Shops owned by Muslim traders in the Sri Lankan central highlands district of Kandy will remain closed on Sunday as thousands of hardline Buddhist monks gather to decide who to back in the country’s upcoming presidential elections, the Reuters news agency reported.
The gathering, called by Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the influential head of Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), is worrying Muslim traders and residents in Kandy, an ancient capital that was rocked by violence last year as mobs ran amok for three days vandalising mosques, homes and businesses.
“All Muslim-owned shops are likely to be closed on Sunday to avoid any possible confrontation, as thousands of monks are expected in the town for the conference,” Niyaz Muheeth, president of the Kandy Muslim Traders Association, told Reuters.
Sri Lanka’s apex body of Islamic scholars, All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), urged Muslims to avoid visits to the central district that contains Kandy on Sunday.
In response, BBS said in a statement thousands of monks are expected to gather in Kandy to take a crucial decision on behalf of the country.
In a letter to police seen by Reuters, Dilantha Withanage, CEO of BBS, accused Muslim groups including ACJU of trying to sabbotage the Sunday event, by misleading the police with fabricated information and complaints.