By Saman Indrajith
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told Parliament that the Cabinet of Ministers had decided to impose a state of emergency for a period of seven days if necessary.
The PM was addressing Parliament as the government stepped up security at Teldeniya and Digana areas following incidents of ethnic violence. The Cabinet had also decided to impose other necessary laws for a short period, he said.
The PM said the government would pay compensation for the loss of lives and properties caused by ethnic violence at several places in the country.
Making a special statement, the Prime Minister thanked members of Maha Sangha, Moulavis, provincial correspondents and all those who had acted with restraint to prevent the spread of communal clashes.
The government would do everything its power to deal with the instigators of communal clashes and spread racist sentiments, he said.
“On the night of Feb 26, there had been a clash after a group of customers found some strange ingredients in food being served at Cassim Hotel, on DS Senanayake Street in Ampara. A heated argument between the hotel employees and customers developed into a clash. Thereafter, the rioters had damaged the hotel, four other shops belonging to Muslims and a mosque. As soon as the incident occurred the police took action. There had been some lapses on the part of the police and I instructed to conduct a separate investigation under the supervision of Batticaloa DIG.
“Around 2 am on Feb 22, four Muslim youth who had arrived in a three-wheeler assaulted a driver of a lorry near a fuel filling station at Karaliyadda in the Teldeniya Police area. The injured driver had been admitted to the Kandy Hospital and succumbed to his injuries during the early hours of March 03. The four suspects were taken into custody and remanded.
“In retaliation to this incident a group of rioters had set two shops, one belonging to a Muslim, on fire on the night of March 04.
“Police had taken action to bring the situation under control by deploying mobile patrols and STF personnel to prevent clashes. Theldeniya police nabbed 24 persons responsible for the riots and they were produced before Theldeniya Magistrate today (6) and remanded till March 19.
“Riots erupted on Monday day time and rioters had damaged four shops and two mosques in the area. Police curfew was imposed in Kandy administrative district from Monday evening till 6 am Tuesday. Police curfew is still in force in Pallekele and Theldeniya police areas.
“A body of a 24-year-old person who had been burnt to death was found in a shop which had been set on fire at Kengalla in Digana this morning.
“The National Security Council met on Monday evening. Instructions had been issued to police and tri-forces to be ready to face any untoward incidents, restore normalcy in the areas affected by riots and to take maximum action against those responsible for riots.
“I contacted public representatives, religious leaders, IGP, Chief of Defence Staff over the phone last night and issued instructions to bring the situation under control.
“We as a government condemn these violent activities. We as a responsible government have no way to approve these illegal and violent activities. We with the experience of 30-year-long war are aware of the value of peace and harmony.
Some of those who driven by political power hunger are trying to make use of incidents of this nature and it could be seen that they are planning the disruption of normalcy and instigating communal violence.
Only trump card they have is instigating racial violence. It is their wish to see the violence and racism spread all over the country and to make use of that crisis to win power. It could be seen that organized efforts are being made to spread racism and communal disharmony in social media.
One such group had been campaigning in social media during the past nine months that Muslims are threatening the Sinhala supremacy in the land. They have produced false statistics. This group has been identified for propagating racism for a long period of time.
The majority of this country are Sinhala Buddhists. We are bound to protect the heritage of Sinhala Buddhists. The Sinhala Buddhist heritage or rights are not threatened by anyone. There are other communities living here as Sri Lankans. All Sri Lankans should live in harmony enjoying equal rights. That was the vision of DS Senanayake. We protect that vision. Therefore we regret the damages done to the Muslim religious places.
“The government would not hesitate to take legal action against those who instigated riots.”