concerned security personnel (Ministerial security division - in charge of team security) we have understood that the situation is completely normal in Colombo. If at all there is any update on the same we shall notify," the BCCI said in a press release.

Tension has been growing between the two communities in Sri Lanka over the past year, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites.

Some Buddhist nationalist have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum-seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise.

“At a special cabinet meeting, it was decided to declare a state of emergency for 10 days to prevent the spread of communal riots to other parts of the country,” the spokesman, Dayasiri Jayasekara, told Reuters.

“It was also decided to take stern action against people who are instigating violence through Facebook,” he added, referring to postings on social media.

The government sent troops and elite police to Kandy after a mob set fire to a Muslim-owned shop, imposing a curfew there on Monday to prevent clashes between majority Sinhalese Buddhists and minority Muslims.

The body of a Muslim man was pulled from the ashes of the burnt building Tuesday, police said.

A police spokesman said hundreds of commandos from the police Special Task Force had been deployed to the troubled district to restore order and enforce the curfew.

Muslim homes, business and mosques were badly damaged in riots Monday triggered by the death of a Sinhalese man at the hands of a mob last week.

The Sinhalese are a mainly Buddhist ethnic group making up nearly three-quarters of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people. Muslims are just 10 percent of its population.

More than two dozen arrests have been made and an inquiry opened into police conduct in Kandy, just the latest region to be plagued by religious and ethnic conflict.

Mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country last week after a Muslim chef was accused of adding contraceptives to food sold to Sinhalese.

Last November riots in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged.

In June 2014 riots between Buddhists and Muslims left four dead and many injured.

That violence was instigated by a Buddhist extremist group whose leaders are on trial accused of spurring religious conflict.

More from Sify: