Saturday, May 23, 2009

Toronto Sinhalese ‘really worried’ after second apparent arson attack

A suspicious Brampton fire consumed greater Toronto’s only Sinhalese restaurant early yesterday, which if confirmed as arson would make it the second fiery attack on a Sri Lankan establishment in less than a week.

A Buddhist temple in Scarborough went up in flames on Saturday, in what Toronto police have deemed a criminal fire, igniting fear in the Sinhalese community that the Sri Lankan army’s defeat of the rebel Tigers of Tamil Eelam last Saturday may have made them targets.

“It can’t be a coincidence,” Hasaka Ratnamalala, an executive member of the Sri Lankan United National Association of Canada, said yesterday after the fire at Lanka Gardens in Brampton. “All of the community is scared.… I am really worried about my life.”

In a statement yesterday the Sri Lankan consulate blamed both incidents on ‘‘suspected Tamil Tiger supporters.’’Peel police were reluctant to deem the restaurant blaze a deliberate attack on the Sinhalese owners, saying the cause of the fire, while suspicious, has not yet been established.But Constable Wayne Patterson said the force is “aware” of events a world away.

“It’s definitely something we need to be cognizant of,” he said. “We need to do our due diligence and make sure it was arson before we jump to any conclusions.”

Toronto Police say arsonists broke in to a Sri Lankan Buddhist temple on Kingston Road at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, poured an accelerant just inside the door and set it alight before fleeing the scene. Authorities have not linked the blaze to the conflict in Sri Lanka — which has sparked traffic-snarling mass demonstrations by the local Tamil population, including a candlelight vigil last night at Queen’s Park.

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