By Dharisha Bastians
- Curfew in Aluthgama and Beruwala lifted for four hours and re-imposed as violence erupts again on Monday night
- 41 arrests, 25 still in custody, 16 granted bail
- UN Secretary General calls for investigation into incidents
- Relief convoys bring essential items for displaced in Beruwala and Aluthgama
Fatalities from deadly sectarian clashes in the southern town of Aluthgama rose to four yesterday, after one more person perished in fresh violence on Monday night.
A 58-year-old Tamil watcher at a livestock farm in Henagama in the Mathugama Police Division was murdered in clashes that broke out in the area after sunset on Monday, while a second watcher, a Sinhalese man, was critically injured in the violence, residents and sources in Aluthgama told the Daily FT.
The victims had been stabbed by a mob who stormed the Muslim-owned farm. The gang stole livestock and farming equipment, but claimed to be Bodu Bala Sena mobs, residents in the area said.
The injured watcher has been admitted to the Wettawe Hospital in the area for treatment.
According to Police reports from the area, the mob raiding the farm had been about 150 strong. Police have not been able to identify the attackers so far.
Riots that broke out on Sunday night continued for nearly 48 hours, but tensions had eased slightly by last evening, with the Army deploying in large numbers and patrolling restive towns to prevent further unrest. Over the past two days, the area has seen some of the worst ethno-religious clashes in decades, with dozens of shops and homes and even several mosques vandalised or torched by rampaging mobs of people.
Angry mobs attacked a media team from the Al Jazeera network travelling in Mathugama and Aluthgama yesterday, causing damage to the windscreen of their vehicle.
Muslim residents in some parts of Aluthgama and Beruwala continued to take shelter in schools and community centres, and several dry rations drop off stations were set up in Colombo. Five trucks with relief items went into Aluthgama and Beruwala yesterday, the two towns still under police curfew since Sunday night.
Police lifted the curfew for four hours from 8 a.m. to 12 noon yesterday, to permit essential items to get into Dharga Town and other areas where life has been at a standstill and shops have been closed since the rioting broke out on Sunday. Muslim residents have complained of food shortages due to the curfew and closures.
Unrest was also reported from Welipanne, Mathugama on Monday (16) night, where several shops were attacked by groups breaking curfew. In Kotapitiya, Army personnel who were deployed to restore order fired tear gas to disperse a large crowd mobilising in the area. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, raising the Aluthgama violence in Parliament yesterday, told the House that three more shops in Dharga Town had been set on fire last afternoon.
By nightfall yesterday, Army personnel in tanks and on foot were patrolling deserted towns in Aluthgama, reports from the area said.
The violence in southern Sri Lanka has caused international concern, with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging the Government to investigate the incidents.
“The Secretary General is concerned about reported attacks against Muslim communities in southern Sri Lanka,” the Spokesman for the UN Chief in New York told the Daily FT.
Ban recalled the UN Human Rights Council resolution of March 2014, which urges the Government of Sri Lanka “to investigate alleged attacks on members of religious minority groups and to take steps to prevent such attacks in the future,” the spokesperson said.
“The Secretary-General calls on the Government to take necessary measures to prevent any deterioration of the situation, to immediately investigate the incidents and to ensure the safety of all Sri Lankans,” the Spokesperson conveyed.
The US Government also pushed for an investigation into the violence in Aluthgama and Beruwala towns. Condemning the violence, the US Embassy urged restraint on all sides in a statement released on Monday. “We urge the Government to ensure that order is preserved and the lives of all citizens, places of worship, and property are protected,” the statement said.
25 arrests over Aluthgama riots
Law and Order Ministry Secretary visits affected areas
25 suspects have been arrested in connection with the violence in Aluthgama, Police Spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana said on Tuesday.
Most of the suspects were Sinhalese, the Spokesman said.
Sixteen suspects had also been arrested previously but they had been given bail, he said.
Secretary to the Law and Order Ministry, Maj Gen.Nanda Mallawaarachchi visited some of the affected areas in Aluthgama and Beruwela yesterday, including shelters housing the displaced and those afraid to return to their homes, residents said.