Attacks shatter Mawanella Muslims

[TamilNet, Thursday, 03 May 2001, 15:44 GMT]
Two mosques, sixty houses, forty shops and two Muslim owned fuel stations were burnt down Wednesday by mobs in the town of Mawanella, said Mr. Ali Sahir Moulana, a Muslim opposition Parliamentarian Thursday. He said that Sinhala mobs had carried out the attacks with the aim of destroying the basis of the Muslim people's economy in Mawanella. The town is on the main highway between Kandy and Colombo in the Kegalle district and is predominantly Muslim. Mr.Moulana said that the Sri Lankan government should take full responsibility for the attack on the Muslims in Mawanella and its environs.

A Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) source in Colombo however, told TamilNet Thursday 18 vehicles, 20 houses, 140 shops, 2 garment factories and a rubber factory mostly owned by Muslims were set on fire by the attacking Sinhalese.

mawanella_riots_030501.jpg
A Sri Lankan soldier guards a burnt out shop in the central town of Mawanella, about 80 km northeast of the capital Colombo, May 3, 2001. Photo: Reuters
He charged that the Police in Mawanella had stood by even during the curfew that was clamped on the area, while Sinhala mobs went on rampage. Two Muslims were killed Wednesday by the Sinhala mobs, according to him.

Hundreds of Muslims hit by the violence sought refuge in a local school for studying Arab and Islam.

The Sri Lankan government, meanwhile, claimed that the situation is under control and that Police personnel from outside Mawanella have been deployed there now. It said that a conference to bring about peace between the Muslims and Sinhalese has been organised by the Police Thursday. Police sources in Colombo said a few shops belonging to Sinhalese were also damaged. They said that it is too early to have a correct assessment of the destruction caused by the mobs.

The SLMC sources said that sections of the media and the government are deliberately trying to play down the fact that Sinhala mobs had attacked the Muslims, destroying their property, businesses, places of worship and their homes. "Instead they are attempting to make the Muslims the villain of the piece", he charged.

According to a journalist in Ruwanwella, a minor town near Mawanella, on Tuesday Muslims in the town had shut down their shops and flown black flags in protest against an attack on two Muslim businessmen the day before. The businessmen were assaulted allegedly by the bodyguards of ruling party politician when they had refused to pay extortion money. He said that Sinhala mobs armed with machetes and clubs had attacked Muslims later that day, pillaging shops and setting them on fire.

He said that the Mawanella Jumma Mosque was torched as soon as the Sinhala mobs began the attack on Muslims in the town.

The SLMC source in Colombo, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the Muslims in Mawanella had protested peacefully because they had felt that the Sinhala chauvinist forces that are systematically working to undermine their (Muslim) traditional presence in the town had to be opposed at this juncture. He cited the activities of the Sihala Urumaya (formerly Sinhala Veera Vidhaahana) and its most powerful backer, the Sinhala Traders Association to underscore that the attack in Mawanella is part of a cover and systematic racist campaign against the Muslims in the southern parts of Sri Lanka.

He pointed out that none of the culprits who attacked Muslims in February 1999 and later have been brought to book so far.

 

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