Mar 08, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Thursday that the anti-Muslim clashes in Kandy, a major tourist area attracting millions of tourists, had inconvenienced foreign tourists visiting the island and a major blow to the tourism industry.
"The foolish acts of a small group of saboteurs has caused a heavy damage to the country both economically and socially and we were also discredited internationally," the Premier said in a statement today.
Rioting has left three dead and more than 200 Muslim-owned establishments destroyed in the central hill capital and the curfew imposed to control the clashes barred thousands of tourists from visiting the picturesque city and surrounding attractions.
Making a statement on the situation in Kandy today, the Premier noted that there were reports of aggression in Katugastota, Alawathugoda and Poojapitiya in the Kandy district during Wednesday night and the curfew imposed in the area controlled the situation. There were no reports of any incidents in any other places of the Kandy district.
"At 10.00 this morning, the curfew was removed to reduce the impact on the people's daily life. However to control the situation, it was decided to impose the curfew In the Kandy district from Thursday 6.00 pm to Friday 6.00 am. Outside the Kandy district, there were three minor incidents reported in the areas of Weligama, Giriulla and Kuruwita. The situation remained peaceful in other parts of the country," the Prime Minister said.
The Premier said it seems that these incidents escalated due to the spreading of hateful messages through the social media network and therefore, the government temporarily blocked these social media networks.
The police are now interrogating several of those who have been involved in spreading violence and hatred across social media networks, he said.
The Prime Minister said that on his recommendations President Maithripala Sirisena today appointed Minster Ranjith Madduma Bandara as the Law and Order Minister. Accordingly, he has in full time taken steps to protect the law and order in the country.
"This morning I discussed the current situation with the Minister of Law and Order, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, the Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Order and the Chief of Defense Staff and further instructed them regarding the steps to be taken to bring normalcy to the region," he said.
Relevant authorities have been instructed to continue providing food security without interruption in the Kandy District. Steps have also been taken to pay compensation for the damaged lives and property. "We will expedite the payment of such compensation," the Premier said.
"These incidents were a situation a very few people orchestrated. As a whole, there was no barrier created for the co-existence of the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities in the country. People suffered during a 30-year-long war are now eager to live in peace and harmony," the Premier stressed.
"As a government, it is our duty and our responsibility to safeguard the lives and property of the people. We are committed to it."