Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday declared a nationwide state of emergency for seven days in a bid to curb communal violence after clashes erupted between majority Buddhists and members of the Muslim minority.
Under the emergency, which was imposed for the first time since 2011, following the end of the civil war with Tamil separatists two years before that, security forces can carry out searches without warrant and detain suspects without charges.
“The president has instructed the police to impartially, comprehensively and promptly deal with those engaged in criminal activities and those causing or attempting to cause ethnic and religious tensions, irrespective of their ethnic or religious identities and political affiliations,” said a statement issued by Sirisena’s office.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament that “political groups” he did not identify were trying to incite hatred against Muslims.
Analysts say the government has been alarmed by the speed with which the trouble spread in two districts of Kandy and sought to contain it through the imposition of emergency.
It was not clear why the initial altercation occurred but after the driver’s funeral on Monday, a Sinhalese mob attacked Muslim shops, police said. Early on Tuesday the body of a Muslim youth was found in a burnt-out shop, police said.