28 October, 2020

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Plight Of Muslim IDPs In Puttalam

By Mohamed Shareef Asees

Dr. Mohamed Shareef Asees

Dr. Mohamed Shareef Asees

It has been 25 years since the Muslims were forcibly evicted from their homes in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It is reported that around 15,000 Muslim families were forcibly expelled by the LTTE from their homes in five districts: Jaffna 3,475, Mannar 8,200, Vavuniya 1,800, Mulaitheevu 1,000 and Kilinochi 525. The displaced Muslims moved to North-Western Province (Puttalam district) where they have been living as IDPs for the past two and half decades. It is stated that in 2006 there were around 65,000 Muslim IDPs lived in 141 IDP camps in four administration divisions: Kalpitiya (34, 809), Puttalam (20,992), Mundal (5,336), and Vannathavillu (2,008). Most of these IDPs were poor and faced many problems over the housings, infrastructure, education and health care services, etc. In 2007, the World Bank launched a housing project and provided 6000 houses for the Muslim IDPs. However, the rest of Muslim IDPs (over 40,000) continue to suffer in the IDP camps without any durable solutions.

Vulnerability Of Muslim IDPs 

Internal displacement was a horrific event for many Muslim IDPs in Sri Lanka. The life in IDP camps have de-moralized men, women, children and elderly people and affected them physically, psychologically, socially, economically and educationally. As for the present challenges, the Muslim IDPs face many economic, political and cultural difficulties. In Puttalam there are 40,000 Muslim IDPs live in the North-west coastal region. The total population of this region doubled with the arrival of Muslim IDPs. When they first arrived, this region was among the least developed areas in the country and was in no position to offer economic opportunities to the IDPs. More than 90% of IDPs depended on dry food-rations provided by the Sri Lankan government and the World Food Program. It was not possible for the IDPs to stand on their own feet in such a resource-poor area. Moreover, the arrival of Muslim IDPs also created some contradictions and tense situation between the Muslim IDPs and the local residents in Puttalam.

IDPs are generally vulnerable when compared to refugees. In Sri Lanka the Muslim IDPs who chased from their homes also vulnerable when compared to Tamil and Sinhala IDPs in many ways. Firstly, regarding the forcible eviction, none of the ethnic groups either Tamil or Sinhalese were forcibly evicted by the LTTE within 24 hours. Further their entire assets both moveable and non-moveable were forcibly taken or looted by the LTTE at gun point. This never happened to any ethnic groups. It is estimated that due to the forcible eviction, the Muslims in the North lost around Rs. 100,000 Million at the time in 1990. Until now, there is no compensation or return of these losses. It shows that how vulnerable these IDPs in Sri Lanka.

Secondly, the way of internal displacement which took place in 1990 was horrible. It is reported that no transportation were provided either by the LTTE or the Sri Lankan government which supposed to take the sole responsibility to protect its own people. Many people walked through the jungle (Willpattu) over 100 km to reach Puttalam while some others crossed the sea using small boats, timbers, tubes, fiber glass etc, this was extremely terrible and I wish it will not happen to anyone in the world. One IDP pointed out that while she was crossing the sea she lost her two years old daughter. Another IDP pointed out that while he was crossing the wilpattu forest his son was killed by the wild animals (Interview with Muslim IDPs in Puttalam. 2014).

Thirdly, the host vs. guest conflict between the Muslim IDPs and the local residents in Puttalam. In fact, when a large number of Muslim IDPs came to Puttalam there were many contradictions, misunderstandings and lack of trust between these two groups over various issues. It took for a while for both parties to understand their issues and settle their problems. Some Muslim IDPs pointed out that they were mistreated and sidelined by the local community on various occasions. From the local communities point of view the Muslim IDPs are competitors for their local resources while from the Muslim IDPs point of view they had no option than live in Puttalam and find works in the local area. In fact, there were many cases reported on the host-guest conflicts in the past. However, later both groups began to live as one community with peace and harmony. Currently there is no conflict between these two groups.

Finally the long term stay in IDP camps; although the internal displacement is common for all three ethnic groups, it is the only group which stayed over 25 years at IDP camps without any durable solution either from the Sri Lankan government or International community.

Protection Of Muslim IDPs

Regarding the protection of IDPs, the domestic government has the primary responsibility for protecting the IDPs. IDPs have the rights to request their basic needs and to receive protection from the domestic governments. They shall not be persecuted for making such request. Every human being shall have the right to be protected against being arbitrarily displaced from his or her home of habitual residence. However, it has been found that not all governments fulfill this responsibility in the same manner nor provide equal protection for its own IDPs. Many governments are neglectful in their protection regime some deliberately subject their populations to forcible displacement, starvation, mass killings and other serious human rights violations, while some others do not have the capacity to deal with the problem on their own. In situation where the states are unwilling or unable to protect its own IDPs then the responsibility for protecting those IDPs goes to the international community. In Sri Lanka the government has acknowledged the responsibility to protect the IDPs and resettled over 300,000 Tamil IDPs in the North and relocated many Sinhala IDPs in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. However, not much focus was given to the resettlement of Muslim IDPs. It has been six years since the conflict was over however both the Sri Lankan government and International community not focusing much on the resettlement of Muslim IDPs or find any other durable solutions yet.

Durable Solutions

According to UNHCR, there are three durable solutions to end the process of internal displacements: Repatriation, Local-integration and Relocation. Repatriation aims to send the IDPs back to their homes and provide both housing and infrastructure for IDPs. Local-integration means to settle the IDPs with the host community. Relocation intends to settle the IDPs in a different area where the domestic government and international organizations can provide housings and other infrastructure for IDPs. The Sri Lankan government applied the above three durable solutions to end the process of internal displacements among the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim ethnic IDPs. As for the Tamils, the Sri Lankan government mainly used the repatriation as a durable solution and repatriated about 300,000 Tamil IDPs in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. As for the Sinhalese, the Sri Lankan government used the Local-integration as a durable solution and locally integrated Many Sinhala IDPs in the North-central Province of Sri Lanka. For the Muslim IDPs, the Sri Lankan government introduced relocation as a durable solution and relocated about 6000 Muslim families with the help of World Bank in Puttalam. Although the UNHCR introduced three durable solutions for IDPs, there are no immediate solutions for the remaining (over 40,000) Muslim IDPs in the Puttalam IDP camps in Sri Lanka.

Challenges Over The Resettlement 

The Resettlement of Northern Muslims IDPs still remains unresolved. Many factors were attributed for the present status. There are four main challenges have hindered their resettlement. First, there was no substantial plan from the Sri Lankan government for their resettlement. Second, a significant part of the land that belonged to Northern Muslims were conquered by the LTTE and given to Tamil people during the conflict. Third, the housing assistance was inefficient. In fact, the Indian government allocated 50,000 houses for the IDPs but it was not clear how many houses were allocated for the Muslim IDPs. Finally, there was a lack of initiatives targeting the Muslim IDPs as beneficiaries of the post-conflict resettlement projects managed by the Sri Lankan government or the international organizations. In fact, the Sri Lankan government and International organizations focused primarily on the resettlement of Tamil IDPs. From the Sri Lankan government‘s point of view, the resettlement of Tamil IDPs were more important than that of the Muslim minority as it can reduce the tension between the Sinhala and Tamil ethnic groups which were central to the war. Parallel to this, international organizations and donors have pressured the Sri Lankan government to resettle the Tamil IDPs. Apart from that there are some challenges over the resettlement of Muslim IDPs. In 2012, a group of Muslim IDPs from Puttalam voluntarily went to Mannar to resettle in their previous homes. However, it was viewed as a violation of Willpattu forest and temporarily halted their resettlement process.

Conclusion

The overall conclusion of this research is that although the Muslim IDPs are vulnerable compare to other two ethnic IDPs in many ways, still they could not find any durable solutions to end the long term IDP camp life within the country. Moreover, the Sri Lankan government which is responsible to protect its own people also overlooked and sidelined the Muslim IDPs on various occasions. Currently, there are many challenges over the resettlement of Muslim IDPs: Land, housings, infrastructure and livelihood issues etc. At this point both the Sri Lankan government and International community should help Muslim IDPs to end their long term stay in IDP camps.

*Dr. Mohamed Shareef Asees – Lecturer -Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Colombo

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Latest comments

  • 7
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    It is most opportune that Dr.Asees should bring up this matter for the serious consideration Of the Sri Lankan Govt. and the international community before the matter gets forgotten. It is best that the Muslim IDPs be asked where they would like to resettle and be settled accordingly. Most IDPS would opt to get back to their traditional homelands. The displacement of the Muslims by the LTTE was another of the unforgivable crimes of the LTTE. They should be redressed without delay. Bensen

    • 7
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      Nobody would ever forgive the LTTE for expelling the Muslims from the North. But why didn’t the govt help them return when the LTTE was expelled from Jaffna in 1995? The govt never failed to take foreign visitors to Putalam camps to show they were expelled by the LTTE(info from my friends in EU countries whose parliamentarians visitied us regularly).
      What is this called?

    • 2
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      What about the 4 million Syrian muslim refugees ? Which is more important ? In the last 4 year civil war already 250000 Syrian Muslims have been killed.

  • 8
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    Over to the Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation to sort out the status of internally displaced refugees.

  • 4
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    Thank you for a very enlightening article to educate all of us including us emigrants. Sadly there does not seem to be a voice to unify them and demand their right to go back to their homeland. Racists seem to ignore this gross act of ethnic cleansing. What does the Chief Minister Wigneswaran say? Is he a Brahimin Hindu Racist like a lot of the Hindu Racist Tigers? Are only Tamils worthg discussing? You mention 15,000 families that was estimated to be OVER 95,000 people including children. That is the BIGGEST ethnic cleansing act in Sri lanka. Paikyasoththi and Jehan Perera did not raise this issue because they were not paid to do so. Saravanmuttu shouted when possible Tamil Tigers were rounded up during the height of war because of fear of terrorist infiltration. All that the government did was to send them back to their hometowns for safety of the people in Colombo. I am yet to see Paikyasoththi ever writing about this ethnic cleansing act.Is he also a Tamil racist?

    • 5
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      Pl check the news items that said some Muslims went back to their houses in Jaffna and found them occupied by the army and returned to Puttalam.

      • 2
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        Houses were mostly occupied by the Maveera families- ie the LTTE Heroes.

        • 5
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          Another Mahavamsa fairy tale?

    • 10
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      What about Muslim home guards and thugs who connived with the Sri Lankan armed forces to ethnically cleanse kill and rape the indigenous Tamils in the east? Especially around Amparai and parts of Batticaloa. Also the Muslim mobs and thugs who burnt looted and destroyed thousands of Tamil homes and businesses in south? This author remains very silent.
      The Tamils of the east are the real original population of the east. Not the Muslims who came and settled there a few centuries ago as refugees or the illegal Sinhalese settlers. However now these Tamils are now marginalised by the very same Muslims, to whom they gave refuge and the illegal Sinhalese colonists, settled in the east by the racist Sri Lankan state and have been made a voiceless minority in their own lands. Basically the immigrant Muslims with the help of the Sri Lankan state are trying to steal the ancient eastern Tamil land
      The Muslims in the north also started to collaborate with the racist Sinhalese armed forces and spy on the Tamils. The LTTE did not want a repeat of what happened in the east or the Tamils in the south , at the hands of the Muslims. So chased them away.

      The Muslims of Sri Lanka a basically immigrant Dravidian Tamil Muslims from India, with a few hundred families having a dash of Arab.( A little bit of Arab does not make you Arab). However they have denied their actual Tamil Hindu origin and heritage and shamelessly claimed a fake Arab origin and have connived with the Sinhalese to destroy the ancient Tamil language culture and identity in the island. Their idea is to steal as much of Tamil land, with the help of the Tamil hating Sinhalese sated and make it theirs. This was evidenced by a nasty Muslim politician from Mannar settling thousands of Muslims, who had never lived in the North at all in the Mannar region under false pretext of settling IDPS This is the basic root of all the problem. Don’t try to blame the Tamils first acknowledge the your basic backstabbing and lies that led to this mess. Remember the Muslims of Sri Lanka are basically Tamil by ethnicity and Muslim by religion. Islam is a religion not an ethnicity. People who follow Islam belong to many language groups ethnicity and races. There are even many Muslim sects. Only in Sri Lanka it became an ethnicity as 99% of the Muslims in Sri Lanka are Tamil Muslims who belonged to the Sufi sect. This was deliberately done first by the British and then by the Sinhalese and the ruling Muslim elite to divide and rule the Tamils. Now the Tamil Muslim masses in the island have been brainwashed to think that they are Arabs( Most probably they do not have mirrors in their homes) and to hate their fellow Hindu and Christian Tamils

  • 15
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    Similarly, the core reasons behind the sudden evacuation of Muslims in the North also have to be gradually addressed if there would be a genuine process. There were several unfortunate incidents during the war initiated by Muslim home guards against innocent Tamils in the east, especially in Ampara. The Muslims thugs together with Sri Lankan forces were responsible for killing hundreds of innocent Tamils especially children and Tamils’ lands were illegally grabbed by Muslims during the war times using Tamils’ vulnerability.

    • 7
      3

      Dear ALL,

      Plight Of Muslim IDPs In Puttalam

      “The Muslims thugs together with Sri Lankan forces were responsible for killing hundreds of innocent Tamils especially children and Tamils’ lands were illegally grabbed by Muslims during the war times using Tamils’ vulnerability”

      I will add to the above, the Killings of 16 aid workers of French NGO, OXFAM few Muslim Home Guards along with the help of STF, did this according the revealing of the preliminary inquiry into this murder. During the war LTTE did that and Home Guards whatever ethnic it is did the tit for tat, that is how a war goes, and whoever did that for whatever the reason war crime is a war crime, and this was serious crime against the Humanity.
      Author Dr. Mohamad Shareef Asees shall remember that even all the Tamils of Valikamam North and Valikamam were asked leave towards Valikamam South, leaving all the belonging immediately – the way they did to Muslims in 1990, there was no any difference but the date was 30th October 1995, I along with my family carrying two children of 4 and 7 years old walked millimeter by millimeter as it had to be, along with about 200,000 others in the exodus evacuation – we all were crying the slogan in chorus repeatedly “1984 Sinhalese, 1990 Muslims and in 1995 we Tamils” suddenly the chorus subsided for apparent reasons; the day I realized that slowest walking with weights in our shoulder is most strenuous and difficult than walking faster with weights! We reached the 10 Km distance after 15 hours of walking strenuously as described above. My family was safe in the hands of some relatives, but there were some causalities reported while that walk of exodus before reaching the respective destinations. There was not a definite one!
      Now we will come back to the real point, there is no doubt that 40,000 IDPs are in distress for more than 25 years and I agree with whatever the author has written about them except one important point, that is constantly ACCUSING THE GOVERNMENT FOR THEIR PRESENT PLIGHT, the author said that he has a done research on them, as such have you asked them the all-important query of how many of them would like return to their original places. Here I would say in corroborative terms, that majority of them did not like to return to their original places for many reasons, one is their life style in their place of origin. Though I am not a lover or patronize Muslim leaders, there were few attempts by them to resettle them became futile, at one instance there was a huge protest against the resettlement moves in 2006- 2007 by these same people. I know all these because I was following up a request made by me in 2009 to The Minister of Rehabilitation and Resettlement none other than Rishard Badurdeen.
      Of course there are other categories of people in the IDP as described by author very few who have to be look into individually, among them also some does not want to move out unless the majority move out!

    • 7
      1

      Dear ALL,

      Plight Of Muslim IDPs In Puttalam

      “The Muslims thugs together with Sri Lankan forces were responsible for killing hundreds of innocent Tamils especially children and Tamils’ lands were illegally grabbed by Muslims during the war times using Tamils’ vulnerability”

      I will add to the above, the Killings of 16 aid workers of French NGO, OXFAM few Muslim Home Guards along with the help of STF, did this according the revealing of the preliminary inquiry into this murder. During the war LTTE did that and Home Guards whatever ethnic it is did that; the tit for tat, that is how a war goes, and whoever did that for whatever the reason war crime is a war crime, and this was serious crime against the Humanity.
      Author Dr. Mohamad Shareef Asees shall remember that even all the Tamils of Valikamam North and Valikamam were asked leave towards Valikamam South, leaving all the belonging immediately – the way they did to Muslims in 1990, there was no any difference but the date was 30th October 1995, I along with my family carrying two children of 4 and 7 years old walked millimeter by millimeter as it had to be, along with about 200,000 others in the exodus evacuation – we all were crying the slogan in chorus repeatedly “1984 Sinhalese, 1990 Muslims and in 1995 we Tamils” suddenly the chorus subsided for apparent reasons; the day I realized that slowest walking with weights in our shoulder is most strenuous and difficult than walking faster with weights! We reached the 10 Km distance after 15 hours of walking strenuously as described above. My family was safe in the hands of some relatives, but there were some causalities reported while that walk of exodus before reaching the respective destinations. There was not a definite one!
      Now we will come back to the real point, there is no doubt that 40,000 IDPs are in distress for more than 25 years and I agree with whatever the author has written about them except one important point, that is constantly ACCUSING THE GOVERNMENT FOR THEIR PRESENT PLIGHT, the author said that he has a done research on them, as such have you asked them the all-important query of how many of them would like return to their original places. Here I would say in corroborative terms, that majority of them did not like to return to their original places for many reasons, one is their life style in their place of origin. Though I am not a lover or patronize Muslim leaders, there were few attempts by them to resettle them became futile, at one instance there was a huge protest against the resettlement moves in 2009- 2010 by these same people. I know all these because I was following up a request made by me in 2009 to The Minister of Rehabilitation and Resettlement none other than Rishard Badurdeen.
      Of course there are other categories of people in the IDP as described by author very few who have to be look into individually, among them also some does not want to move out unless the majority move out!

  • 7
    0

    Dear Dr. Asees,

    This is an excellent article and timely needy one. It is true that part is willing to go back and settle there and others wanted to settle in Puttalam while they wanted to keep close connection with relatives and for agricultural and economic purpose. It is again true that everybody likes their home land whether it hates or not!

    We, Puttalam people shared our resources with those who internally displaced and are still happy about that we have done an excellent job even thought our future generation’s resources vanished!however please be noted here, there were about 100000 IDPs but non of the resources allocated for them from Northern or Central Gov. had diverted to Puttalam such as Medicine , University Admissions, Education, Employment etc… however Puttalam people shares all and everything education, employment , hospital, natural resources, university admission etc… but In return you gave us pain, and you and your political power blocked our rights and resources which were normally following from local and National Gov. I request you guys don’t do to others once again!!!

    Coming back to the point ..the main reason for delay in resettlement etc is Rishad who is wanted to do politics with people and he wanted to keep going the issue and benefited ….he doesn’t not like intellectuals like you..

  • 4
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    muslims h[Edited out]

  • 4
    3

    Because of LTTE, the same Muslims can have labds in Puttlam, Wilpattu, Vanni and Jaffna and the country lost six hundred acres of forest too.

    rishad Bathiuddian is heading the campaign.

    • 0
      1

      Jim Shitty, what happened to you?[Edited out]

  • 4
    0

    It is true all ethnicities have difficulties in different forms. No arguments they need firm solutions. In the same time, at least people like intellectualls should try to address the issues, taking them as Sri Lankans. Separation by ethnicity or any other form has already damaged our society a lot.

  • 0
    0

    We were given the impression that minister Baththiudin parcelled off state land in Wilpattu in large extent and gave it to the Muslims refugees who were displaced by the war. The Puttalam Muslims should have been settled prior to this.This comes as a shock, and amounts to deception and bare faced robbery of state property under the pretext of settling refugees. This kind of looting of the economy has taken place in the recent history of this country and the majority population will one day see them driven to the edge of the ocean by the deceit and deception through temptation promoted by inflationary movement of land values. The recent customs bribery case is a reflection of the many corruption practices that have and are taking place and this filthy money is laundered and is one way of doing this.

  • 2
    1

    It was wrong to remove people from where they have been living legitimately. But the Muslims should understand when you do business in the war your community ultimately pays the prize. The war was between LTTE and the government. Why the hell did Muslims involve in that ? Is it not because you wanted to make quick money and get favors and positions from the government? The Tamils Sinhalese even the Muslims know about this. See who paid the price and who benefited – a handful of Muslims who got positions and business. Somebody is paying for it. Please learn ? Learn to be real contributors to the country not brokers and parasite. Then only you gain the respect of the community. Or else you will be looked upon with suspicions and somebody always pays for it.- of course someone gains.

  • 1
    1

    Now that Muslims have gone through all this they should respect the peace and hospitality offered to them by the residents of Puttalam. Don’t try to politicize this and do business or get more positions and favors for a few Muslims. If you dont next time you will have no place to go.

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