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Sri Lankan Cricketers take a stand for unity as Muslims come under attack

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Sri Lankan cricketing legends Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara, and Sanath Jayasuriya took to Twitter on Wednesday. Their statements come after Sri Lanka declared a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday after anti-Muslim riots left two people dead and more than 100 homes and shops ablaze in the popular hill resort of Kandy.

Armed forces including elite police commandos had to be deployed to restore order after rioters defied an overnight curfew and went on a rampage.

Echoing similar sentiments, Jayawardena noted, “I strongly condemn the recent acts of violence and everyone involved must be brought to justice regardless of race/ religion or ethnicity. I grew up in a civil war, which lasted 25 years, and I don’t want the next generation to go through that”.

Sangakkara said, “No one in Sri Lanka can be marginalized or threatened or harmed due to their ethnicity or religion. We are One Country and One people. Love, trust and acceptance should be our common mantra. No place for racism and violence. STOP. Stand together and stand strong”.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Sri Lankan government imposed a state of emergency for 10 days to control law and order in the country. A curfew was reimposed on Monday in two police divisions of Kandy district till Wednesday morning, following the tense situation.

Foreign governments have urged their citizens to stay away from large crowds and protests, and warn that there could be more unrest. The UN has urged that immediate action be taken against perpetrators of the violence.

More than two dozen arrests have been made so far. Members of the Buddhist community held a protest outside a police station in Kandy, demanding the release of its people who were arrested in the riots. The police said that the special security arrangements, put in place in the areas, would continue and the country’s Special Task Force (STF) were deployed to maintain peace.

The Sri Lankan government says more troops have been deployed to the central district of Kandy, to try to end days of violence against Muslims. Police used tear gas to disperse Buddhist rioters who have attacked mosques and Muslim-owned businesses.

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They are defying a curfew imposed after a Buddhist youth died during an altercation with a group of Muslims. A state of emergency has been imposed and the curfew extended, and authorities are blocking social media.

The authorities had feared retaliation after a young Muslim man’s body was found in a burnt-out building in Kandy on Tuesday. Fresh clashes between mobs from the majority Sinhalese and minority Muslim communities erupted in several areas overnight, and a number of properties were set on fire.

A senior government minister asserted that Facebook, WhatsApp and other social platforms were being used to carry hate speech and misinformation aimed at inciting more violence. Schools have been closed and a curfew extended until Thursday evening.

On Wednesday, there were reports that a Sinhalese man had died when a hand grenade he was carrying went off in a Kandy district. Police leave has been cancelled and “the army has been deployed in tens and thousands” in the scenic hilly area, said government spokesman Rajitha Senarathane.

President Maithripala Sirisena toured Kandy on Wednesday, saying he had “ordered that the full force of the law be used against troublemakers. Last week, the eastern town of Ampara also saw anti-Muslim violence over a dispute in a shop.

Tensions have been building in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka since 2012, said to have been fuelled by hard-line Buddhists.Under the state of emergency, the authorities are able to arrest and detain suspects for long periods, and deploy forces where needed.

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It is the first time in seven years Sri Lanka has imposed the measure. The country was under a state of emergency for nearly three decades when the government fought Tamil rebels in the civil war that ended in 2009. “Access to certain social media sites and messaging platforms will be restricted with immediate effect until further notice,” said a statement from Sri Lanka’s largest mobile phone provider Dialog.

A senior government minister asserted that Facebook, WhatsApp and other social platforms were being used to carry hate speech and misinformation aimed at inciting more violence. Schools have been closed and a curfew extended until Thursday evening.

Foreign governments have urged their citizens to stay away from large crowds and protests, and warn that there could be more unrest. The UN has urged that immediate action be taken against perpetrators of the violence.


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