Sri Lankan MPs blame government for spate of attacks on Muslims

COLOMBO • Sri Lankan parliamentarians have blamed the government for failing to stop a spate of attacks on Muslims over the past five weeks.

At least 20 incidents have been reported, including arson at Muslim- owned businesses and petrol-bomb attacks on mosques, several legislators - including two from the ruling party - told Parliament.

Muslims, who account for around 9 per cent of Sri Lanka's population of 21 million, have blamed the attacks on the Body Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, an organisation that says the spread of Islam threatens Buddhism as the dominant religion. It denies any involvement.

"Without state sponsorship, these actions cannot take place. There is somebody from the government backing the people who are doing these," said opposition lawmaker Bimal Rathnayake.

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Mr S.M. Marikkar, a legislator from the ruling United National Party, blamed the persistent attacks on a lack of action from the government.

Buddhists make up about 70 per cent of the population, and analysts say some hardline Buddhist organisations have been spreading hate speech against Muslims and encouraging people to attack mosques.

The Buddhist groups accuse some Muslim organisations of radicalising the community and forcefully converting people to Islam.

Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka acknowledged that there had been incidents targeting Muslims.

"We will take action to control the situation with immediate effect," he told Parliament, without giving specifics.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'Sri Lankan MPs blame government for spate of attacks on Muslims'. Print Edition | Subscribe