Gintota clashes 19 remanded Govt on desperate mission to arrest extremists
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan and Galle Correspondent T. Withanawasam
Following last Friday's late night riots in Gintota, the Government has launched a desperate mission to clampdown on extremists who are using social media networks to incite violence in the country and has geared itself up to arrest violators under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act, No. 56 of 2007.
The 19 suspects who were arrested will also be dealt with under the ICCPR Act, Police spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekera said.
The Government has also informed its intelligence unit to monitor social media sites where personal videos are openly being uploaded in a bid to incite racial and religious hatred.
"We know there are several videos being uploaded by certain extremist groups wanting to disturb the peace of this country. We are now investigating those who are inciting racial and religious extremism using the social media and will soon take legal action against them too," he said.
SP Gunasekera added that they will hunt down and arrest inciters under the ICCPR Act and produce them in Court.
The Government, on seeing the continuous fake news and rumours spreading on social networks, on the Gintota incident, in order to keep the situation under control for the second day, too, had imposed curfew from last night (18) till today morning 9 a.m. (19) in Kurunduwatte, Mahapugala, Welipitimodera, and Ukwatte of the Gintota GS Division.
The Government beefed up security, using the armed forces and special Police teams, from the 17th night, following a minor accident, involving motorists and a trishaw that unexpectedly turned the atmosphere in Gintota violent.
SP Gunesekara told the media in Galle last evening that religious and racial extremisms caused the violence and not the minor accident that occurred prior to that. He also noted that the violence was politically motivated because mobs from various other villages gathered in Gintota over the misunderstandings that prevailed between the two parties that have been clashing from 16 November.
He said others exploited the accident that occurred in Vithanegama to suit their own agendas. They were politically and racially motivated.
Following that minor clash right after the accident, three persons were arrested and on the 17th they were produced before the Galle Magistrate and the investigation is in progress, noted the SP.
While they were ordered to be in remand custody till 20 November, again a tense situation erupted at about 7p.m. on the 17th. It was caused by another extremist group, following which security was beefed up in Gintota.
According to Police, five persons were hospitalized with minor injuries and the Police had been receiving complaints that several houses, shops and vehicles had been damaged in the violence.
SP Gunesekara said after several complaints had been lodged with the Police, they were able to arrest a total of 19 suspects involved in triggering violence. He said they were produced before the Galle Magistrate and remanded till 30 November.
The Government deployed additional Police battalions, the Police Special Task Force, the anti-riot squad and the military on the 17th night to bring the situation under control.
Yesterday morning, Minister of Home Affairs Vajira Abeywardane met Galagoda Atthey Gnanasara Thera at the Gintota Tuparama Temple to explain the situation.
Prior to the meeting, the Minister met several religious leaders and officials at the District Secretariat and urged them to be aware of the situation because unscrupulous elements are triggering communal disharmony in the country.
Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka yesterday said the tense situation that occurred in Gintota has been completely brought under control.
The Minister noted some political groups are now on a desperate mission to turn this minor brawl into a Sinhala-Muslim clash and he urged the public not to be misled by their false propaganda. "The same elements are now in the process of disseminating false videos and news on social media platforms to stir up communal sentiments. I reiterate that stern action will be taken against everyone, irrespective of their positions and political affiliations, attempting to resort to racist propaganda.
The same will apply to the rumour-mongers trying to capitalize on this opportunity to achieve petty political gains," the Minister asserted.
According to Police media unit, the late Friday mob attack was due to nasty social media notices, comments and fake messages posted.
SP Gunasekara said a woman was also arrested for spreading rumours that a Buddhist temple was about to be attacked by members of another community.
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