Mar 10, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who visited the riots-hit Kandy today, says the common belief is that the racial attacks against the Muslims in the Kandy district was organized and carried out.
Therefore, the Prime Minister said that a comprehensive investigation into these attacks should be carried out and those found responsible for these attacks should be punished irrespective of their status.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks during a meeting with the police, the three armed forces and state officials at the Kandy District Secretariat following an inspection tour in the areas of Digana, Kengalla and Akurana areas to get a firsthand look into the damages caused by the attacks on Muslims in the Kandy district.
The anti-Muslim clashes took place when a Sinhalese man, a father of two, died while receiving treatment at Kandy Hospital for injuries sustained from an attack on him by a group of Muslim youths in late February. Sinhalese mob unleashed attacks following his funeral on March 5th.
A group of Muslim youths have been arrested in connection with the attack on him and remanded.
"Many are of the view that these unfortunate incidents in Kandy was a result of organized attacks. I have directed the Law and Order Minister and the Inspector General of Police to expedite the investigations and take appropriate action against
Those responsible," the Premier said in Kandy.
"Such incidents will not take place in this country again only if the guilty is punished. If they are not punished this could be happening in other areas as well. Therefore, the law should be implemented against those responsible irrespective of their status."
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in a letter addressed to the President last week pointed out that the religion based violence in Digana and Theldeniya cannot be regarded as an isolated incident, BBC Sinhala Service reported.
"Our official observation is that there are still good relations between Muslim and Sinhalese communities in the surrounding villages of the deceased who was unfortunately killed in the attack by a group of Muslim youths on February 22 in the Digana area," the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka said.
"Taking into consideration the violence based on religious hatred, not only those directly responsible but those who aided and abetted also should be punished irrespective of their racial, economic, political or social standing," the letter signed by the HRC Chairman Prof. Deepika Udagama said.
Meanwhile, a Muslim representative who met the Prime Minister in Kandy said they still don't feel safe. "Something happens in the night and the people run to the jungle," he said.
Issuing a statement, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said that since last Monday (5th March) 17 mosques in Kandy had been attacked and that 91 business establishments and 62 houses have been completely destroyed.
The BBC Sinhala service on a visit to Kandy has observed that many valuable items and jewelry in the destroyed houses had been looted.
The Police say that 140 persons including leader of the hardcore Buddhist movement Mahason Balakaya, Amith Weerasinghe, have been arrested for the religion based attacks.
Amnesty International in their annual report released around two weeks ago on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka stated that serious attention has been focused on the reemergence of religious violence against Muslims and Christians and impunity for the wrongdoers.
Meanwhile, in a special report on Sri Lanka presented to the UN Human Rights Council last month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein noted that year 2017 was a period of sporadic racial attacks targeting minorities and communal clashes that are difficult to eradicate completely.
The report citing attacks in Gintota in last November noted that due to the Sinhalese-Muslim clashes spread in the area, around 70 homes and businesses belonging to Muslims had been destroyed.