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Sri Lanka

CrisisWatch Sri Lanka

Deteriorated Situation

Country rocked by worst outbreak of anti-Muslim violence since 2014 in several small towns in central Kandy district 4-8 March, which began when Sinhala crowds attacked Muslim shops and houses following death of Sinhala man beaten by four Muslim men ten days earlier. Scores of Muslim businesses and houses burned or badly damaged, over two dozen mosques attacked. Large crowds of militant Buddhist activists, including prominent militant leaders and many from outside district, gathered 5 March to demand release of those arrested for previous day’s violence. Widespread attacks on Muslim shops, houses and places of worship followed 5-6 March, prompting President Sirisena to declare state of emergency until 17 March. Despite curfews and deployment of thousands of military personnel, violence continued until 8 March; police eventually arrested more than 200 suspected of planning and participating in violence, including apparent Mahasohon Balakaya leader. Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, EU, U.S. and UN issued statements condemning violence and urging govt to hold perpetrators accountable. Govt imposed unprecedented restrictions on social media 7 March in response to its use in organising violence, blocking Facebook and WhatsApp; ban widely criticised for harming small businesses while failing to stop hate speech. Govt criticised for response to violence, particularly PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, temporarily serving as law and order minister; and Sirisena, who visited Kandy to meet religious leaders but not victims. No-confidence vote in parliament against PM originally scheduled for first week of March, postponed to early April. Cabinet 13 March approved PM’s proposal to establish office of reparations to compensate those affected by war-related crimes and damages, meaning bill will now be drafted. PM agreed 27 March to withdraw draft amendments to Voluntary Social Service Organisations Act that would have severely restricted independence of NGOs and civil society organisations.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

8 Mar 2018
There is good reason to believe [the Sinhala Buddhists attacks in Sri Lanka] are partly designed to provoke a Muslim response, which would then justify more violence against Muslims. Al Jazeera

Alan Keenan

Project Director, Sri Lanka
6 Mar 2018
Many Sinhalese and Buddhists have [the sense] that Sri Lanka [is a] Sinhala and Buddhist island, and [that] other communities are here on the sufferance of the majority. The Guardian

Alan Keenan

Project Director, Sri Lanka
18 Feb 2018
The [Sri Lankan] government will need to figure out how to come together. They need to go back to the drawing board and return to their fundamental principles and start to deliver. CNN

Alan Keenan

Project Director, Sri Lanka
15 Feb 2018
[Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa] has a strong core constituency and a good set of issues, whereas the government has to pull together a range of minority constituents. The Economist

Alan Keenan

Project Director, Sri Lanka
7 Nov 2017
2017 has seen a worrisome return of violence and hate speech in Sri Lanka. U.S. News

Alan Keenan

Project Director, Sri Lanka
9 Aug 2017
There are lots of little initiatives under way [in Sri Lanka.] But they don't add up to a coherent or effective response to the desperate situation so many women are facing in the north and east. Reuters

Alan Keenan

Project Director, Sri Lanka

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Originally published in The Diplomat Magazine

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Alan Keenan

Project Director, Sri Lanka
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