A dispute with a Sinhala customer over the ordering of food items in a Muslim owned hotel has resulted in communal tensions flaring up in Dambulla town located 165 km from Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo.
According to reports in websites specialising in news concerning the Muslim community ,the dispute which occurred on Wednesday Feb 8th 2017 , turned into a physical clash between the customer and hotel staff in which the customer was injured. Following this a gang of Sinhala speaking persons invaded the hotel and attacked the Muslim manager.
Thereafter a mob assembled in Dambulla and staged a demonstration against the Muslims after which all Muslim owned businesses in Dambulla were ordered to be closed. All Muslim shops,hotels and other businesses in Dambulla were shut down at 7 pm on Wednesday
According to news reports a Sinhalese woman had allegedly ordered two club sandwiches by telephone from a Muslim owned Hotel in Dambulla at noon on feb 8th. Instead the hotel had reportedly sent two Submarines by mistake. The woman then brought the submarines to the Hotel to be exchanged for club sandwiches.
The Hotel manager had refused saying the customer had definitely ordered submarines and the Hotel had not made a mistake. She was also accused of causing confusion while ordering food items on earlier occasions too.She went back
After a while the woman’s husband came to the Hotel with the submarines and wanted club sandwiches. The manager refused and an argument ensued. The enraged husband then allegedly threw the submarines at the managers face. This resulted in a physical altercation. The customer was allegedly assaulted severely by the manager and other hotel staff.
After some hours a gang of Sinhala speaking persons came to the hotel and allegedly beat up the manager. They forced the hotel to shut down.
Thereafter a Sinhalese mob assembled in the town and staged a demonstration against Muslims. All Muslim owned businesses were forced to close down. By 7 pm all Muslim owned enterprises were shut down
On the following Thursday Feb 9th morning when Muslim businesses started opening a gang of Sinhalese thugs went around Dambulla ordering the shops and hotels to be closed. The Muslim owners were compelled to shut down the businesses which remained closed the next day also as Friday Feb 10th was a Poya day.
Affected Muslim businessmen appealed to UNP Parliamentarian Ranjith Aluvihare, Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake and several Muslim ministers in the Sirisena – Wickremesinghe Govt. Due to political pressure the Police officer in Charge in Dambulla Chief Inspector Wickramaratne deployed special security for Muslim businesses on Saturday Feb 11th. Thereafter Muslim owned enterprises that had remained shut from Wednesday night to Saturday morning began resuming business cautiously. Though tensions prevail there is a visible Police presence affording greater protection to the Muslim businesses.
Meanwhile Police arrested both the Sinhala customer and Muslim hotel manager and produced them before the Dambulla magistrate who remanded them until Feb 22nd. Both had been hospitalised following the clash. No further arrests were made.
Representations have also been made to President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to ensure adequate and durable security for Muslim businesses in Dambulla
Police stated that the situation was now quiet and normalcy was being restored gradually
And it was all due to a dispute over club sandwiches and submarines!
The situation in Dambulla has returned to Normal. Al Musli owned businesses in Dambulla were fully open on Monday February 13th. Representatives of the Dambulla Sinhala Traders Association and Muslim Businesspersons had a friendly discussion to resolve outstanding problems on Sunday Feb 12th. Meanwhile the Muslim restaurant manager and Sinhala customer whose altercation led to the crisis in Dambulla have both agreed to arrive at an amicable settlement of the dispute. Both of them had been arrested earlier by Police and remanded until Feb 22nd. Representatives of the Dambulla Mosque administration met with both at the Remand prison and got both to agree to an amenable sentiment