By Rifai Naleemi –
Sri Lankan Muslims of Northern Province still vividly remember those dark days in their life. It was at the end of October 1990 that Muslims of Northern provinces were abruptly asked to leave their own homes and properties within the time limits of few hours. They were also asked not to take any valuable items with them. They were not allowed to take even their hard earned money or jewelleries. They were not allowed to sell their properties and belongings to anyone. They were asked to leave their native villages empty handed. They were forced to evaluate their native place of birth with cloths that they were wearing. This happened in this so called modern civilised world.
This was some sort of barbarism that LTTE inflicted on harmless and innocent Muslims of Northern province in Sri Lanka. This was done in the name of freedom fighting. Tales and stories of unbearable suffering and hardships of these innocent victims are not yet, properly documented in a professional manner. Of course, some attempts have been made to document the ordeals of these innocent people and yet, the voices of these innocent victims have not reached ears and hearts of Sri Lankan politicians and policy makers. Still some of these people are destined to live as displaced people in many parts of this Island.
I was wittingly or unwittingly destined to watch the ordeals of some of these people. I happened to be in Puttalam when this ordeal was unfolding in 1990. I happened to watch the suffering of these people who came into Puttalam empty handed without any basic necessities of life. Some of them came walking hundreds of miles. Some of them came in empty stomach. Some of them were traumatised with their suffering and sadness. Some of them were sick and emotionally charged with sorrow and remorse. The entire Muslim community in Sri Lanka witnessed this ordeal in utter shock and dismay.
The Muslim community did try to console these innocent people and yet, the magnitude of this suffering was so great and beyond human comprehension and human taking. I should say that Muslim people of Puttalam and its suburbs provided much needed help for these people at this crucial time of urgency. I think that no human being on earth should undergo sufferings like this. It was a really a pathetic situation. I would need volumes to write ordeals of these people. For the last 23 years they have suffered a lot in many aspect of their life. They suffered from poverty. They did not have good accommodations to live with their families. They could not educate their children properly. They could not get good employment opportunities. They faced many social problems. They could not lead a decent life in these displaced places. What happened to them is an historical account and yet we should record them to learn lessons from it.
What matters the most today is not about the past but present day situation of these people. After 23 years of suffering these people are still not being accommodated in their native places and still live as displaced people. Even after the defeat of LTTE these people have not been relocated in their native places. It is true that some of these people have already moved into their native places and yet, most of them are still living as IDPs in many places. Even most of those people who moved into their native places they did on their own expenses. It should be mentioned here that successively Sri Lankan government greatly failed in their political and moral responsibilities towards these people. Whether we like it or not we should reiterate here that successive Sri Lankan governments did not treat these people as their own Sri Lankan nationals and citizens. This is the true fact and bitter truth as well. No one should try twisting this historical mistake.
Sri Lanka is a democratic country and its constitution guarantees equal rights to all. Whether you come from Tamil community or Singhalese community you should have equal rights as stipulated in the constitution. Every Sri Lankan contributes to the national economy thorough his hard works and earning. Each community contribute to the growth and development of this country. There is no justification to discriminate against any community or any individual in this country. There is no justification to favour one community over another in this country. Yet, in this case of Northern Muslim exodus, the successive Sri Lankan authorities have failed to facilitate them to return to their native places? Why is this step motherly treatment of the Northern Muslim by the successive governments? Is it because, they are Muslims or is it because they have no political influence? Is it because they are not nationals of this country? Why is this open discrimination against them? Of course we all know that some NGOs and government social services department did provide some food rations to these people for sometimes and yet, they have not been relocated by the government expenses.
Suppose that this type of tragedy happened to some Singhalese villages in some parts of Sri Lanka. What would have been the reaction of these successive Sri Lankan governments? They would have taken immediate necessary steps to resettle affected people within few years time. They would not have to suffer 23 years for resettlements as Northern Muslims do today?
What more is that we have more than 18 Muslims members of parliament today and yet, they have also failed in their moral and religious responsibility towards these people? They have not done enough to support these people. They have not supported these people in time of their difficulties. They have greatly failed to understand the suffering of these people. They could not identify the challenges and problems of these people. They could not persuade successive government to support these people.
These Muslim politicians are selfish and incapable people to help our community except a few of them. They have even failed to discuss this issue in parliament successfully. I should greatly appreciate some Tamil leaders who condemn the action of LTTE and welcome the Northern Muslims back to their native places and yet, our Muslim politicians have failed to appreciate the good will gesture of these Tamil politicians. What more is that international Muslim community have greatly failed on this issue? Though Islam preaches about universal Islamic brotherhood in faith and yet, no Muslim country or no International Islamic organization came forward to help these people to resettle in their native places.
We hope that MR and his government open their eyes and come forward to do some things constructively to support these displaced people. If this government is genuinely wanted to protect minority rights it should help minority communities without bias and discrimination. How long this government could act with two different faces: Time will tell us that sooner rather than later.