Muslim-owned businesses close to protest Buddhist riots in Sri Lanka
Several hundred Muslim-owned businesses shut down in Sri Lanka's capital yesterday to protest against deadly riots by extremist Buddhists, defying President Mahinda Rajapakse's plea to stay open.
Shops and restaurants in central Colombo were shuttered following the riots in two mainly Muslim coastal resorts popular with international tourists that left four people dead and Muslim homes and businesses razed.
"The protest is against the BBS and the police failure to protect our community," a Muslim shopkeeper who declined to be named said. "We are also asking the government to take action against those behind the riots."
A Sinhalese businessman said most of the shops in the normally bustling Pettah wholesale market in Colombo were closed.
The violence on Sunday and Monday nights was blamed on the hardline Buddhist Force (BBS) in the southern towns of Alutgama and Beruwala, about 60km south of Colombo.
The closures came as police said a moderate monk, Watareka Vijitha, who voiced opposition to the BBS had been abducted, beaten up and dumped by the roadside outside Colombo early yesterday.
Hospital sources said the monk was in intensive care. Residents found him stripped naked, hands tied behind his back and dumped by the roadside in Panadura, a town outside the capital, police said.
The BBS, which has denied it was behind the riots, has been accused of targeting Buddhist clergy who opposed their hardline tactics.
Rajapakse on Wednesday urged majority Buddhists and minority Muslims to ease tensions and take steps towards peace. During a tour of riot-hit Beruwala, Rajapakse promised an investigation into the riots and appealed to Muslims not to go ahead with a "hartal" or strike.