COLOMBO – The Sri Lankan government declared on Tuesday a state of emergency following communal clashes in the country over the last two days.
Clashes between the majority Buddhists and the minority Muslims had erupted Sunday in the central part of the country and led to the death of two people, the torching of around 20 shops and a dozen arrests.
“(The) President promulgated a State Emergency a short while ago to redress the unsatisfactory security situation prevailing in certain parts of the country,” the media division of President Maithripala Sirisena’s office tweeted.
The police and the armed forces have been “suitably empowered to deal with criminal elements in the society & urgently restore normalcy,” it added.
The statement from Sirisena’s office came after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had said in the parliament that the government was considering imposing a state of emergency.
“I would like to inform that the Cabinet of Ministers decided to impose a state of emergency for seven days if needed, along with other laws and regulations,” the prime minister had said.
The government had also convened a special meeting Tuesday over the communal violence involving the Muslims and the Sinhalese, who are mostly Buddhists.
Early Tuesday, the body of a 28-year-old Muslim man was recovered from Teldeniya in Kandy province leading to fresh unrest.
His house was allegedly set on fire by Buddhist radicals and although he could help his parents to escape, he was trapped inside.
The house, which also served as a business establishment, was among the around 20 shops that were set on fire, along with a mosque, by the radicals.
The authorities on Monday imposed a curfew and arrested more than 20 people in Kandy for the violence that ensued after the death of a Buddhist in Teldeniya, who was killed when he clashed with four Muslims.
In 2014, violence between Muslims and Buddhists had erupted in two cities in the southern part of the country and left four people dead and 16 injured.
The ultranationalist group Bodu Bala Sena, led by monk Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, was found to be responsible for the violence against the Muslims.
Buddhists make up nearly 70 percent of the total population of Sri Lanka, and only 15 percent are Hindus, 11 percent Muslims and seven percent Christians.