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OIC, EU denounce Sri Lanka over riots
June 19, 2014
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JEDDAH/COLOMBO: The Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), Iyad Ameen Madani, has expressed serious concern at the recent incidents of violence by extremist individuals against Muslims in the towns of Aluthgama, Beruwala and Draga Nagar in Sri Lanka.

The European Union (EU) also expressed alarm at recent violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka in which four people died and more than 50 were injured, and urged the government to ensure that the rule of law is upheld.

The main Muslim party in Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition demanded a UN probe into one of the country’s worst-ever religious riots, as President Mahinda Rajapaksa toured the violence-hit resort region.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) said it was also boycotting parliament on Wednesday as a protest against Colombo’s failure to rein in a hardline Buddhist group widely accused of sparking the clashes.

The reports of several fatalities and dozens injured as well as attacks on homes, businesses and mosques are deeply regrettable, OIC’s Madani said in a statement.

He noted that the Muslim community in Sri Lanka has a long standing presence in the country and a tradition of living in peace and harmony with their compatriots.

“Muslims represents an important and active community which contributes to the cultural and economic life of Sri Lanka as a whole. The recent attacks appear to follow a rising trend of violence instigated by extremists which is spreading fear and mistrust among the population,” the statement continued. While appealing for calm and peaceful relations between the communities, Madani urged the authorities to enforce the rule of law, investigate the incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Incitement of communal violence and hatred can only be counterproductive to Sri Lanka’s stability,” the EU delegation in Colombo said in a statement.

Hard-line Buddhists hurled gasoline bombs and looted homes and businesses in attacks on Sunday evening in several towns in southwestern Sri Lanka.

The attacks were led by a mob from Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, which rails against the country’s Muslim minority. The group has been gaining followers and is believed to enjoy state support.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s powerful defence secretary and the president’s brother, once made a public appearance supporting the group’s cause.

Muslim residents say armed mobs broke into their houses and burned them after stealing jewellery and money.

Associated Press journalists who visited the attacked towns saw dozens of shops gutted, and motorbikes and bicycles piled up and set on fire. Residents said mosques were also defaced.

A curfew imposed on the towns after the violence was lifted on Wednesday. Justice Minister and SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem told reporters Rajapakse’s administration was at fault for letting the bloodshed escalate.

“We are convinced that the government did not do anything to prevent the violence against the Muslims,” said Hakeem, who is the most senior Muslim in Rajapakse’s cabinet.

Rajapaksa, who was visiting Bolivia when the violence broke out, travelled to the resort region of Beruwala shortly after his return to the island and met local community leaders from both sides.

WAM / Agencies

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