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President turning blind eye to violence?

Published:Sunday | July 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM

ALUTHGAMA (AP):

The attackers stormed in close to midnight, tearing through town with gasolene bombs and clubs before carting away piles of cash and jewellery they stole from Muslim families.

The onslaught incited by the Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, a hard-line group that has gained thousands of followers in recent years, killed at least two Muslims and injured dozens more last month in the worst religious violence Sri Lanka has seen in decades.

Now, President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government is under fire, accused of failing to protect Sri Lanka's tiny Muslim minority and allowing radical Buddhists spewing illegal hate speech to operate with impunity for years.

Critics of Rajapaksa's government say it has turned a blind eye to the violence as a way to shore up its core constituency - the Sinhalese Buddhist population - which makes up about 75 per cent of Sri Lanka's 20 million people.

The recent violence has also drawn rare, and harsh, criticism from inside Sri Lanka, with the media, moderate Buddhists and even the justice minister slamming Rajapaksa's seeming unwillingness to safeguard Muslims.