Eastern Muslims

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There are 24 Muslim Members of Parliament, out of 225 in total. Eighteen of them hold ministerial portfolios. Every single Muslim political party-SLMC, ACMC, NUA, NMC, DUA-is in the government. Yet, ordinary Muslims in the north and east continue to suffer despite the parties relying primarily on votes from the East and the North. And all these ministers do nothing much to help. In fact, they assist a Sinhala racist government.

Even Rauff Hakeem, the only Muslim politician to show any spine and stand up to the racist Rajapakse government, has joined it. He says he did so because four of his six MPs joined the government and gave him no choice. But this makes him a follower, not a leader!

Together, these Muslim members of the government are serving as proxies to cover up the atrocities of the government against eastern Muslims and its larger agenda of SinhalisationLG of the east under the A?a??A?Negenahira NavodayaA?a??A? program. In the process, these Muslim parliamentarians are blocking justice for the people who elected them.

Take the following incidents during the past year:

During the August 2006 fighting in and around Mavil Aru, 54 innocent Muslim civilians were killed. Of this number, 49 died when the Sri Lankan military launched multi barrel rockets into civilian areas. It is true that the LTTE provoked the attack. But the government was informed of a large number of civilians being trapped in Mutur town. One wonders whether, if the civilians were Sinhalese, the government would have reacted in the same manner. To date the Muslim ministers have turned a blind eye to the governmentA?a??a??s responsibility for a major part of the destruction and killings in Muttur. ACMC politicians went a step further and ensured, through intimidation, that the CitizensA?a??a?? Committee for Victimized Muttur MuslimsA?a??a?? effort to gather evidence to file a case against the government in this regard was stopped.

It is still fresh in the minds of Muttur Muslims how they were forced out from Kanthale IDP camps by the military on September 07th 2006. Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services, Risath Bathiyutheen, was very proud that he was able to put the Muslims back in Muttur within a month, unlike the northern Muslims who still languish in temporary shelters 17 years after their eviction by LTTE.

But these IDPs were hurriedly resettled because the government, particularly certain Sinhala extremist parties, did not want the displaced Muslims in Kanthale in the first place. Did these Muslim ministers ever bother to recognize under what condition these IDPs were forced back? Did they ever make an effort to negotiate with the government about their security, compensation and livelihood? Not at all. Instead, Non-cabinet Minister of Disaster Relief Services, Ameer Ali Sihabdeen, justified the governmentA?a??a??s refusal to register the Muttur Muslims as IDPs in Kanthale.

This is the first time in the history of the conflict in Sri Lanka that a large number of IDPs belonging to one community has been denied registration of their IDP status while they were displaced. The agenda here was to prevent these IDPs staying in a Sinhala majority area for long. Bathiyutheen and Sihabdeen worked against the Muslims for the Rajapakse regimeA?a??a??s Sinhala racist project.

Today the Muttur MuslimsA?a??a?? plight is pathetic. Apart from the meager compensation they received, their freedom of movement and right of access to basic facilities and livelihood is very much restricted. The heavy militarization of the civil administration in the Trincomalee district and the Sinhala colonization agenda pursued under the pretext of development and high security zones is turning a self sufficient and productive community into a poverty stricken and dependent population.

In Arafat Nagar, Muslim farmers were evicted, on August 10th, just as they were about to harvest their crops. In Jabal Nagar 3rd mile post, a stone quarry that was the basis of income generation for 400 families has been declared a Buddhist shrine. Access to the sea, for fishermen, has been restricted from 350 km to a mere 2 km. A ceiling on the quantity of goods that can be carried in and out of Mutur has severely curtailed trade. All these acts by the Rajapakse regime have made it virtually impossible for the Mutur Muslims to earn a living.

The situation is similar elsewhere in the east. On September 17th 2006, 10 construction labourers were brutally murdered in Radal Kulam (Radella – Pottuvil). There is substantial evidence that the killings wereLG done by a group of Sinhala home guards with the help of the Special Task Force. (There has also been a long drawn out conflict in the area between STF and the Muslim community over the STF wanting to control the lucrative timber business in Pottuvil.

There are indications that the STF is being used to assist the governmentA?a??a??s long term LGplan of creating Sinhala colonies in land that has been Muslims for centuries.) Disgustingly, Muslim ministers rushed to cover up for government in the aftermath of this massacre. Minister of Water Supply and Drainage, A. L. M. Athaullah, forcibly interviewed the sole survivor of the massacre, Meera Mohideen, even though he was found not fit enough to talk to the Pottuvil Magistrate and anyone for that matter. Athaullah got himself into the intensive care unit of the hospital to take testimony.

At this point, according to the doctors, Mohideen only could grunt due to a deep throat injury. The minister went on asking him whether the murderers were LTTE and his grunt was taken as a yes. This was videotaped and broadcast on all the state media as proof of STF innocence. Athaullah worked against the Muslims for this Sinhala racist project. Rauff Hakeem alone tried to raise awareness of the Pottuvil peopleA?a??a??s view of STFA?a??a??s involvement in the massacre. In retaliation, the government scaled down his security detail. None of the Muslim members of the government protested about this.
Other incidents clearly bring out the current government agenda of Sinhalisation of the east. There is an ongoing attempt to steal the lands of the minority communities in the name of development, national security and protection of environment, especially in Muslim-majority Ampara district. It all started with the appointment of military officers to key administrative positions.

In furtherance of their Sinhala racist policies, these officers even invented a new flag for the district, with the Sinhala lion emblem. The Muslim ministers have done nothing so far to make sure government does not proceed with its vicious plan of changing the ethnic demography of the east, or to prevent their community from becoming victims of all these vicious moves of this government. ArenA?a??a??t they all guilty of advancing the cause of Sinhala racist domination of Sri Lanka?

Digawapiya Viharadhipathi Nannapurawe Buddharakkitha Thera recently issued a statement stating that 32 Muslim families should be evicted immediately since they occupy the Buddhist historic land that he claims totals up to 12,000 acres surrounding the Dighawapiya temple. He went on to state that Buddhist families should be settled to counter the fear of Muslim families acquiring historic Buddhist lands. Here one must remember the uphill struggle of late SLMC leader Ashraff of saving the traditional lands of Muslims.

Unlike the current so-called leaders, Ashraff worked tirelessly for the community and opposed Sinhala domination. He even took special lessons in Sinhala to debate with Gangodawila Soma Thera over the issue of the Sinhala colonization of Digawapiya. Almost single-handedly, he helped his people save thousands of acres of their land. It is ironic that these Muslim party men and a woman who sprang from the SLMC now silently watch the current government reacquire the land that was allocated to the Muslims only due to the tireless efforts of their late leader. Our current crop of so-called leaders, who seem more interested in filling their pockets than serving the community, would do well to learn from his example. Their duty is to lead, not follow; and to oppose the Rajapakse regimeA?a??a??s Sinhala racism, not enable it carry out racist policies.


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