Sri Lanka govt blocks social media after anti-Muslim unrest rises

Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21,2019. Photo: Reuters

The Sri Lankan government Monday blocked social media following rising tensions between the minority Muslims and majority Sinhalese in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings which killed nearly 260 people.

The blockade comes a day after Sri Lankan police imposed curfew in the country's western coastal town of Chilaw where a mob attacked a mosque and some shops owned by Muslims in a dispute that started on a Facebook post by a Muslim shop owner.

The blockade of Facebook and WhatsApp has been imposed form mid night following violent incidents between the minority Muslim and majority Sinhalese communities, officials said.

Late in the evening on Sunday, the unrest spread to Kuliyapitiya where a mosque and a few Muslim owned shops came under attack, prompting the authorities to impose curfew in the northwest town.

"The curfew imposed in Kuliyapitya and Chilaw has been lifted," police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

The majority nationalist groups have been active on Facebook, reviving calls for boycotts of Muslim-owned businesses and spreading hate.

The voilence is a direct fallout from the Easter Sunday's suicide bombings.

Nine suicide bombers, including a woman, carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels, killing 258 people and injuring over 500 others on April 21.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the government has blamed local Islamist extremist group, the National Thawheed Jama'ath (NTJ), for the bombings.

Sri Lanka has previously blocked social media several times after the Easter Sunday bombings to prevent the spread of false news reports.

The Sunday curfews came as Catholic churches held teir first Sunday mass amid tight security.

Addressing a service here, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith the Archbishop of Colombo, said everyone responsible for neglecting the intelligence and prior warnings on the attacks including the political leadership must be brought to book.

The security remained tight on Monday as another warning of a possible attack later in the day was doing rounds.

The primary schools which did not open after the attacks resumed classes Monday with low attendance.

The attendance of classes above grade 5 was very low.

Parents had refused to send their children to schools despite repeated assurances from the security establishment that the threats of more attacks had been nullified.

Over 1,000 have been arrested since the attacks.

Sri Lanka's police say they have either killed or arrested all those responsible for the bombings but that the threat of global terrorism persists.

President Maithripala Sirisena has vowed to eliminate the militants and restore normality in the country.

Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million which is a patchwork of ethnicities and religions, dominated by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.

Muslims account for 10 per cent of the population and are the second-largest minority after Hindus. Around seven per cent of Sri Lankans are Christians.


Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel