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Thursday, February 15, 2024

State-Emergency Declared in Sri Lanka after anti-Muslim violence

News Analysis |

Anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka by Buddhist nationalists resulted in a nation-wide state emergency last week. This happened for the first time since the 26-year civil war against Tamil minority ended in 2009.  

The inter-communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the central district of Kandy could be expressed as the growing tensions between Buddhist majority countries and their Muslim minorities.

Read more: The “peaceful” Buddhists take up arms against Muslims

The unrest began when a Sinhala Buddhist man was reportedly murdered in central hill town of Teldeniya by four Muslims on March 3, 2018. Buddhist ultra-nationalists took this incident as an opportunity to heighten tensions between Buddhists and Muslims while local moderates tried to lessen the ongoing anti- Muslim riots in the country. The genesis of the current violence comes from the Buddhist militant group that flourished from 2012 to 2014 with the support of the ex-president of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa.  The hatred against Muslims living in his country resumed in April, May and November, 2017 because of the incapacity of Rajapaksa to prosecute the militants.

The curfew announced by the government of Sri Lanka in a result of Buddhist mob that burnt 11 shops and homes of Muslims. The United Nations on Sunday condemned a string of anti-Muslim attacks in Sri Lanka including the burning of mosques and businesses.

As a nation that endured a brutal war we are all aware of the values of peace, respect, unity & freedom.

-SriLankan Priminister

A statement came from the office of President Maithripala Sirisena (tweet) stated, “the decree would redress the unsatisfactory security situation prevailing in certain parts of the country. Country’s security forces have been suitably empowered to deal with criminal elements in the society and urgently restore normalcy.”

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, tweeted on Monday when the violence began, “As a nation that endured a brutal war we are all aware of the values of peace, respect, unity & freedom. The Government condemns the racist & violent acts that have taken place over the last few days. A state of emergency has been declared & we will not hesitate to take further action.”

Read more: Sri Lankan Cricketers take a stand for unity as Muslims come…

Police have arrested the suspected instigators of the riots. Contrary to the ultra-nationalists, the moderate Buddhists are demanding the government to take control of the violent situation.  

“Entitlement Complex” of the Buddhists:

Hatred toward Sri Lanka’s Muslims (10% of their population) is growing by 75% of population of Sinhalese Buddhists in Kandy. According to Gehan Gunatilleke, Research Director at Verité Research in Sri Lanka, the current violence is a symptom of the “entitlement complex” of Sinhala Buddhists. Entitlement complex, in the light of current Sri Lanka violence refers, to a state whereby the members of a majority group feel they are entitled to the economic and political resources of a an area hence any attempts by members of minority groups to improve their economic situation may seem unfair and treacherous to the majority group.

Read more: Is there a Muslim-Buddhist conflict brewing in South East Asia?

The government of Sri Lanka may take some certain measures to sustain long term peace in the country through dialogue process to settle the differences between Muslims and ultra-Buddhists. Eventually, certain elements such as miserable health, lack of freedom of movement, poor education and scarcity of food has compelled around 800,000 Muslims to flee into Bangladesh since August 2017 after a brutal campaign against Muslims.

The violence has raised fears of instability in Sri Lanka, a South Asian island nation still struggling to recover from nearly three decades of ethnic civil war. The state of emergency was declared earlier for ten days but the government claims that it could take additional measures to restore peace in the country.