The Dambulla town mosque which came under a mob attack on Friday was opened for prayers under heavy police security yesterday after relative calm returned to the area following an assurance from Muslim ministers that a permanent solution acceptable to all communities would be found soon.
Police broke the seal and allowed devotees to perform the afternoon prayers after Ministers A.H.M. Fowzie and Rishard Bathiudeen, Deputy Minister M.A.L.M. Hizbullah and Matale Mayor Hilmy Mohammed held discussions with police, government officials and area leaders.
The mosque was sealed and devotees were turned back on Friday when a tense situation arose with a crowd of about 2,000 people headed by Ven. Inamaluwe Sri Sumangala Thera marching to the mosque and laying siege to it. The protesters claimed the mosque was an illegal construction within the Dambulla sacred zone and therefore should be demolished.
Special Task Force personnel were rushed to the area to bring the situation under control after the mosque was damaged in the mob attack.
At yesterday’s talks, the Muslim ministers assured the area people that they would take the matter up with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and would decide whether to shift the mosque to another place or to leave it as it was. On Friday, Divisional Secretary Lakmi Hewapathirana assured the protestors that a ruling on the mosque would be given by tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Muslim Council President N.M. Ameen said that at a meeting attended by several MPs and civil society members yesterday, they had decided to write to President Rajapaksa requesting an impartial inquiry.
He said residents in the area had told them that the mosque had been there for more than 50 years.
Mr. Ameen said some Sinhala residents of the area believed that the attack on the mosque was a ploy to demolish all the houses in the area, which is a tourist hotspot.