Asela Kuruluwansa& Zahra Imtiaz
The Army was called in to control the tense situation in Digana yesterday as crowds pelted stones at the Police trying to bring the prevailing situation under control.
Military Spokesperson Brigadier Sumith Atapattu speaking to the Daily News said the Police had requested assistance from the Army and that around 200 troops would be sent to Digana (One hundred troops deployed and 100 troops on standby).
The Sinha Regiment has one of its camps located in Digana.
Trouble erupted in Digana yesterday afternoon when a large group of people marched into the city and set fire to a religious place, several shops and houses.
The Police had used tear gas to disperse the crowd but the people had started to pelt stones at the Police and continued to damage property and vehicles in the vicinity.
The riot had resulted in the suspension of vehicular traffic on the Kandy-Mahiyangana road via Digana.
“As the Police failed to control the situation, using powers vested in them, they had to declare police curfew in the Kandy administrative district until 6.00am today (6),” Kandy Division SSP Sisira Kumara said.
The protest had erupted as a result of a father of two, in the village of Ambaale, Teldeniya, being beaten to death by a group of people.
He has been identified as 40-year-old M.G. Kumarasinghe. The incident had taken place on February 22 next to the Teldeniya petrol station and the victim passed away on the night of March 2.
When the body was being taken to Ambaale on the night of March 2, villagers had burnt tyres in the Udispattuwa area in protest and thus the Police had taken steps to deploy additional security in the area.
The Police fearing that this could result in racial riots had taken steps to deploy 1000 STF officers to the areas of Moragahamula, Udispattuwa, Teldeniya and Ambagahalanda.
A group of people protesting his death however had burnt two shops in Moragahamulla and Udispattuwa on Sunday (4) night. The Police had arrested 24 persons suspecting to be involved in these incidents.
The Police have arrested three suspects connected to Kumarasinghe’s murder and presented them before courts where they were remanded. The suspects happen to be Muslims. The final rites of Kumarasinghe were held yesterday evening. He was a lorry driver who had been beaten up by these three suspects who had come in a threewheeler.
The driver’s assistant who was also beaten up was admitted to the Kandy General Hospital and discharged having been treated.
The Daily News learns that Intelligence officers had warned the Police that this incident could be used to instigate racial tensions in the area but residents questioned as to why the Police failed to act until two shops in the area were already on fire.
Further, a petrol bomb had been thrown at a shop in Kengalle yesterday (5) but it had not exploded, as a result the group had left having pelted stones at the shop.
Journalists reporting the incident on the ground were also prevented from doing so by a few protesters.