|Muslim girls take the learning at a war-torn
classroom in Mutur ( Photo: www.qsakamaki.com)
The Muslim community also requests your Excellency to ensure that the rule of law prevails and extremist groups are prevented from taking the law into their hands and intimidating innocent citizens of this country.”
Office of the President,
Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka,
Colombo – 03.
As your Excellency is aware, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) has been inciting hatred against Muslims for some time now. We wish to bring to your kind attention that the latest target of the BBS is the Muslim Resettlers in the Northern Province. The organization is wrongfully claiming that a new resettlement colony being constructed with funds from a Donor Agency and named as Jassim City inside the Wilpattu National Park.
As your Excellency is aware, nearly one hundred thousand Muslims were forcibly evicted in 1990 from the North by the LTTE as an act of ethnic cleansing. Since then, these IDPs have been living as a “forgotten people” in different parts of the country.
Under Your Excellency’s leadership, with the military defeat of the LTTE, the Muslim IDPs had dreams of returning to their original places of birth. Approximately 35,000 families chose to return but only 22000 families have registered to return to their original homes. Due to nonavailability of land, these 22000 families are unable to resettle in their original places. As you may already be aware these IDPs have received very little assistance to return. A large part of the displaced population were considered as “old” IDPs and deprived of the UNCHR cash grant given to returnees in the immediate post war period.
The government and the international community did not prioritize in their resettlement programmes to assist the returning Muslim IDPs; In fact it was only through the support from benevolent donors from Muslim countries the majority of Muslims were given assistance particularly for housing. This is now being seen by some Buddhist extremist group as a violation of Sri Lanka’s rules for foreign assistance.
We would like to present the following facts for Your Excellency’s kind information and necessary action.
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) has granted approval for the construction of 300 houses for the returning Muslim IDPs. These Muslims were resettled after following the administrative procedures for resettlement undertaken by the district administrative mechanism.
As per the recommendations of the LLRC, a committee was appointed by PTF to look in to the issue of landless Muslim IDPs for resettlement.
The Committee looked at three issues and a report was submitted on:
Lands which were owned by residents before displacement and abandoned due to the war that had become forests.
Lands occupied by security forces, and Land forcibly occupied by others
Approximately 700 acres were identified as land occupied by the Navy in Mullikkulam and Marichchukaddy. In addition the Navy took the entire Chilawathurai village including a Mosque.
Some lands that were inhabited or cultivated by Muslims prior to 1990, an attempt was made to issue a Government Gazette notification classifying them as forest land. The people of the area opposed this and at the request of Divisional Secretary, these lands were deforested and released to Divisional Secretary for resettlement purposes.
Based on the above procedures, LDO permits were issued by the Divisional Secretary to the selected resettlers. Constructions of houses followed thereafter.
As Your Excellency can see from the above facts, there has been no illegal resettlement nor damage caused to the Wilpattu National Park or the environment.
Further, approximately 100 families whose lands are currently occupied by the Navy have squatted in temporary shelters in about 2 acres of land belonging to the buffer zone near the Wilpattu National park. They have been there for about a month now and the media is highlighting their presence without clarifying that this is a separate group and their squatting is an illegal act and that they are not part of the Jassim City housing programme. We as Community Representatives are sympathetic to the plight of the people who have lost their land. However we do not support illegal squatting. We have also been reliably informed that these families will move out, upon the availability of alternate land for them.
The confusion and bad feeling caused by the BBS and the media reporting around the incident is causing great distress both to returning Northern Muslims and the rest of the Muslim Community. We felt that the difficult times of last year where extremist groups were openly making racists statements against the Muslim Community was a thing of the past. But sadly, this does not seem to be the case.
The Muslim Civil Society feels that these charges are levelled with racial intentions. We feel that this rhetoric will lead to the derailing of what little assistance is being delivered to Northern Muslims. We would therefore be most grateful if Your Excellency would set up a mechanism to inquire into the resettlement process of the Northern Muslim community and ensure that all Muslim IDPs expelled by the LTTE who have been languishing in camps for over 23 years are resettled immediately.
The Muslim community also requests your Excellency to ensure that the rule of law prevails and extremist groups are prevented from taking the law into their hands and intimidating innocent citizens of this country.
We thank Your Excllency for your kind consideration and look forward to a positive response.