Sri Lanka Brief
NewsLife of North Muslims and their Voting Rights

Life of North Muslims and their Voting Rights

  16 June 2011 
The discrimination faced by the Northern Muslims have become an unending story. The governments’ neglect against minorities in this country is once again rearing its ugly head as Northern Muslims are denied of their voting rights.
The LTTE’s oppression against the innocent people was elevated to an entire new level when they forcible evicted Muslims from the Northern Province in 1990.

Since then they have lived scattered all over the island (Puttlam, Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Negombo, Colombo, Panadura, Thihariya and Wattala) in penury and facing innumerable hardships. The government aid of dry ration worth of Rs. 1400 is barely enough to survive. It is most evident in these times where the cost of living is skyrocketing. Therefore they obtain an income by doing odd jobs in the places where they live.  

As history repeats, the innocent and illiterate people are tormented time and time again. The authorities who are in power and whose sole responsibility is to stamp out such sufferings, has turned a blind eye. These people who were forcibly evicted and chased out from their home towns have been living in thatched huts and destitution in whatever place they found refuge.  
After the former Muslim Congress leader late M.H.M Ashraff, swore in as the Minister of Ports Development, Rehabilitation & Reconstruction in 1994; he built some model villages for these poor people. He also built building stories for schools to support their educational requirements. Furthermore he had provided Rs. 7000 to each family who live in thatched houses to renovate their huts. Many of them had purchased land with that money, most of which were uneven soil and wilderness. Anyhow they created small neighbourhoods in these lands and named them with the same names they used to have in the north.  
Subsequently they have built the same old thatched huts on the bought land and living in them. According to reports they are living in places with poisonous creatures as the place is infamous for venomous creatures.
After the demise of SLMC leader Mr. Ashraff the Deputy Leader of SLMC late Noordeen Mashoor and present Industry & Commerce Minister Rishad Badoordeen contested and won.
Then Vanni Rehabilitation Minister in UNP Government Noordeen Mashoor and present SLMC Leader Rauff Hakeem met officials of the World Bank to solve the civic problems of these people and obtained project to build a housing scheme. But as result of the UNP governments’ disbandment in a short period they were unable to accomplish this task.
Later Minister Rishard Badiudeen contested in the General election under the UNP ticket, won the seat and went on to join Chandirika Kumarathunge’s Regime and secured the post of Resettlement and Rehabilitation Minister. Then the SLMC was in the opposition side.
After taking over the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Ministry, Minister Rishard Badiudeen negotiated with the World Bank officials about the promised 10,000 houses, which he acquired and distributed among the people who lived in IDPs Camps after the eviction. This move gradually eliminated their housing problems. Then the M.P. of SLMC for Puttalam and present Mayor People Alliance K. Bais opposed this move strongly.  Later he agreed to 750 houses were given to poor families. After his demand the houses are given to low income, poor families in Puttalam. His earlier move further increased the tension between Native Puttalam Muslims and Displaced Muslims.
Likewise day by day they lost their belongings. These people gradually solved their problems in the past two decades and their life became ordinary again. In this juncture they are slowly moving back to their native land after the government conquered the north.
However their native lands are covered with thickets and dark forests, their residences are destroyed along with the foundation and left in rubble. Among other things lack of education, health and hygiene, lack of transportation facilities, shortage of shopping areas or markets are severe predicaments they are forced to face.  On top of this they also have to deal with wild animals and poisonous creatures. Besides they are also short of land as the families have grown in the past 20 years. In addition they don’t have toilet facilities as well. Between these things they are struggling merely to survive.    
On the one hand these people built houses for themselves little by little with their own hard earned money in the past 20 years. On the other hand their native places are left without any kinds of facilities. In such a circumstance they also have to worry about their children’s education. In this backdrop they are moving from place to place like gypsies. These pathetic but omnipresent conditions have affected these innocent people not only physically but mentally since they are constantly worrying about the future. It is also significant to note that their lands are encroached by the forces and turned into camps.
Re Registering the Evicted Voters
Meanwhile the Department of Election (government) has registered them through a mobile service to provide them with voting rights. To prove their residence they should submit the bank account (which should be of a particular Divisional Secretariat area for this registration. But there are no banks in any of these areas except certain Divisional Secretariat areas) or a certificate with regard to children’s education or any letter they received on their Name as proof. But they have said that the Grama Niladari’s (GS) registration, who is the only representative of the government in villages, was not accepted by the officials.
This registration process has taken place in all the Divisional Secretariats on certain days. The notification letters of the registration had been sent to the addresses which were formally registered in the North earlier. But most of these families did not receive letters. As they did not receive any notification most of the people did not turn up for this registration. So they think that their names have been deleted from the electoral list.
According to reports 331,214 voters have been removed from the released Election Register of the Jaffna district. These displaced Muslims are left to wonder what will happen to the Election Registers of other districts.
Hence they request the relevant authorities to re-establish their voting rights. Also they appeal that their plight should be considered on humanitarian grounds and it should be considered in a different and systematic way. By doing so the authorities can sort out all the problems including the voting rights which is their civic rights.
Over the years myriad accounts of injustices, prejudices and violence against minorities have been reported. Most of them are authentic while some are fabricated to disgrace the majority. In any case, no body, not even the government has the right to deny the people their voting rights. It is a very basic human right, the violation of which is punishable by law. The authorities and the government has a responsibility to safeguard these innocent people and their rights as it is their votes that gave them the power they are so used to abuse.
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