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Muslim ministers resign as pressure mounts from Buddhist clergy

Muslim government officials, including all ministers and two governors, resigned yesterday from their posts following mounting pressure from senior Buddhist clergy and politicians.

Three ministers and five junior ministers resigned from their cabinet positions saying they had done so as a result of the "hate culture" against Muslims in government at present. 

"We will continue to serve the government as backbenchers until we feel confident to serve again - once the hate culture and culture of impunity is removed from our country," Rauf Hakeem, the former minister of city planning said. "We will not leave government we will protect government," he added. 

His comments came as the Muslim Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, and the governors of the Western Province, Azath Salley, and Eastern Province, M L A M Hizbullah were forced to resign amid protests calling for their arrests over alleged links to Islamist extremists responsible for the Easter Sunday suicide bombings. 

Hizbullah appointed Eastern Province Governor. Jan 2019

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has condemned the forced resignations of all of Sri Lanka's Muslim ministers from the front benches.

"Most unfortunate that Muslim Ministers succombed to pressure from racists. Yesterday us, today you, tomorrow a new 'other'. We continue to stand in solidarity with Muslim people & Call on all right thinking Sri Lankans to do the same," the TNA tweeted. 

A senior Buddhist monk, Athuraliye Rathana, who launched a hunger strike last week calling for the removal of the two governors and Minister Bathiudeen, responded to the news of the resignations by halting his fast. 

This morning Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith visited the fasting monk, whilst a number of protests took place in support of Rathana. In Negombo private buses and three-wheelers were on strike to express their solidarity. A large protest in Pettah disrupted traffic as people demanded that the governors not only resign but also be arrested along side MP Bathiudeen. 

The Cardinal, who has a long history of supporting hardline Sinhala Buddhist figures, has been criticised the Minister of Finance, Mangala Samaraweera, who argued the visit ‘fanned the flames of hatred and communalism’. 

Rathana was also this morning visited by the JHU's, MP Patali Champika Ranawaka. 

The protests calling for the resignations of Muslim ministers and governors follow the Easter Sunday suicide bombings by Islamist extremists supportive of Islamic State, which left over 250 people dead. 

In the aftermath of the bombings, several Muslim homes, businesses and mosques were destroyed by Buddhist mobs, with images showing that monks and Sri Lankan military personnel were also involved in racist rioting.