By Chathuri Dissanayake
As the army begins to withdraw troops from Kandy, President Maithripala Sirisena ended the state of emergency which was imposed in the country two weeks ago to control extremist attacks on the Muslim community in the central hill capital.
President Sirisena signed the gazette notification lifting the state of emergency upon his return from a state visit to Japan, the President’s Media Division announced today.
“The state of emergency declared on March 06, 2018 according to the instructions given by President Maithripala Sirisena has been lifted. President Sirisena after returning to the country following a successful state visit to Japan signed the Gazette notification to lift the state of emergency with immediate effect from midnight yesterday,” the statement issued by the President’s Media Division read.
The Army will gradually pull back troops as the situation in the district is completely normal, Army Spokesperson Brigadier Sumith Kuruppu told the Daily FT.
Out of the more than 3,000 troops deployed since violence began on 5 March, 1,500 soldiers will be reassigned to their normal duties from tomorrow, he said.
The rest too will be pulled back gradually.
The Government struggled to contain the violence which erupted in a locality in Digana following a road rage incident which resulted in the death of one person. The violence spread across the Kandy District, continuing for three days despite a police curfew, until the army was deployed to finally control the mobs.
Last week Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe directed that Government assessors be deployed to carry out a rapid assessment of the damage caused by mobs that systematically torched and destroyed Muslim-owned homes, businesses and places of worship.
The Government will begin paying compensation to victims of the violence from today onwards, Kandy District Secretary H.M. Hitisekara said. According to current records, 465 cases of damage to property have been reported. These incidents have been categorised as minor, partial and fully-damaged for the payment of compensation.
However, he claimed that the assessments were still ongoing and were likely to report increased damage.
Police investigations regarding the mob attacks are still ongoing, with 299 individuals being taken into custody over the issue. Three separate teams from the Police Department, including the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) and the Terrorist Investigations Division (TID) along with the relevant police departments of the area are conducting investigations. The investigating teams are using footage from CCTV cameras as evidence.
Ten main suspects, including Amith Weerasinghe, the leader of a Sinhalese-Buddhist extremist organisation called Mahason Balakaya which is alleged to be the main instigator of the violence that broke out in Kandy, have been arrested by the TID.