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SL Muslim group warns of arms struggle

He said that CFA put Muslims at on the backfoot, a position they did not suffer from before, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2006 19:05 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran

A leading Muslim human rights activist has warned that Muslims in Sri Lanka may be forced to take to arms and seek help from the Muslim world if the LTTE continues to trample on them and the government keeps ignoring their cries.

MIM Mohideen, Chairman of the Muslim Rights Organisation, said, "If this state of affairs is allowed to continue we will have another looming problem of immense magnitude.

There might be a possibility of Muslim youths taking to arms and seeking support from neighbouring Muslim countries who will certainly not allow their brothers and sisters in Colombo to be continuously left disregarded and even undefended."

"We will then face a situation where another dimension of our political problem will become internationalised," he warned.

Mohideen, who has been systematically collecting data on the condition of the Muslim minority in the North East for years, complained that the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE in February 2002, had completely overlooked Muslim concerns.

The CFA, he charged, had allowed the LTTE to tax, extort, abduct and kill Muslims, and seize their lands with impunity in the government-held areas of the Eastern districts of Amparai, Batticaloa and Trincomalee.

"In fact, the CFA has placed the Muslim community at a disadvantage - a position which we did not suffer before the CFA," he maintained.

LTTE cadres had abducted Muslims, killed and burnt their bodies in the presence of the Sri Lankan Army in Valaichchenai on June 30, 2002 during the ceasefire.

Mohideen further alleged that the LTTE had set up a camp right inside a mosque in Kinniya, a government controlled area in Trincomalee district.

"The LTTE is forcibly occupying 63,000 acres of agricultural land belonging to 14,872 Muslim families in the Eastern districts," he said.

"During the ethnic cleansing of Jaffna in 1990, the LTTE chased out 14,000 Muslim families, and unlawfully occupied 11,100 Muslim houses and robbed properties worth 5 billion Sri Lankan rupees.

Mohideen has also blamed successive Sri Lankan governments for the present sorry and dangerous state of affairs.

He charged the governments of turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to the cries and plight of the Muslims even though the latter had never stood in the way of the majority Sinhala community from securing their legitimate rights since Sri Lanka's independence in 1948.

The Muslims had never gone before the international community and "blackened" the image of Sri Lanka, even though they had been discriminated against in the field of education and land colonisation schemes, and their security had been seriously compromised, Mohideen pointed out.

Mohideen noted that Ilamparithi, the LTTE leader who ruthlessly executed the plan to drive out the entire Muslim community from Jaffna, was back again as the political chief of Jaffna district.

After the CFA, some Muslims returned to resume their trade in Jaffna, but they found that the LTTE's agents would not let them trade freely. The agent had also allowed the LTTE to take over the houses of Muslims who had fled in 1990.

Before he split from the mainstream LTTE in March 2004, the Batticaloa and Amparai LTTE leader, Karuna, had told a public meeting in Switzerlandthat the Muslims were dominating the economy of the Eastern districts and that this should be changed.

Karuna proposed that the LTTE's tax on Muslims should be increased from five per cent to at least 20 per cent, Mohideen recalled.

Though depleted in Batticaloa and Amparai after the exit of Karuna, the LTTE continued to tax, harass and extort from the Muslims, he charged.

Lands seized from the Muslims has not been returned. The Muslims still have no access to their lands in areas controlled by the LTTE.

Mohideen said that not just the LTTE but all Tamil militant groups had attacked and persecuted the Muslims.

"The pattern of attacks that have been unleashed on the Eastern Muslims clearly demonstrates that there is a deliberate plan by the Tamils to weaken the economic and political strength of the Muslims.

"It is to chase us away like what they did in the North and make the North-East a mono-ethnic Tamil region in order to create Tamil Eelam one day," Mohideen charged.

First Published: Feb 19, 2006 17:28 IST