Buddhist temple fire heightens Sinhala-Tamil tensions

May 17th, 2009 - 10:01 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, May 17 (IANS) The war in Sri Lanka had its echo again here Saturday when the Sinhalese blamed an early morning fire at one of their temples on the local Tamil community.
The incident has added to the already heightened tensions between the two ethnic groups, with the Sinhalese alleging threats against them in the past.

The fire was reported at the entrance to a Buddhist temple in the Scarborough area of east Toronto early Saturday morning, forcing three monks to flee for safety.

A resident monk at the temple linked the fire to the on-going conflict in Sri Lanka, alleging that they have received threatening calls for the past one week.

Members of the Sinhalese community who gathered at the temple after the incident openly blamed the supporters of the Tamil Tigers for the fire. However, Canadian Tamil Congress spokesman David Poopalapillai told IANS, “We condemn this act whole-heartedly, and we want police to go to the bottom of the incident.”

He said, “As responsible Canadians, the Tamils don’t condone this act. Whosoever is found guilty must be brought to justice.” Police and fire brigade are reportedly examining the two bottles found at the temple to ascertain whether they contained explosive material.

This is the second incident within a week which has added to the tensions between the two ethnic groups from Sri Lanka. Last Wednesday, the Sinhalese flew a helicopter with a banner ‘Protect Canada - Stop Tamil Tigers’ over a Tamil demonstration at the state assembly here, enraging the protesters.

Toronto-based Sri Lankan consul general Bundula Jayasekara, who in the past has angered Canadians by his comments on their handling of the Tamils, again alleged Saturday that the local Sinhalese community was regularly receiving threats from supporters of the Tamil Tigers.

“There is a mafia. People don’t feel safe here and this is a G8 country,” the Sri Lankan envoy was quoted as saying. There are about 300,000 Sri Lankan Tamils and about 50,000 Sinhalese in the Greater Toronto Area comprising Toronto and the surrounding cities.

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