RELIGION

Sri Lanka police blamed for not stopping attacks on Muslims

Opposition lawmakers and rights activists blamed the Sri Lankan government on Wednesday for failing to stop a series of attacks on business places and mosques of ethnic minority Muslims over the past five weeks.

Victor Ivan, a prominent rights activist, said there has been a serious lapse by police in failing to enforce the law and make arrests.

"It seems the rule of law has collapsed," he added.

Muslims say 16 incidents, including arson attacks on shops and a mosque, and intimidation and threatening of Muslims in different parts of the country, took place since April 16. No arrests have been made.

Muslims blame the hardline Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena or Buddhist Power Force for instigating the attacks.

Bodu Bala Sena rejects the accusation. Its Chief Executive Officer Dilantha Withanage said the group had no involvement in the attacks and the allegation is an attempt to tarnish the image of the organization.

Minister of Law and Order Sagala Rathnayake told parliament the government regrets the situation and that police were investigating and need more time.

"We have emphasized to police that law should be implemented and those responsible for the crimes should be dealt with," he said.

Muslims account for 10 percent of Sri Lanka's population of 21 million people while 70 percent are Buddhists.

Ivan says the attacks show a pattern of targeting Muslims along with their shops and mosques.

If the situation persists, it might lead to a repeat of the 2014 riots against Muslims that left three people dead and 50 injured, he said. Those attacks were also blamed on the Bodu Bala Sena.

Ivan urged the government to control the situation and protect the minorities.

Opposition lawmaker Anura Dissanayake said the government should have acted quickly and stopped the problems.

The government's ineffective attitude could push the country "toward another bloodbath," Dissanayake said.