Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has given an assurance that all Muslim civilians, over a lakh, who were forcibly evicted from the northern province exactly 20 years ago, will be resettled in their original places with all infrastructure by May 2010.
This is the first time a senior functionary in the government has made a categorical statement on evicted Muslims. The focus, since the end of the 34-month war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the fourth week of May, has been on re-settlement of nearly 2.9 lakh Tamils displaced by the war in the north.
The government has promised to send back all displaced people to their places of habitation by January 31 next.
Mr. Rajapaksa said at the All Ceylon Muslim Congress Northern Convention - 2009 at Alankuda, Kalpitiya, on Saturday: “When the innocent Muslims were harassed and forcibly evicted from the north by the LTTE, no one came forward to stop this displacement.
“Instead of addressing the plight of his own people, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem went to the extent of signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the terrorist outfit. During my visit to the United Nations, I pointed out the plight of the displaced Muslims from the north to the international community. Now, with my government putting an end to terrorism, all efforts will be made to resettle the Muslims by May next year.”
At the event, organised by Minister Rishard Badiudeen, Mr. Rajapaksa, who is seeking a second term as President, said: “We will ensure that innocent Muslim civilians who had to leave their original places in the north due to LTTE threats are resettled in their own properties. Their houses, schools and business establishments will be rebuilt with all necessary infrastructure facilities.”
No room for terrorism
Mr. Rajapksa asserted that he would not allow terrorism to raise its ugly head again. “Terrifying incidents such as the Kathankudy Mosque massacre in the east will not be allowed to happen again. There won’t be room for petty political differences and equal opportunities will be given to all citizens.”
Senior Presidential Advisor and parliamentarian Basil Rajapaksa said: “The government has worked out extensive plans for the resettlement with all necessary infrastructure facilities.”
The ouster of the LTTE, first from the east and subsequently from the north, has provided little comfort to Muslims, who account for eight per cent of the island’s population. If anything, it has added to their woes.
Successive governments have failed to factor in their aspirations in the quest for resolution of the strife between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils. The ethnic cleansing resorted to by the LTTE in 1990 led to the expulsion of more than 75,000 Muslims, with just 150 Sri Lanka rupees in their pockets, from the Jaffna peninsula at 48 hours’ notice. Most of them continue to live in makeshift refugee camps in Puttalam district.
Support to Fonseka
Separately, the camp managers of the former Army Chief and presidential contender, Gen (retd) Sarath Fonseka, said that over 1,500 supporters of the United People’s Freedom Alliance led by President Rajapaksa pledged support to him.
“When they met the General at his office, they said they arelooking forward to his victory as his victory is only the victory of the country,” said a statement posted on the web site of the United National Party, main opposition backing him.