By: Laura Ouseley
As the Sri Lankan government declares a State of Emergency following outbreaks of anti-Muslim attacks, the Catholic aid agency CAFOD echoes the calls of its local Sri Lankan partners for an end to the violence.
Jehan Perera, Executive Director of CAFOD's partner, the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, said: "The sudden eruption of anti-Muslim violence in Ampara and its spread to Kandy is a big blow to reconciliation in our country. The sudden deterioration of law and order threatens to pit community against community. Having only just got out of a thirty year war, it looks like we are being pushed into a new one.
"There is a deliberate and purposeful build up of tension. This is being done for political reasons by those who do not have mass support. It is like we are back in the past, when there was fear in the air. We thought we had got out of this fear when the war ended.
"It is necessary that the government and state institutions, especially the police, should take immediate deterrent and punitive measures against anyone who takes the law into their own hands, and practices violence against another, they should be arrested. In this context the declaration of a state of emergency for a limited period is appropriate so long as it is both Law and Order and Rule of Law. It is a signal that the government is serious about putting an end to mob action that is threatening the lives and property of a section of the people.
"We hope that this crisis will convince the leaders of the coalition government that they need to work together rather than against each other."
Mary Lucas, CAFOD's Country Representative for Sri Lanka, said: "These attacks are extremely concerning and we echo concerns expressed by our partners that the country faces a precarious moment as it attempts not to fall back into the pain and misery of violent conflict.
"There are clear indications that this violence has been organised and instigated, the result of intentional attempts to build tensions between religious and ethnic groups. The government of Sri Lanka must respond, and send a strong message that those who incite racial hatred will be found and punished. The government must also unite and give strong leadership on peace and reconciliation to Sri Lanka as a whole.
"CAFOD is supporting local civil society in Sri Lanka who are strengthening local communities' understanding of peace and reconciliation, building their ability to resolve local conflicts peacefully, and resist falling prey to manipulation."
For more information about CAFOD see: www.cafod.org.uk.