Expelled Northern Muslims and Tamil polity
Recent meeting the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had with the President on 7 September 2009 reflects on the change of attitude by the TNA towards the government in the changed political scenario. Among other things the TNA has also discussed the issue of the return of forcibly evicted Muslims from the North by the LTTE in 1990, according to reports. This is the first time the TNA has publicly taken up the issue of expelled Northern Muslims.
The TNA and its constituent parties have waited 19 long years to openly recognize the right to return of the expelled Northern Muslims and to sympathize with their cause.
According to reliable sources, the passing reference the TNA made regarding the resettlement of expelled Northern Muslims is due to the pressure of the only Muslim MP in the TNA Mr. R.M. Imam supported by Mr. N. Srikantha, a TELO MP in the TNA.
Incidentally, Mr. Srikantha’s predecessor late Mr. Raviraj MP has been a lone sympathizer with the expelled Northern Muslims. He was the only TNA MP who had visited the refugee camps in Puttalam where the expelled Northern Muslims are languished for the last 19 years.
The TNA taking up this issue is not going to yield any rapid results in the return of Northern Muslims. Already the expelled Muslims are in the process of returning to their villages in small numbers. There are many challenges ahead. The Church and bureaucrats are working overtime in Mannar to change the demography even if the expelled Muslims return. Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services, Mr. Rishard Bathiutheen who was present at the meeting and who is a victim of this ethnic cleansing is assigned with the task of resettling all refugees. TNA MP Mr. Imam also was a victim of the ethnic cleansing.
What the Muslims see by this call of TNA to voice for the expelled Northern Muslims is a kind of solidarity with their cause. The TNA has at last showed its solidarity thanks to the elimination of the LTTE. But still the Diaspora Tamils and other Tamil leaders except the EPDP and PLOTE have not demonstrated their solidarity for the cause of the expelled Northern Muslims. Whenever and wherever they talk about the refugees and IDPs they mean and include only the IDPs in the Tamil community. They don’t even sympathise with the expelled Muslims from the North.
A delegation of Diaspora Tamils came to Sri Lanka in July this year and visited the refugee camps in the Wanni. They met with the refugees there as well as Tamil IDPs from the East but they neither visited the IDP camps in Puttalam and Anuradhapura nor met with them elsewhere. They admitted this lapse at a media briefing they had at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) auditorium.
Tamil political leaders, civil society activists and Tamil Diaspora have been so far silent on the expelled Northern Muslims. Their silence is cowardly justifiable when the perpetrators of the ethnic cleansing, the LTTE was still active. It is high time they come forward now to express their solidarity and sympathise with their cause at all available forums for their fellow community. Let them follow the footsteps of the TNA