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Concerned Lankan overseas workers urge Govt. to contain current crisis

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By Our Middle East Correspondent

Riyadh: In the wake of the rising violence against Muslims in some parts of Sri Lanka, the country’s expatriates living in the region are to submit a request to President Maithripala Sirisena to provide adequate security to their families back home. 

There are some 1.5 million Sri Lankans living in the region, which includes a substantial number of Muslims who have come to work leaving their families back home.

On Wednesday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed its serious concerns over the repeated incidents of violence by extremist mobs against Muslims in Sri Lanka on 28 February and 4 March.

In a statement, OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen called upon the Sri Lanka Government to take concrete steps to address the propagation of hatred and violence by extremist groups and to ensure the protection of properties and livelihood of Muslims in Sri Lanka.

Mowlana, who is to submit the petition on behalf of community members to President Sirisena through the Sri Lankan embassy in Riyadh on Thursday, told the Daily FT that there was growing concern among the members of the community.

“Most of the Muslim expatriates are worried and feeling sad and panicked about the current situation where more than 50 mosques have been attacked and severe damage has been caused to Muslim properties and loss of human lives,” he said, pointing out that non-Muslims expatriates living in the Kingdom are very sympathetic towards the undue atrocities caused to innocent Muslims and their properties. 

S.H. Hamid said that it was a pity that these things were happening under the present Government which had promised the safety and security for Muslims in the island. 

“It is the duty of the State to look after the interests of the minorities in the country and to provide them with security for their peaceful living,” he added. Nihal Gamage, the former president of the Sri Lankan Expats Society in Riyadh, said that these things were happening due to a lack of understanding, tolerance and compromise among the members of ethnic groups in the island. 

“Let us understand the cultural and social values of various ethnic groups and live in harmony as we do in Saudi Arabia,” Gamage said.

In Jeddah, a group of Sri Lankan expats were seen collecting signatures for a petition to be submitted to their consulate in Jeddah. According to sources, the petition will be submitted late in the evening on Thursday to be sent to the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.  In Qatar, a group of aggrieved Muslims submitted a similar petition to their embassy in Doha on Monday urging the country’s president to take appropriate action to contain the situation in the tourist region of Kandy. 

The United Kingdom, United States and Australia have already issued travel advisories to their nationals to avoid travel to Colombo in the wake of the current unrest in the island.

Last year more than 50,000 Saudi tourists visited Sri Lanka with their families, according to official figures.

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