By M.S. Shah Jahan
“Some 40,000 deeds have been given to Tamil refugee families within the past three years. However, not a single plot of land has been provided to any one of the Muslim refugee families in the North.
Why is the Muslim community in the North receiving step motherly treatment?”
On Monday 16th July a meeting was conveyed by the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama ( Muslim Theologians) in Hotel Ranmuthu, Colombo with the presence of politicians, diplomats, University academics, business people and many others, to discuss the present plight of Northern Muslim families, who were forcibly driven away from their home land by the LTTE in October 1990 who are now living chiefly in Puttalam and other parts of the island.
The 15,000 families originally expelled have today grown into 34,000 in two decades and out out of this, 22,000 families have registered themselves to be resettled in their place of origin. But it was said that these families were unable to be sent back as most of the areas were already occupied by Tamil families who had been resettled there by the present government.
Even the LTTE also distributed these people’s properties to Tamils who were there. Reclaiming from them seems to be a tough task.
Several Muslim groups complained that while the welfare of Muslim refugees had been ignored by both the government and the international community including UNHCR, on the other hand they have made up their mind to categorize the Sri Lankan IDPs situation focusing solely on the Tamil community in the North. “The Muslim families in these areas have been deprived of their rights” it was said.
Alas a representative spoke with loud voice and anguish said that he had attended over 1300 meetings on the same subject without any progress.
As an invitee and one who attended the first meeting conveyed in the same hotel by the said refugees in the year 1990 immediately after the exodus, I was keen to follow the meeting. Like they all expected, I too expected, with the end of the war, these two decade old refugees who are craving to go back would get their priority. No it is not.
First come first served policy is gone with the wind. Instead, like, before Christ (BC) and after Christ (AD) internally displaced Sri Lankans have been categorized as refugees after the 2009 war and before the 2009 war.
There were ministers and parliamentarians in the crowd listening to the sorrow tale where finger was pointed at the government for its lethargy and indifference. This is a civil problem. If the Muslim civic leaders can not solve it- find redress, who els can? They are the ones close to the powerful people while their power is also just because these leaders are with them. Why do they look for the moon?
Besides, the main purpose of the Colombo meeting was to seek donation from the philanthropists to provide the refugees houses that will cost Rs.500,000 each. Also it was mentioned that their request for 10,000 houses from the Indian government’s pledge to build 50,000 houses for the Tamil IDPs, found no response.
When the Indian government is concerned, the child that cries only will get milk. Therefore they need a strong lobby in India. Since they are also Tamil speaking and living in Tamil dominated north and east, I feel they have all the right to seek help from India, and the latter also has an obligation.
A tense situation prevails in Mannar from last Wednesday, created by fishing rights that is more of minority against minority. Northern Muslims never demanded separation. Never supported terrorism. Had they collaborated with the rebels this country would have faced untold misery.
Is it just because no international pressure on the government on Muslim refugees, the Northern Muslims receive step motherly treatment? The speakers asked.
(This article was written exclusively for this blog)