The Kandy Municipal Council confirmed that ‘Sinhala only’ lion flags had been raised in the town ahead of the swearing-in of Sri Lanka’s newly appointed ministers at the ‘Temple of the Tooth’, stating that they had now been removed.
Commissioner of Kandy Municipal Council Chandana Thennakon confirmed to the Sunday Times that the flags had been raised by municipality staff, but “refused to elaborate on why those flags were hoisted around the city”.
The flags had been removed and replaced with the Sri Lanka lion flags, he added.
The Sinhala only flags - Sri Lankan lion flags which have had the token representation stripes for Tamils and Muslims removed - have long been associated with racist Sinhalese movements.
In recent years the flags have been flown several times by extremist Sinhala groups, including those behind the ‘Sinha Le’ or ‘Lion’s Blood’ movement and other organisations accused of hate speech.
Sri Lanka's national flag, is dominated by a lion, the Sinhala national symbol, holding a sword facing two small strips, which were added to represent the Tamil and Muslim communities. In 1972, the government added four leaves of the Bo tree, a holy Buddhist tree, to the flag. Tamils have long rejected Sri Lanka’s flag and other national symbols, with many raising black flags as a sign of protest instead on Sri Lankan Independence Day.