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Sri Lanka ends emergency as tensions subside

ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday ordered the lifting of a state of emergency he had declared to control anti-Muslim riots in which three people died and nearly 500 shops and homes were destroyed.

He said improvements in the security situation prompted him to end the emergency, under which security forces and the police had sweeping powers to detain suspects for long periods of time.

"Upon assessing the public safety situation, I instructed to revoke the state of emergency from midnight yesterday," Sirisena said on Twitter as he returned to the island after a tour of Japan.

He signed the gazette notification revoking the emergency after returning from Japan.

The emergency was initially declared for one month, but if the President wanted it continued beyond Tuesday, he would have had to get parliament’s approval for it.

The emergency was declared as police failed to control the anti-Muslim violence which was concentrated in the central district of Kandy, 115 kilometres  northeast of the capital Colombo.

Police said the situation in the hill resort has returned to normal. Security forces have been deployed to help rebuild damaged homes and businesses, officials said.

Nearly 500 Muslim-owned businesses, homes and mosques had been destroyed in four days of rioting. An estimate of the losses is yet to be made.

Over 300 people have been arrested in connection with the riots, and they have been remanded in custody till the end of this month.

The unrest started after a Sinhalese man beaten up by four Muslim men in a road rage incident died at a hospital in Kandy earlier this month. The following day, Sinhalese mobs set fire to Muslim-owned homes and businesses.





The body of a 24-year-old Muslim man was pulled out of a burnt home, raising tensions further. The next day, a Sinhalese man died when a hand grenade he was carrying exploded before he could attack a mosque.

This was the first state of emergency imposed in Sri Lanka since the end of a decades-long Tamil separatist war in 2009.

Sri Lanka’s parliament issued an apology to its Muslim minority, which constitutes 10 percent of the country’s population of 21 million. Sinhalese account for about three quarters of the population.

Last November, riots between the Muslims and the Sinhalese — who are largely Buddhist — in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged.  (COLOMBO, March 18, 2018)

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