The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka today raised concerns with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna over comments made on the resettlement of Muslim IDPs.
In a letter to JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the Muslim Council said that the JVP, a party that had gained the respect and admiration of the Muslim community for its non-racial stand has been dragged and misled in to the controversy created by extremist Buddhist forces.
“While we appreciate your attempt to resolve this issue as stated in your conversation with our vice president Mr. Hilmy Ahamed, without allowing racist elements to mislead, some of the recent remarks made by your members seem to be contradictory. Mr Lal Kantha who visited the resettlement zone spoke to the press and strongly emphasized that there has been no infringement by the Muslims on the land reservations as accused by the extremists. As you are aware, the Government administrative officers strongly emphasized that there was no illegal or unauthorized Muslim settlements and that due process has been followed in allocating the land for their resettlement. Later in Colombo, at a press conference convened by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, doubts have been cast on the statement of the Divisional Secretary and other government officials. Let me try to explain the background to these IDPs,” the Muslim Council said.
The Muslim Council said that the Muslim IDPs were expelled with less than 2 hours notice from the North by the LTTE in 1990 and the incident is considered to be the worst that had taken place in Sri Lankan history.
An estimated 70,000 Muslims comprising of the entire Muslim community in the North had to leave abandoning their properties and livelihood and without any of their material possessions. Their losses could be estimated to run in to billions of rupees. They lived in refugee camps for over 22 years in Puttlam and other urban centers. They continued to face obstacles in their bid to return to their ancestral abode since the end of the war in 2009 and have now come under attack once again from Buddhist extremists and some environmentalists.
The Muslim Council noted that while some groups are claiming that Muslims have been resettled illegally in Wilpattu, several Sinhalese families from Hambantota have been moved to the area.
“While these extremist are protesting against the Muslim IDPs returning to their own lands, it has been alleged that there has been organized colonization along the Wilpattu Reserve on the Welioya road by Sinhalese from Hambantota and families of armed forces personnel. None of these settlers are from the area. These 2860 families settled in the Wilpattu area have been provided with three acres of land each compared to the half an acre for the Muslims. From where did the land for these settlers come from? Large extents of jungle and reservations had been cleared and handed over for their resettlement, grants and allowances disbursed, and all other facilities including schooling have been provided by the state. Neither land kacheries were held nor deforestation undertaken with proper approvals. It is also alleged that the Army built the houses for these alien re-settlers from Hambantota and elsewhere. Further, over 500 acres of Muslim land has been taken over by the Navy,” the Muslim Council added.
The Muslim Council urged the JVP to study the Sinhala colonization and evaluate the faculties and incentives provided to them in comparison to the returning Muslim IDPs and ensure that all citizens in this country are treated as equals. (Colombo Gazette)