Sri Lankan Muslim Minister trapped by ethnic clashes

images (22)At least 40 people were injured and mosques and 10 shops were damaged in clashes that started at a protest march led by hardline Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or the “Buddhist power force”. 

There has been increasing violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka since 2012, mirroring events in Myanmar, which has seen a surge of attacks by members of the majority Buddhist community against Muslims. Many independent analysts say well-coordinated violence against Muslims and Christians appears to have tacit state backing as those involved in previous attacks have yet to be punished. BBS Group is backed by Gotha Rajapaksha who is feared more powerful than President in Sri Lanka and is suspected of using the racial groups support to take over from Mahinda as President.

Residents said the clashes started after the BBS group threw stones at a mosque and Muslims retaliated. “Police and special forces just tried to disperse Muslims using tear gas and they did nothing to control those Buddhist monks and their riot mobs,” a local Muslim told Reuters, on condition of anonymity. At least nine other residents said hundreds of police on duty did not prevent the Buddhists from attacking mosques and houses.

A Sri Lankan government Junior Investment Promotion Minister Faiser Mustapha, a Muslim had to be rescued by police on Sunday after being trapped by ethnic violence between Buddhists and Muslims, officials and residents said. Junior Investment Promotion Minister Faiser Mustapha, a Muslim, was trapped when he visited a college in Beruwela, a tourist town 60 km (35 miles) from the capital Colombo, where hundreds of Muslims had taken refuge from the violence. “There were groups of people who did not allow the minister to move out of Jamia Naleemia (college), where hundreds of Muslims have come for safety. However, with the police help he came out after an hour,””The special task force (elite police) has been deployed for the safety of Muslims in Jamia Naleemia.”  a ministerial aid said. Police in Beruwela and nearby Aluthgama where there was also fighting, imposed a curfew with immediate effect until further notice “due to the unrest between two groups”.

The BBS said its members had been protesting peacefully, against an assault on a Buddhist monk by a Muslim youth three days ago, when they came under attack.  “It was an unfortunate incident. It shouldn’t have happened. There are damages and casualties to both the parties,” said Dilantha Vithanage, a spokesman for the BBS. Hospital sources said at least 40 injured people had been admitted.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted: “I urge all parties concerned to act with restraint. An investigation will be held for the law to take its course of action to bring to book those responsible …”