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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 January 2007, 18:32 GMT
Mob attacks Sri Lanka peace rally
By Priyath Liyanage
BBC Sinhala service editor

Mervyn Silva (right) at the rally ground
Mr Silva (right) said he had no part in the violence
A peace rally in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, was abandoned after it was attacked by a government minister and his supporters.

Deputy Labour Minister Mervyn Silva encouraged his followers to beat those present, among them a BBC reporter.

"Beat him up! beat them all!" one journalist quoted him as saying.

Prominent Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim politicians were to have addressed the rally, the first held by a new anti-war group, the United People's Movement.


Journalists said Mr Silva and "about 100 thugs" appeared at Super Market Square in the suburb of Nugegoda as the rally was about to start.

"When I was walking near the stage, someone pointed me out to Mervyn Silva," one journalist, Ajith Senaviratne, told the BBC Sinhala service.

"The junior minister shouted 'beat him up! beat them all!', then the mob started attacking me."

A BBC reporter witnessed what happened - he was also attacked. Our reporter said he managed to escape his assailants.

He asked the minister to tell his supporters to stop attacking him, which Mr Silva did.

Journalists told the BBC that no police arrived to intervene.

Talking to journalists from the stage, immediately after the attack, Mr Silva denied any involvement in sabotaging the meeting.

Correspondents say he is well known for his outspoken views.

He was accused of leading similar attacks in the past when he was a minister in the government of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

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