74 held after anti-Muslim violence hits Sri Lanka

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Muslim villagers react next to the dead body of Mohamed Salim Fowzul Ameer, who died in a mob attack, during the funeral ceremony at a mosque in Kottaramulla, Sri Lanka May 14, 2019. (Reuters)
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Muslim men stand in front of the Abbraar Masjid mosque after a mob attack in Kiniyama, Sri Lanka May 13, 2019. (Reuters)
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A Muslim man stands inside the Abbraar Masjid mosque after a mob attack in Kiniyama, Sri Lanka May 13, 2019. (Reuters)
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Abbraar Masjid mosque is seen after a mob attack in Kiniyama, Sri Lanka May 13, 2019. (Reuters)
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Motorbikes of worshipers are seen at the Abbraar Masjid mosque after a mob attack in Kiniyama, Sri Lanka May 13, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 15 May 2019

74 held after anti-Muslim violence hits Sri Lanka

  • Massive damage reported, security tightened, island-wide curfew imposed
  • Police and troops fought off hundreds of rioters in at least six towns earlier Monday with teargas

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police have arrested 74 people following mob violence targeting Muslims, following a fresh backlash against Easter suicide bombings that killed hundreds of people at churches and hotels. 
Daesh said it helped with last month’s devastating attacks that were carried out by local Islamist militants, leading to a spike in anti-Muslim resentment among the nation of 21 million people.
The government imposed an island-wide curfew on Monday night, but Sri Lankans woke up Tuesday to hear about violence against Muslims, their homes, businesses and mosques.
Mobs attacked the Kuliyapitiya, Hettipola, Aukana, Kottampitiya, Negombo, Chilaw, Kurunegala, Dummalasuriya, Rasnayakapura, Kobeigane, Bingiriya areas.
By Monday evening they had moved to Nikaweratiya, driving Muslim families into paddy fields and into hiding while they were fasting during Ramadan.
Shamila Reyal, whose husband works in the Middle East, described how thugs arrived in vans and on motorcycles at Thummula, a village around 80 km from the capital.
They attacked the mosque. But when her brother went to the scene, he was pushed back by police. “I ran in fear with my three-year-old daughter to the woods,” Reyal told Arab News. “The whole night I was hiding, without a glass of water.”
Rameeza Begum from Pasyala, a village around 40 km from Colombo, saw people disembarking from a coach to attack the local mosque. “The thugs took to their heels on seeing the army vehicle which came to announce the curfew,” she told Arab News.
Ali Fahmey wrote on Facebook that the factory he worked in was stormed by rioters and that seven of his colleagues had to flee for their lives, saying that one even jumped out of a window to escape.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, urged authorities to carry out weapon checks on all homes, regardless of their occupants’ religion. He said people in the mobs were wielding iron bars and other instruments that could be lethal.
Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said special security arrangements were in place to tackle mobs coming into Muslim areas, and that checkpoints had been set up to stop intruders from entering villages.
Of the 74 arrested, 33 are in custody and the rest are out on bail.
One government minister said it was unbelievable that there was violence in the very areas with police presence.
“We have repeatedly complained to the prime minister and president about the impending backlash and told them to take preventative action,” Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen told Arab News. “I think the mental pain is much more than the financial losses to Muslims.”
Arab News learned that Fouzul Ameer, a carpenter and father to four children, had been stabbed to death. Police have yet to confirm the killing.
Acting Inspector General of Police C.D. Wickramaratne warned that the country and its people would not be held hostage by destructive individuals. People arrested in connection with such acts would not receive bail and would face prison terms of up to 10 years, he said.
Extremists and individuals who were inciting violence should not mistake police patience for weakness, he added, and the majority of Sri Lankans supported law enforcement in the wake of the April bombings.
M.A. Sumanthiran, a spokesman for the Tamil National Alliance, said he condemned the violence and called on authorities to take action against the perpetrators. “There can be no room for terrorism in this country — not for the terrorism that bombs churches, and not for the terrorism that attacks mosques.”
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a public policy research and advocacy think tank, said it was alarmed about the communal violence.
It said that recent and ongoing incidents indicated that Muslim homes, businesses and places of worship were being targeted by violent individuals and groups, with incidents also reported during curfew hours.
The violence was being stoked by viral content that was anti-Muslim. The CPA also expressed concern over reports indicating inaction or a delayed response by security authorities. It called this sluggishness “an unfortunate trend which has repeatedly been witnessed in the past.”
An official government notice issued Tuesday banned two local extremist groups: National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.
The government has blamed the NTJ for the Easter attacks.


11 million North Koreans are undernourished: UN investigator

Quintana said collective farming and the failure to allow farmers to benefit from individual plots of land is further exacerbating food insecurity. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2019

11 million North Koreans are undernourished: UN investigator

  • The resumption of Mt Kumgang tours has been repeatedly mentioned as a possibility by South Korean President Moon Jae-in in recent years

UNITED NATIONS: Food insecurity in North Korea “is at an alarming level,” with nearly half the population — 11 million people — undernourished, the UN independent investigator on human rights in the country said Tuesday.
Tomas Ojea Quintana told the General Assembly’s human rights committee that 140,000 children are estimated to be suffering from “undernutrition,” including 30,000 who “face an increased risk of death.”
Quintana said the government, which has primary responsibility for ensuring access to food, “is violating its human rights obligations due to its failing economic and agricultural policies.”
In addition, he said, “climate conditions, infertile land, natural disasters and the negative impact of sanctions have contributed to further food insecurity.”
More broadly, Quintana said he has seen no improvement in North Korea’s human rights situation during his three years as special rapporteur.
“The country’s economic resources are being diverted away from the essential needs of the people,” he said. “Pervasive discrimination in the public distribution system means that ordinary citizens, especially farmers and people in rural areas, have not been receiving any rations.”
Quintana said collective farming and the failure to allow farmers to benefit from individual plots of land is further exacerbating food insecurity.
“At the same time, the government has failed to put in place conditions where people can securely engage in trade and exchange in marketplaces without facing criminalization, extortion and other forms of abuse,” he said. Nonetheless, he added, the vast majority of North Koreans “are now engaged in such market activity for their survival.”
Ironically, he said, the government’s failure to regulate nascent market activity is creating increasing inequality based on wealth, “where only those with money have access to basic rights such as education, health care, freedom of movement and adequate housing.”
Quintana said severe restrictions on basic freedoms continue to be widespread, including surveillance and close monitoring of civilians.
“North Korean people continue to live in the entrenched fear of being sent to a political prison camp,” called a kwanliso, he said.
“If you are considered to be a spy of the hostile countries or a traitor, when in reality you are simply exercising your basic human rights, you can be suddenly taken by agents of the Ministry of State Security to a kwanliso and never be seen again,” Quintana said. “Suspects’ families are never informed of the decisions or of the whereabouts of their relatives.”
On the issue of North Koreans who have fled to China, Quintana said in the past six months he has received information from family members living in South Korea of an increasing number of these escapees being detained in China.
He said any North Korean who escapes should not be forcibly returned because there are substantial grounds they would be tortured or subjected to other human rights violations.
“I appreciate the government of China’s increased engagement with me on this concern, and I hope that this will lead to greater compliance with international standards,” he said.
Quintana said North Korea has accepted 132 recommendations from other UN member states, including one “to grant immediate, free and unimpeded access to international humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to the most vulnerable groups, including prisoners.” He said this could lead to the first international access to places of detention, “and could therefore be an opportunity to improve prison conditions.”