COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency for 10 days to rein in the spread of communal violence, a government spokesman said on Tuesday, a day after Buddhists and Muslims clashed in the Indian Ocean island’s central district of Kandy.
Tension has been growing between the two communities in Sri Lanka over the past year, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites.
Some Buddhist nationalists have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum-seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise.
“At a special cabinet meeting, it was decided to declare a state of emergency for 10 days to prevent the spread of communal riots to other parts of the country,” the spokesman, Dayasiri Jayasekara, told Reuters.
“It was also decided to take stern action against people who are instigating violence through Facebook,” he added, referring to postings on social media.
The President Media Divison tweeted that the “President promulgated a State Emergency a short while ago to redress the unsatisfactory security situation prevailing in certain parts of the country. The Police & Armed Forces have been suitably empowered to deal with criminal elements in the society & urgently restore normalcy.”
The government sent troops and elite police to Kandy after a mob set fire to a Muslim-owned shop, imposing a curfew there on Monday to prevent clashes between majority Sinhalese Buddhists and minority Muslims.