Almost complete normalcy had returned Saturday to the tourist district of Kandy with Muslim owned shops re-opening after being shuttered down since March 4 following communal violence mainly in the Digana area near the city.
Police said the district level curfew was not be re-imposed when it ended at 5 am Saturday. The blackout of social mediastill remained in place though, despite the government’s announcing that it would be lifted soon.
Schools however are to re-open on Monday.
Meanwhile, President Maithripala Sirisena decided to appoint a three-member committee composed of retired judges to look into the violent incidents that shook Kandy; the implementation of law and order as well as to ascertain if there was a conspiracy that led to the communal incidents, the President’s Media Division said.
Meanwhile,with Kandy returningto its usual bustle,the Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, who visited the city Fridaycalled for a trust building process to commence, in order to heal the hearts and minds of people affected by the conflict.
Despite earlier fears expressed by Muslims in Kandy that there might be a re-surfacing of violence during Friday (09) prayers, the day proceeded without incidents.
In some locations where Muslim mosques were totally destroyed, worshippers were seen spreading prayer mats in nearby playgrounds, surrounded by security provided by the tri-forces.
Meanwhile, the Army Commander said he has urged President Maithripala Sirisena to ‘rebuild minds’ to ensure the trust of the island’s Muslim community in the Sinhala community in Kandy while the rebuild the damaged physical structures.
“President Maithripala Sirisena informed me yesterday that he will give the required leadership for reconstruction and requested the assistance of the army in this regard. I said that the army can re-build structures but not minds,” Gen. Mahesh Senanayake said during a discussion at a Buddhist Centre in Muruthalawa, about 25 kilometres from Kandy town.
This town had totally prevented attacks in around five adjoining Muslim villages,despite mobs from outside areas having arrived to the border of the villages.
Violence had been prevented because of the action taken by the Venerable Wathurukumbure Dharmarathana, Chief Monk of the Nilagala International Buddhist Centre in Muruthalawa to expel the mobs and maintain the usual solidarity the Muslim villagersof the area enjoyed with Sinhalese.
As the army plans to undertake the re-construction of the destroyed Muslim owned shops and business establishments, such initiatives should continue and be replicated,the Army Commander opined.
He called for a strategy to get all communities in the villages, especially the majority Sinhala community, involved in the re-construction to help heal wounds caused by the recent mayhem.
“The police should continue policing. Legal action should be taken against all those involved in the violence,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Joint Opposition (JO) of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has urged the government to appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to investigate the situation that occurred in Kandy, stating that a Presidential Commission is insufficient.
A probe by the PSC which would comprise all political parties in Parliament representing all the communities and the participation of all communitiesSinhalese, Muslims and Tamils, JO said.
It had also justified the call by stating that while Presidential commissions are confined only to reports a PSC could record evidence and make recommendations on how best to avert such situations with Parliament drafting new suitable laws, if necessary, JO sources said.
Meanwhile Muslims affected by the man-made crisis are taking stock of the situation.
“We are sad that a few persons have incited this situation in an area such as Digana where one would have laughed if someone said last year that such violence could happen,” M. H. A Sameeu, a retired school principal of the area told the writer.
Afualdeen Khairulla, President of the Kumbukandure Mosque, in a small village adjoining Digana, was visibly emotional as he recalled the initial incident that sparked off the tensions.
“A Sinhalese man succumbed to his injuries after being attacked by men later identified as Muslims. We as Muslims deeply regret this, especially as the victim, M. G. Kumarasinghe, was sole breadwinner in his family and had a handicapped child. We knew how kind he was to his neighbors who were Muslims and how his truck was like a school transport system for Muslim children who he regularly dropped off to school,” said Khairulla.
“We hope that the government would really look into the matter, as to how an incident that did not have any link with racism, except that the attackers of a Sinhala man happened to be Muslim, spiraled off such ethnic violence unheard of in the recent past in Kandy and absolutely unexpected in multi-cultural Digana,” the President of the Kumbukandure Mosque added.
Criticism prevailed of violence taking place during police curfew hours on 5th and 6thafter police had given an assurance to Muslims on Sunday, 4th March, that their businesses and places of worship would be unharmed and that as a precautionary measure Muslims should lock up their businesses and stay home.
The stemming of violence was evident only after the military was called in Tuesday after President Maithripala Sirisena imposed a State of Emergency.
“The main protecting mechanism that should be restored should be trust and harmony between the two communities,” S. H. M. Irshad, a civil society committee member in Digana opined.
(South Asian Monitor will this week look at the untold stories ashow Muslim Maulavis and Buddhist monks in Kandy combated the hate filled mayhem created by interested groups, andprevented the violence from spreading to the whole of Kandy district and beyond).