Two Muslim Governors in Sri Lanka stepped down on Monday, days after a Buddhist monk began a hunger strike demanding that they resign, following allegations linking them to Easter terror suspects.
“President Maithripala Sirisena accepted the resignation letters of Governors Azath Salley and M.L.A. M. Hizbullah just a while ago,” the Presidential Media Division said in a tweet Monday afternoon. Mr. Salley and Mr. Hisbullah were Governors of the Western and Eastern Provinces, respectively.
The monk, Athuraliye Rathana Thero, is a parliamentarian from the ruling United National Party (UNP), led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Rathana Thero began fasting on Friday, with five demands, including the resignation of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, and Governors A.L.A.M. Hizbullah and Azath Salley. Hardline Sinhala Buddhist groups, including monks, have demanded a probe into the Muslim leaders’ alleged links to Easter terror suspects. They have denied the allegations.
Scores of people marched to Kandy on Monday, where the monk has been fasting in front of the famous Dalada Maligawa Buddhist temple, to express solidarity. Shops remained closed, according to locals, after an informal message seeking a hartal in support of the monk’s gesture.
Around 3 pm, Mr. Rathana Thero called off his hunger strike, local media reported.
The Governors stepping down on Monday is the first instance of high-profile resignations following the Easter terror attacks that claimed over 250 lives.
Earlier, former President and Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa’s supporters mooted a no-confidence motion against Mr. Bathiudeen, a Cabinet Minister for Industry and Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Co-operative Development and Vocational Training and Skills Development, and leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress. It is scheduled to be debated in Parliament later this month.