Muslim body takes up Muslim issues with US envoy

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) met the US Ambassador Atul Keshap and apprised him of the issues facing the Muslim community in the light of a recent resurgence of Sinhala-Buddhist extremism with the tacit support of a section of the Government, the New Indian Express reported.

Briefing Express on the meeting, MCSL member and media personality Hilmy Ahamed said that the Ambassador was concerned about the fate of the post-war ethnic reconciliation process and said that he, along with some other envoys, was talking to various sections of the government about the need to keep the process on track.

While several incidents involving hate speech were worrying the Muslims, the one which brought all Muslim political leaders together and which led to the MCSL to seek an audience with the American Ambassador, was the Wilpattu Forest Reserve encroachment issue raised by a band of anti-Muslim Buddhist nationalists and “misinformed” environmentalists.

Even as the Muslims were pointing out that they had not encroached on the Wilpattu forest reserve and that the hamlets they were occupying were outside the park and were also lands which they had been cultivating since 1906 with government permits, President Maithripala Sirisena issued a gazette notification on December 30, 2016, extending the land area coming under the Wilpattu  National Park nullifying the Muslim settlements.

“This shocked the Muslims who were trying to get back to their own lands to rebuild their shattered lives,” wrote Latheef Farook, a well-known commentator on Muslim issues, in The Colombo Telegraph.

The gazette notification covers the villages of  Marichichukaddy, Karadikuli and Palaikkuli in the Musali South area of Mannar district, while the Wilpattu National Park is entirely in Puttalam district. The Muslims had lived in these villages for generations with valid title deeds. In 1990, they were expelled from here en masse by the LTTE.

MCSL official Ahamed said that these places look like forests now because no one was living there after the Muslims’ expulsion in 1990. But the existence of dilapidated buildings and mosques are a testimony to Muslims having lived there before. There are Muslims peasants with land titled dated 1906. There is a mosque constructed in 1940.

“When the Muslims tried to return to their lands after the war in May 2009, racist elements created many controversies distorting facts and giving an ethnic twist to prevent them from returning to their lands. The Muslims suspect it was under the influence of such elements that President Sirisena may have issued his 30 December 2016 order,” Farook writes.

When the Musali South Muslims were cooped up in refugee camps in Puttalam district from 1990 onwards, the earlier Mahinda Rajapaksa government acquired a major part of their traditional lands under various pretexts, Farook says.

According to Ahamed, any area with vegetation with a height of six feet and above could be deemed forest land and taken over by the forest department. The lands of the Muslims which showed heavy overgrowth because of 26 years of neglect, were deemed forest lands and taken over.

“First around 40% of their traditional lands in the Musali South was acquired. This was followed by the acquisition of another 30 percent of their land without any consultation or consent to put up Security forces Establishments.

Muslim owned lands were acquired for a naval agricultural project. A Navy Regional Commanding Office was established in two prominent villages and the Muslims were prevented from entering their own lands, dwellings and other properties.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. 1. Can the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka inform the Muslim public the names and the organizations represented by the persons who met with the US Ambassador?
    2. Can the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka prepare a “Report document” on this visit/meeting with the American Ambassador and publish what were the subject matters discussed and what decisions were arrived at?
    In the past, Muslim so-called Civil Society Organizations have met with foreign diplomatic staff, ambassadirs and highcommissioners and indulged in discussions that have been kept in the dark to the Muslims of Sri Lanka. Examples are the Secretariat for Muslims (Muslim Peace Secretariat), Muslims Rights Organization etc., which subsequently received millions of rupees (approximately Rs.52 million over 2 years) to carry out political activities against elected governments in Sri Lanka. If is also rumoured that the Muslim Media Association had received large amounts of funding from the US embassy during the period 2010 – 2014. It will be benefical to the Muslim Community if full transparency of these discussions and dealings are made public the the suggested report for publication.

    We cannot allow the Sri Lankan Muslims to be a “TRADING ITEM” to the benefits of “FOREIGN POWER” by a handful of Muslims calling themselves the representatives of the Community, for their personal gains, Insha Allah.

    Noor Nizam, Convener – “The Muslim Voice”.

  2. NIZAM , YOU ARE RIGHT , ALL THESE SO CALLED COUNCILS ARE REPRESENTING , SPEAKING BY SELLING THE MUSLIMS . STILL NO ACTION BEEN TAKEN , FORGET ABOUT THE MPS IN PARLIAMENT , IT IS BOUNDEN DUTY FOR ANY ORGANISATION REPRESENTING MUSLIMS TO BE TRUE TO THEIR FAITH , EVEN IF THEY ARE POOR , NO MATTER THEY SPEAK AND FIGHT FOR THE TRUTH

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