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Sri Lanka communal clashes: US urges Colombo to unblock internet services; China calls Emergency 'internal matter'

FP Staff
Firstpost

In the wake of communal violence in Sri Lanka that continued despite a state of Emergency being declared, different countries have reacted to the way the Colombo has dealt with the issue.

The United States on Thursday said it respects Sri Lanka's national security, but asked Colombo to ensure the freedom of expression of its citizens.

The Indian Ocean island nation has witnessed anti-Muslim riots in Kandy, in which several homes, businesses and mosques were damaged during three days of violence. The violence erupted after the death of a man from the Buddhist Sinhalese majority last week in an incident of road rage which was later given a communal twist.

Mobs torched shops in Nugawela, Kandy, as communal violence escalated between groups of Sinhala Buddhist extremists and Muslim minority. N D Bandara/ Team 101 Reporters

Mobs torched shops in Nugawela, Kandy, as communal violence escalated between groups of Sinhala Buddhist extremists and Muslim minority. N D Bandara/ Team 101 Reporters

To rein in the communal violence, a state of emergency was declared President Maithripala Sirisena. Internet access was also restricted in Kandy with social media websites including Facebook and instant messaging app Whatsapp being blocked by the national telecommunication regulator.

The US statement came after the news of clamp down on social media broke.

"While we respect Sri Lanka's national security, the US supports an open, reliable and secure Internet where the rights that all persons have offline are also protected online, such as freedom of expression," a State Department spokesperson told PTI.

"The United States values freedom of expression and access to information as a key component of democratic governance," the spokesperson said while responding to a question on blocking of social media sites and imposition of emergency in Sri Lanka.

Earlier, the US Embassy in Colombo said it is important that the Government of Sri Lanka act quickly against perpetrators of sectarian violence, protect religious minorities and their places of worship, and conclude the state of Emergency swiftly, while protecting human rights and basic freedoms for all.

According to Daily Mirror, the Canadian government has also conveyed its deep concern about the recent inter-communal violence in Sri Lanka and urged all sides to engage in inclusive dialogue and exercise restraint to ensure peace and stability. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was quoted as saying, "Canada is deeply concerned by recent inter-communal violence in Sri Lanka, in which Muslims were targeted. Canada urges all sides to engage in inclusive dialogue and exercise restraint to ensure peace and stability. We call for an immediate end to hate and misinformation campaigns inciting sectarian violence."

On Thursday, China urged the Sri Lankan government to take measures to ensure the security of its nationals in view of the communal clashes between the Buddhists and Muslims. On the declaration of the Emergency by the government, Geng declined to comment on it, saying that it is an internal affair of Sri Lanka.

"We believe it is the domestic affair of Sri Lanka. We believe the Sri Lankan government and the people are capable of dealing with the current situations and to ensure the social stability and national solidarity," he said.

China invested billions of dollars in Sri Lanka, including in the development of ports in Hambantota and Colombo. Sri Lanka has also emerged as a popular destination for Chinese tourists, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman said he will visit Sri Lanka on Friday for three days of talks with Sri Lankan leaders and is expected to visit Kandy where two people were killed in the violence.

However, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the visit was planned before the state of emergency was imposed. "We are obviously concerned over reports of the ongoing communal violence and we welcome the government's commitment to addressing the tensions and achieve reconciliation," he said.

With inputs from agencies

Also See: Sri Lanka declares Emergency updates: US embassy calls for quick action against perpetrators, end to Emergency

Sri Lanka declares 10-day Emergency: President Sirisena says stern action against those spreading violence; Kandy remains tense

Emergency in Sri Lanka enters Day 2: Opposition slams govt for inaction; police and armed forces given more powers

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