Sri Lanka police form religious hate crimes unit after attacks
Colombo: Sri Lanka police today announced a new unit to investigate religious hate crimes after attacks by Buddhist monks on churches and mosques last year raised concerns about religious freedom.
Police Inspector-General N K Illangakoon said the new unit would swiftly investigate any complaint relating to "religious matters" on the majority Buddhist island amid rising tensions over the attacks.
"This unit will cover the entire country and deal with complaints relating to religious matters," Illangakoon told reporters.
The move follows a series of attacks since early last year on mosques, churches and Muslim-owned businesses by nationalist Buddhist groups who accuse religious minorities of undue influence on the island.
Videos shared on YouTube have shown mobs led by Buddhist monks throwing stones and smashing a Christian prayer centre in southern Sri Lanka in January this year while police looked on.
Senior Buddhist monks have also been caught on video threatening violence against their moderate colleagues who advocate religious tolerance.
Moderate Buddhist monks and Christian and Muslim leaders have accused police of failing to prosecute those behind the attacks.
Religious affairs ministry secretary M K B Dissanayake said the new unit was expected, through swift investigations, to ensure that isolated incidents did not escalate out of control.
The country is emerging from nearly four decades of ethnic war which according to UN estimates claimed at least 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.
Tamil rebels were fighting for a separate homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who are Hindu, on the Sinhalese-majority island.
Seventy percent of Sri Lanka`s 20 million people are Sinhalese Buddhists, while Muslims are the second-largest religious group making up just under 10 per cent.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is a Buddhist, warned monks in January last year not to incite religious violence. However police broke up a protest denouncing religious extremism last year, sparking opposition allegations that the government was tacitly supporting the violence.
More from India
More from World
More from Sports
More from Entertaiment
- Indian Army conducts surgical strikes across LoC: Watch DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh's PC
- Indian Army targets terror camps across LoC; Pak PM Sharif condemns
- 7 terror camps destroyed by Indian Army in surgical strikes
- Indian Army surgical strike: Pak rejects claim, says 2 soldiers killed
- Is it time for India to respond militarily to Pak terror instead of peace talks?
- SETBACK! Sedition case against 200 Congress workers for shouting 'Pakistan Zindabad' slogans during rally for Uri martyrs
- What is surgical strike and how it is conducted - MUST KNOW for every Indian
- SALUTE! Brave Indian army commandos give befitting reply to Pak-sponsored terrorists
- Surgical strikes across LoC in Pakistan were filmed, videos kept as proof
- US NSA Susan Rice calls Ajit Doval, says 'expect Pakistan to take action against terror’