World Bulletin / News Desk
Sri Lanka's main Muslim party is boycotting parliament over communal violence that saw at least three Muslims killed in southwestern Sri Lanka, the party's leader said Wednesday.
"Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Members of Parliament will boycott parliament sittings today in protest of Aluthgama and Beruwala incidents," Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem told Anadolu Agency.
His announcement comes on a day when mass demonstrations are planned, to rally against communal violence in Sri Lanka.
The resort towns of Aluthgama and Dharga were hit by clashes between Sinhalese Buddhist hard-liners and Muslims on Sunday. They started after the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena held a rally in Aluthgama and then tried to march through a Muslim-majority area.
A local source told AA that up to 2,500 Muslim women and children have taken refuge from the violence in the Al Humaizara School in Beruwala in the aftermath of the clashes.
Eyewitnesses said that Muslim-owned businesses were set alight and a mosque was set alight. Local hospitals have told Anadolu Agency that up to eight people have died in the aftermath of the violence.
Teargas and water cannons were used to disperse the clashes and a curfew was placed on the towns of Althugama and Beruwala until 8 a.m. local time Wednesday.
Media freedom campaigners Reporters Without Borders claimed on Tuesday however that Sri Lankan authorities requested the local media did not report on the clashes, which were publicized through social media, and used the curfew to contain the situation.
“Censorship of the media’s news coverage by the authorities is outrageous but customary in Sri Lanka whenever problems with minorities arise,” said the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific head Benjamin Ismail. “However, banning coverage of events will not prevent the information from getting out.”
Reporters Without Borders claimed that journalists were attacked and had their equipment smashed when trying to cover the clashes.
Muslim leaders in Aluthgama reportedly told police about their security concerns prior to the rally on Sunday but were assured of their safety. Local press had reported clashes in the area on June 12 after a Muslim man allegedly assaulted the driver of a Buddhist monk.
Bodu Bala Sena, which literally translates to Buddhist Power Force, is a right-wing Buddhist group that was established after the end of Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war in 2009. They belong to the country's Sinhalese Buddhist majority and have been accused of inciting hate against other religions in Sri Lanka.Last Mod: 18 Haziran 2014, 13:04