The 2860 Sinhalese families settled in the Wilpattu area have been provided with three acres of land each compared to the half an acre for the Muslims, says the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka.
Writing to the JVP leader, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka says;”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.”
We publish below the statement in full;
Hon. Anura Kumara Dissanayake Leader,
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Pannipitiya Road, Pelawatte.
Dear Hon. Anura Kumara Dissanayake
RECENT HYPE ABOUT THE RETURNING MUSLIM IDPs IN MANNAR DISTRICT
We wish to bring to your kind attention that racist elements with the support of some environmentalist and media have embarked on a campaign to harass and intimidate the Muslim IDPs who are being resettled 5 years after the end of the war. It is regrettable that the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (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 IDPs who were expelled with less than 2 hours notice from the North by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1990. As you are aware, this ethnic cleansing exercise by the LTTE is considered to be the worst that had taken place in the 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 Presidential Task Force (PTF) and other state mechanisms that were set up at the end of the war to facilitate the return of the IDPs and commence their resettlement and rehabilitation processes failed to support and accommodate the Muslim IDPs who wished to return. Priority was given to the Tamils who were displaced during the final days of the Eelam war.
The Muslims of the North were expelled because they refused to support the LTTE’s quest for Eelam. They stood for and sacrificed their lives for Sri Lanka to remain a unitary state. The price they had to pay for their patriotism was over 25 years of life as refugees and is even now treated as a “forgotten people”. These unfortunate refugees deserve better. All these resettling Muslims have either title deeds or permits for their properties, which could be perused if required. These returning families have been allocated only 1⁄2 an acre of land and no other infra structure development has taken place in their resettlement areas. In the absence of support from the government, Muslim civil society, its business community and political leaders have come forward to assist.
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. The following are the available statistics for the Sinhala settlements;
1 Veratenna – 520 families
2. Bogaswewa 1- 500 families
3. Bogaswewa 2 -560 families
4. Namalgama – 470 families
5. Senaleenigama – 450 families
6. Nandamitragama -360 families
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.
As you have stated clearly that the JVP will not look at the resettlements through racial eyes, we kindly request you to study the Sinhala colonization as well 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. If there is no wrongdoing by Muslims, please defend them in and out of parliament. We agree that the environment needs to be protected and our community will fully support its conservation.
We would be pleased to provide you with necessary documentation and evidence that no illegal settlements have taken place if required.
Thanking you for your kind consideration and support
N M Ameen