29 October, 2020

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Addressing Muslim Issues Through Geneva Process 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

This week marks 25 years since the Muslim people inhabiting the north were evicted by the LTTE in a matter of hours that ranged from two hours to two days. Their treatment in Jaffna, the seat of Tamil civilization, was particularly harsh as there they were given only two hours to leave. Those who tried to take their valuable possessions with them, such as deeds to their land, jewellery and money, were stripped of them at the LTTE checkpoints. In many places their Tamil neighbours intervened on their behalf but to no avail. The LTTE was not a democratic organization that heeded the voice of the people when it differed from their purposes. Five years later, in 1995, the Tamil people living in the Jaffna peninsula suffered a similar fate at the hands of the LTTE when they were ordered by them to evacuate rather than come under the Sri Lankan military who recaptured the peninsula.

Today about 80 percent of those Muslim families who were evicted from the north continue to live outside it. Many have successfully rebuilt their lives. Despite the ruthless nature of their displacement only a few of them lost their lives so that the family units, the greatest long term strength of any community, remained intact. But in every other aspect they lost heavily, their moveable properties, their jewellery and their traditional homes and villages. There are complications attached to their return although six years have passed since the end of the LTTE. As a result the majority of the Muslim people who were displaced remain in a state of frustration and distress over their fate, which spills over into the larger Muslim community of being unjustly treated. The problems faced by this section of the Sri Lankan population and finding a just solution have not been given either the governmental attention or priority that it deserves.

The new government’s decision to co-sponsor the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka provides an opportunity for the country to come to terms with it many war-related problems and finding a just solution to them. While the focus of this resolution is the last phase of the war it nevertheless covers a broad range of concerns. The government has agreed to set up a judicial mechanism with international participation to investigate the past violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws, and prosecute those found guilty of those offenses. On the other hand, the UN investigation report on which the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council is based covers only the period 2002 to 2009. It is therefore possible that the expulsion of Muslims of the north which took place more than a decade earlier in 1990 may be considered to fall outside of its scrutiny.

Include Muslims 

There is a valid reason for seeking to restrict the time period of a judicial investigation in to the past that will lead to legal consequences and punishments. Properly constituted courts of law take a great deal of time to proceed with their documentation of cases, examinations, cross examinations, legal verdicts and appeals. Any fully fledged legal process is likely to be a slow one and capable of dealing with only a few cases at a time. The shorter period of 2002- 2009 may therefore be more conducive to the judicial accountability mechanism that is proposed to be set up with international participation. However, if it means that those serious violations of human rights that took place prior to 2002 are going to be ignored, it will mean that the accountability process is seen as partial to one group of victims rather than treating all victims alike.

Any victim-centered process needs to be fair to all victims and hear their voice and note their grievances for remedial action. It is to be noted that the government has not only proposed a judicial mechanism to address the hard issues of accountability. It has also proposed three other mechanisms which will contribute directly to the healing of the wounds of the past. These are the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Office of Reparations and Office of Missing Persons. The mandate of these three mechanisms can be expanded to take in complaints of serious violations that took place prior to 2002. They can go back in time to cover the expulsion of the Muslims of the north in 1990 so that their voices and their grievances can reach the entire country and international audiences too.

Although the expulsion of the northern Muslims took place 25 years ago, and not in the last phase of the war, it too needs to be investigated and the circumstances under which it took place need to be known to the world. It also needs to become a part of Sri Lanka’s history that is remembered and never again repeated. What happened to the Muslims a mere two years ago with the rise of the Sinhalese nationalist Bodu Bala Sena continues to generate unease within the larger Muslim community. It may also be appropriate to give the Truth and Reconciliation Commission the power to recommend prosecution of crimes that took place prior to 2002 if exceptional circumstances warrant it.

Overcome Past 

The sudden upsurge of anti-Muslim sentiment two years ago, and its open manifestation amongst sections of the ethnic majority population, came as a shock to Muslims and they have still to recover from it. Muslims in Sri Lanka had believed themselves to be integrated into the mainstream of society. But when the anti-Muslim campaign that was undertaken by the Bodu Bala Sena struck, it was not challenged publicly by any significant section of the polity. Perhaps the reason was that it was feared that behind the anti-Muslim campaign was the hidden hand of a section of the then all-powerful government. Nevertheless, the unwillingness of the political parties to speak up and make a critique of the anti-Muslim propaganda at that time was an indication of the failure of post-war reconciliation. To this day, there is a sense of vulnerability of the Muslim community which needs to be dispelled.

So far the present government’s effort to deal with the past failure of governance, and to obtain the support of the Sri Lankan people and the international community, appear to be on course. The international community has been impressed by the government’s cooperative approach. The government’s decision to co-sponsor a resolution that was specific to Sri Lanka was unique, as mentioned by the UN Human Right Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. The government has thereby committed itself to implement the recommendations of the resolution. It is important to note that these are not limited to accountability for war crimes, but also include other areas of governance. One of these is to “investigate all alleged attacks by individuals and groups on journalists, human rights defenders, members of religious minority groups and other members of civil society, as well as place of worship.”

It is not only the government that is to be commended for its willingness to take the country on a new path that gives priority to the protection of human rights and values of good governance. The people of Sri Lanka too have been prepared to give the government the time and space to carry out its reforms without getting misled by propaganda of the opposition parties. The contrast to how the country received the UN resolution of 2013, with wildly emotional protests and demonstrations and how it received the present resolution of 2015 shows that the Sri Lankan people are by and large open minded. Sri Lanka is today an oasis of peace in its absence of armed conflict and political violence. There is also at present no overt display of hostility between the ethnic and religious communities. But the need for inter-ethnic and inter-religious peace building and reconciliation is never ending, as a glance at what is happening in other parts of the world will show.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    0

    Muslims evicted by the LTTE in the north should be settled and so should the Tamils evicted by the Muslims home guards the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Sinhalese in the east also be settled in their villages and their illegally stolen lands be returned. Also the illegal settlement of thousands of out of area Muslims by the nasty Muslim politician from Mannar should be dismantled and these people sent back to their original places. This is the same for the Sinhalese who have been are now being illegally settled in the north and east.
    It was hundreds and thousands of Tamils who were really affected by this war and they were the real victims of this war. Even the UN has recognised this. However certain Sinhalese and Muslim politicians and commentators are conveniently ignoring this fact and are now trying to divert attention on the few thousands of Muslims and Sinhalese who suffered and make this an issue.

    • 5
      0

      Paul,
      You have stated the problem and the solution clearly.
      But, as long as the much deified armed forces wield unlawful power over society, nothing will happen.

    • 4
      0

      Today a Sinhala doctor told me that his lands in Valaichchenai has been appropriated by Muslims and the government is not doing anything about it. He also said Muslims in and around valaichchenai have taken over lands of Tamils and are converting the area into a Muslim zone. He was unhappy that the present government for the sake of Muslim votes is not taking any action about this Muslim atrocity.

  • 6
    1

    1- one Thoppi minister is colonizing muslims in Tamils areas by grabbing Tamil lands this is not a problem?

    2-Just in the last few days ..Hindu temples were vandalized in Batiicaloa by Thoppies this is not a problem?

    Thoppies are planning to flooat in mid sea like Rohingas

    Cheers

    • 1
      3

      cholan

      “Thoppies are planning to flooat in mid sea like Rohingas”

      And you are planning to work with the saffron clad thug Gnanasara of BBS (BJP)?

  • 5
    6

    Whatever said and done, the Sinhala racist are 1000 times better than the Tamil racist, they are not as evil as the Tamils.

    • 4
      0

      “Whatever said and done, the Sinhala racist are 1000 times better than the Tamil racist, they are not as evil as the Tamils.”

      That is only a success of Jehan PhD, who struggled to white wash and defeat the UNHRC resolution, when failed on that now sought wedge between Tamils and Muslims. Unless Jehan PhD, Jeyathika De Silva stop fooling Sinhala Buddhist, this is never, ever going to go away. He is convulsing to find a way to insert Muslims plight into Tamils plight by dividing them, not reconcile beteen them as a common minority. When dividing Muslims and Tamils were too success by the Jehan PhDs in the government of that time the LTTE asked the Muslims to leave out of their operation area. Jehan PhDs must take the responsibility for LTTE have evacuated Muslims and confess publicly that they are one divided Tamils and Muslims.

      If this Jehan PhD is ready to realise, he should start to condemn the use of Badijudeen to bring standardization, Rishad to land grab and occupy the Indian housing, Muslims to spy and translate the Tamils activities……

      Congratulation Jehan PhD in your endeavor.

      Keep trying until Tamils are wiped out of Lnaka or get their Tamil Eelam.

    • 5
      1

      Yes 100% correct …Aluthgama is a good example ….

      Don’t forget all Muslims in this country are converted Tamil Hindus ..

      The new Australian PM has clearly told all [Edited out] there …if you can’t accept our laws you can leave this country if not you will be thrown out ……many countries will follow this …soon

      Cheers

      • 8
        1

        About 95% of Muslims are ethnic Tamils, the rest is made of Borahs(Gujarat), Bombay , Marakkala(Kerala- Malayali), Yonaka/Manon (North-West of India),and Malay/Ja (Malaysia and Indonesia). No Arab blood in them though, their Arabian claims are false.

      • 1
        0

        Cholan ,
        Don’t forget that most Sri Lankan Tamils are from low caste stock in India.See what that Karavan Prabhakaran did to the Tamils.So take a Muslim lingam and keep sucking.It may keep your throat free of infection !

        • 0
          0

          Panchalingam,

          Karavan Prabhakaran ?

          Something new!

          Google giving a Trailer company.

          Spell check “caravan”?

  • 9
    0

    The Muslims are a religious community just as the Christians, the Hindus and the Buddhist. so stop asking for special treatments that others don’t get.

  • 2
    1

    What right the Australian PM has a right to preach about their way of life, they are all ex criminals, check their pedigree, killing all the aborigines of the land.

    In Sri Lanka other than the Veddha community-natives, everyone one else came from outside, so all has the same rights.

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