HDO Fact Finding Report on Kandy Digana – Teldeniya Racial Attack against Muslims
According to the recent Report of Amnesty International (AI) (2017/2018), Sri Lanka has been listed among countries unsafe for minorities, particularly for Muslims. In the report, Amnesty International notes that Sri Lanka saw a rise in Buddhist nationalist sentiment last year, including attacks against Christians and Muslims. It also should be noted that there were some incidents occurred against Tamil minorities in North–East and in the Up-country plantation areas. The report also says that in Sri Lanka, families attempting to arrange stones as memorials for loved ones lost during the 26-year internal conflict were stopped by security forces last year. Human rights defenders were also subject to surveillance and intimidation. Women human rights defenders in the north and east reported that interactions with the police were often degrading and sexualized.
What is the Issue in Kandy District – Digana Area …?
M.G. Kumarasinghe, a Sinhala resident of Ambala, Medamahanuwara, Teldeniya, is alleged to have been accosted by a group of Muslim men who had followed his vehicle to Teldiniya from Kumbukkandura and then assaulted. This was happed few days ago. Allegedly, M.G. Kumarasinghe had angered the group by not allowing them to overtake his vehicle. The victim M.G.Kumarasinghe, had been attacked by this group of Muslim Men last week in Teldeniya town succumbed to his injuries at the Kandy Teaching Hospital and he died, his funeral was taken place 5th yesterday evening.
Further it was said that, the altercation had taken place allegedly when a group of men, later identified as Muslims, had been angered due to the victim not allowing them to overtake his vehicle. Another version has the victim accidentally hitting the side mirror of the vehicle in which the assailants were travelling but had not stopped to sort the matter out. This was taken place in few days back. There is no evidence whatsoever that the assault was racially motivated. The assailants, all residents of Ambagahalanda, Digana were arrested by the police while a three-wheeler was also taken into custody.
Anti-Muslim Assaults In Digana –Teldeniya Areas: Kandy Under Curfew
This report is based on information collected from, A Fact Finding Mission of HDO visited today on 6th, to the area and met some Muslim social activists, leaders, Tamil social activists, a Human Rights activists and public also discussed the issue and interviewed through telephone. (We visited during the Curfew Hours…).
According to the grass-root level sources, Ven. Buddhist monk Galagoda Gnanasara of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and Dan Priyasath who is the chief of ‘Savior of the Sinhalese’ also visited the area to pay last respects to the Kumarasinghe who succumbed to injuries sustained on 5th of March 2018. According to a politician controversial Batticaloa Sri Mangalaramaya monk Ven. Ampitiye Sumanaratna Thera was traveled to Teldeniya on Sunday and inciting the unrest. Sumanaratna Thera was also at the scene when mobs became unruly outside the Teldeniya Police Station.
During the funeral hours, number of youths and men arrived to Teldeniya, Digana areas ( it was said that around 2000 ). After the funeral the Police imposed a curfew from 3.00 p.m. until 6.00 a.m. within the Kandy Administrative District in the consequences of the violence that erupted in Digana and Teldeniya areas of Kandy district.
During our visit we identified that around 50 – 100 shops/houses (small and big) which are owned by Muslims were attacked and set on fire and number of Mosques were attacked by a group of thugs during the protesting death of Kumarasinghe, a 41 old father of two children in the area.
The Police used teargas and water cannons to disperse the angry mobs who clashed in Digana – Teldeniya and another group of people who laid siege to the Teldeniya Police station. It was said that the assailants were arrested by the police along with their three wheeler. It was reported that the people in Digana, Teldeniya, Udispattuwa and Medamahanuwara had started a Hartal in protest of the attack.
Number of persons resorted to violence has been arrested by the Teldeniya Police. Public transportation was also interrupted along the Digana – Teldeniya Road due to the clash. The injured persons were rushed to the Teldeniya hospital.
According to the Education Ministry that all schools within the Kandy Administrative District closed today on 6th March, 2018.
Today on 6th we observed that a funeral house of a Muslim youth took place in Digana and he was killed during the fire took place yesterday and the body was found today morning. We also observed that lots of police personnel, STF and Navey have been deployed in the area and Kandy District to control the situation. Most of the business centres, shops and markets were closed in the area. Very less vehicles and people are visible in the roads and towns.
Authoritative sources have confirmed that attacks on 6th at Manikhinna Kandy took place while the curfew was imposed. This is an exposure of the inability of those who are responsible to maintain law and order to exercise due diligence in the areas of conflict. The continuing violence and attacks against Muslims must stop. The animosity between the two communities have to be resolved through discussion and dialogue. Religious and political leaders must intervene to bring peace to the region.
All responsible for arson and violence must be dealt with immediately by the authorities. We urge the Prime Minister and the President to take swift action to escalate violence.
IMADR Asia Committee