26 September, 2020

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Resettlement Of Northern Muslim IDPs: A Case Study

By Mohamed Shareef Asees

Dr. Mohamed Shareef Asees

Dr. Mohamed Shareef Asees

Resettlement of Northern Muslim IDPs: A Case Study of Marichukkati Village in Mannar District of Sri Lanka

The purpose of this article is to explore the resettlement of Northern Muslim IDPs and find out the hindrance which delays the process of Marichukati village in Mannar district. It has been 25 years since the Muslims were forcibly evicted from their home land by the LTTE and have been living in the Puttalam district in many IDP camps in vulnerable conditions. The end of conflict in May 2009, brought a new hope for the resettlement of Muslim IDPs. However both the Sri Lankan government and the international community prioritized the Tamil IDPs for resettlement and sidelined the Muslim IDPs from it. This has led some Muslim IDPs to go back to their places of origin voluntarily. The former Resettlement Minister, Rishad Bathiudeen was able to negotiate with some Islamic organizations and they agreed to provide some houses for this marginalized Muslim IDPs. In 2012, Muslims in Marichukatti began their resettlement process with the support of Qatar foundation. Since then some Buddhist hardliners and media groups began to accuse their resettlement and claimed it was an illegal resettlement and violation of wilpattu national forest, though the Muslims hold their deeds (legal documents) to prove the ownership and to live in their own place. This research will employ the pluralism theory and utilize both primary and secondary data in order to explore the resettlement of Muslim IDPs. One of the key findings of this research is that although there is a claim about violation of Wilpattu, Muslims in Marichukati are legally entitled to live in their own habitants.

Background

The prolonged armed conflict which started in 1983 between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE killed around 90,000 people and left over 1 million IDPs from three ethnic groups: Tamils 82%, Muslims 14%, and Sinhalese 4% (UNHCR Report. 2009). In 1990, the LTTE forcibly evicted around 15,000 Muslim families from the Northern Province in five districts: Jaffna 3,475, Mannar 8,200, Vavuniya 1,800, Mulaitheevu 1,000 and Kilinochi 525 (Ibid. 2009). The displaced Muslims moved mainly to the Puttalam district and have been living there as IDPs since then. The IDP camp life is very pathetic and they have been facing various problems in their daily lives. The life in IDP camps have de-moralized men, women, children and elderly people and affected them physically, psychologically, socially, economically and educationally.

The end of conflict in May 2009, brought a new hopes for the resettlement of Muslim IDPs, but the Sri Lankan government and the international community prioritized the Tamil IDPs and side lined the Muslim IDPs from the resettlement process. This has led some Muslim IDPs voluntarily to go back to their homes. The former Resettlement Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was able to negotiate with some Islamic organizations and they agreed to provide some houses for this marginalized Muslim IDPs. In 2012 Muslims in Marichukatti began their resettlement process with the support of Qatar foundation (Al-JASSIM). Since then some Buddhist hardliners and media groups began to accuse their resettlement and claimed it was an illegal resettlement and violation of willpattu forest, though the Muslims hold their deeds to live in their own place.

Theoretical Background and Research Methodology

This research will employ the pluralism theory in order to explore the needs of resettlement of Northern Muslim IDPs. Pluralism is a situation in which people of different social classes, religions, ethnics, races and languages live and continue to have and practice their different traditions and interests within a country (Annan K. 1998). Pluralism means “equal rights for everyone”. One community should enjoy the equal rights (Human rights and fundamental rights) that enjoyed by other community within a country. In the case of IDPs in Sri Lanka both the Sinhalese and Tamil IDPs were resettled or relocated by the Sri Lankan government, but no proper plan or attempt made by the government or international organizations to resettle the protracted Muslim IDPs in their homes. It seems that there are no equal rights or pluralism in terms of resettlement among various ethnic IDPs in Sri Lanka. This research will be a mix of qualitative and quantitative approach. In fact, the author has visited to the Marichukati village and conducted few interviews with respective leaders and beneficiaries of housing scheme. Both primary and secondary data utilized to strengthen this research.

Resettlement of Northern Muslim IDPs

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. The above factors delayed the process of resettlement of Muslim IDPs in the Northern Province.

Resettlement in Marichukati

Marichukati is one of the ancient villages which is located in the Musali divison of Mannar district. In 1989, there were around 200 Muslim families lived in this village. In 1990, they were forcibly evicted by the LTTE and moved to Puttalam and lived there in the past 25 years. In 2012, some Muslim IDPs, 73 families return to their original place and began to build houses and engaged agricultural activities with the support of some Muslim organizations (Qatar foundation). Resettlement of Muslim IDPs in Marichukati village viewed by the media (Hiru TV) as an illegal settlement and violation of Wilpattu national forest. However, the former Resettlement Minister, Rishad Bathiudeen continuously saying that there is no illegal settlement or any single violation of Wilpattu national forest. Even he openly stated that if anyone can proof it as an illegal settlement or violation of Wilpattu he is ready to step from his Ministrial post that he holds in the present government. However there is no such attempt made either from media or any respective organizations up to now.

Wilpattu Issue

Wilpattu is one of the national parks in Sri Lanka. It is located in the North Western and North Central provinces of Sri Lanka. It has borders with both Puttalam and Anuradhapura districts. According to wild life authority, the village Marichukatti which is located next to Willpatu forest is belonged to the forest under the gazette in 2012. But residents and former Resettlement Minister Rishad Bathiudeen claimed that while we are having our land deeds (legal documents) how could the former environmental ministry encroach this land into Wilpattu national forest. In fact, it is a matter of legal issue, but both media and other relevant authorities are trying to politicize and create tension between the wild life authority and villagers in Marichukatti.

Ground views

It seems that the Muslim IDPs who went back to their previous home in Marichukatti faces lot of issues regarding the resettlement and livelihood. Resettlement is very challenging even within their own land which was belonged to their forefathers over 100 years. There are some remaining (old mosque, broken houses, etc) which shows that earlier there was a Muslim settlement. Moreover, almost all residents in Marichukatti village hold their legal deeds which show they are legally entitled to live in their home. In fact, the accusation from media and disturbance from wild life authority is a violation of fundamental rights of this Marichukatti people. One Muslim IDP pointed out that when he went back to his home in Marichukatti after 25 years, it was fully occupied by the Navy and they are not giving his home back to live there. Further he pointed out the Navy forces has built a small Buddhist temple for their religious purposes inside his land, but in the future they may claim that there were some Sinhala settlements in the past based on this recently built temple. Likewise, there are many other issues have to be discussed and short it in order to continue the peaceful resettlements.

Conclusion

The overall conclusion of this research is that the resettlement of Muslim IDPs in Marichukatti was manipulated and miss guided by the media and some Buddhist hardliners. The Sri Lankan government which is responsible (sole responsible) to protect its own people also overlooked and sidelined the Muslim IDPs on this issue. The tension and rhetoric is growing between the wild life authority and former Resettlement Minister Rishad Bathiudeen (on behalf of villagers in Marichukatti). Moreover, there is a party politics also on this issue, up to now there is no statement or any action taken by any Muslim political parties except All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) and its leader Hon. Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.


Reference

Annan K.“Focus on Internally Displaced Persons” Journal of Refugees. Vol-10 (1998): 547-560.

Asees M.S. “Human Security of the Smaller Minority IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons during and after the conflict in Sri Lanka: Case Study of Muslim IDPs”. Journal of

The World Monotheistic Religions at Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Monotheistic Religions (CISMOR) at Doshisha University, Japan. 2012 (P, 45 – 59).

Asees M.S “Internally Displaced Persons and their Vulnerability: A Case Study of Muslim ID in Sri Lanka,” Journal of The World Monotheistic Religions Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Monotheistic Religions (CISMOR) at Doshisha University, Japan (P, 96 – 109).

Brune C, “Local Citizens or Internally Displaced Persons? Dilemmas of Long term Displacement in Sri Lanka” Journal of Refugees Studies. Vol-16 (2003): 376-397.

Geissler N, “The International Protection of Internally Displaced Persons ”International Journal of Refugee law. Vol-11 (1999): 451-478

Hasbullah SH, 2002. We may now go home: Muslim Refugees from Northern Sri Lanka. 13 www.lines-magazine.org/textnovember/hasbullah.htm (Accessed on July 20, 2009).

Hasbullah SH, ed. 2004. Sri Lankan Society in an Era of Globalization. Colombo: Vijithayapa Publication

Interview: Misniter Rishad Badiudeen (Former Resettlement Minister, Yahya Bai (Chairman of Musali Divison) Group of IDPs in Marichukatti village, Newman E. & Joanne V, Refugees and Forced Displacement: International Security, Human Vulnerability and the State. United Nations University Press (2003).

Phuong C, “Improving the United Nations Responses to Crises of Internal Displacement” Journal of Refugees Vol-13 (2001): 491-517.

Phuong C, The International Protection of Internally Displaced Persons. Cambridge University Press (2004).

Shanmugaratnam N, “Forced Migration and Changing Local Political Economies:

Case study from North in Sri Lanka” Journal of Peace Research. Vol-36 (2000): 63-85
UNHCR Revalidation Report, 2004, 2006 & 2009. Welfare Centers in Puttalam http://www.resettlementmin.gov.lk/instancefiles/67933145/Final%20Report%214
0WFC%20Puttalam%20draft%202006-UNHCR%20REPORT.pdf (viewed 5 June 2015).

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Latest comments

  • 20
    5

    Wilpattue was politicized by MaRa and GoRa to their own benefit thus causing ethnic disharmony and even he sent his Goon monk Ganansara to stir more problems (as usual) and later the initiative taken by Shakthi/Sirasa Network to revenge the personal vengeance of Ranga to Rishad ( was hammered by later at Temple Trees).
    Those people were chased by LTTE in 1990 and they have the full rights to resettle where they belong to Let it be Muslims, Tamils or Singhalse.

    By the way, Why no one speaks about the ‘Namal Gama’ which was encroached under the patronage of Namal Rajapakse to settle his own constituents from Hambantota within the boundaries of Wilpattu?

    Why no words about the Chinese land grab of ‘Harbour City’ within the sovereign borders of Sri Lana?

    You will shock to see the rate of Singharaja and other national parks shrink due to human settlements (just pick an old map of Singharaja)and no words from any quarters. Why?

    Buttala Birds Sanctuary and steaming wildlife of surrounding area are at stake by the stupid brainchild of Rajapakse’s debuckled Mattala Airport and Hambantota Harbour projects.

    Comparing to these issues, Wilpattue is just a peanut…..

    Grow up my fellow mates !!!!

    • 12
      2

      The media was just sleeping or ignoring what was going on at that time since they had all been bought over with choice of lap-tops, or white-van high-jack and thereafter ‘RIP thamai’ treatment. Now that they are free from those shackles, they just thrive on sensationalizing news which promotes racism, through their new-found love towards saving the forests and its wild life which knows no bounds. They care least of the human aspect and the fact that these are lands identified by the previous government for human resettlement of displaced Muslim refugees, simply because they don’t consider them to be one of theirs. By their standards, these Muslim refugees don’t deserve a better life. This is called ‘The Myanmar syndrome’. Their caste system is now being permeated to other societies as well, those who are not of their race, ethnicity and religion. That third grade monk Gnanasara is the root cause to bring this country to this level of thinking, and from now on, everything will be judged and viewed through racial lenses.

    • 10
      1

      MirakRajBanda

      “By the way, Why no one speaks about the ‘Namal Gama’ which was encroached under the patronage of Namal Rajapakse to settle his own constituents from Hambantota within the boundaries of Wilpattu? “

      DOUBLE STANDARDS BY POLITICIANS AND MEDIA!

      “Why no words about the Chinese land grab of ‘Harbour City’ within the sovereign borders of Sri Lana? “

      DOUBLE STANDARDS BY POLITICIANS AND MEDIA!

      • 4
        1

        Chinese land grab has become ‘Ranbhoomi’. Kabaragoya becomes Thalagoya courtesy Maharaja Capital Organization – ‘We are the Maharajas’.

    • 2
      3

      Mohamed Shareef Asees

      RE: The Title “Resettlement Of Northern Muslim IDPs: A Case Study”

      and RE: “Resettlement of Northern Muslim IDPs: A Case Study of Marichukkati Village in Mannar District of Sri Lanka”

      Expose, Expose and Expose the Double Standards.

      I would suggest and recommend that you change your Title and Tag Lines, as given below. What you really want is for these innocent people who were the victims of BOTH LTTE and the Sri Lanka Army/Navy to be taken care of so that the can get back to their villages and start life again.

      So, New Titles:

      DOUBLE STANDARDS ON THE Resettlement Of Northern Muslim IDPs: A Case Study. Shame on the Sri Lanka State and LTTE.

      DOUBLE STANDARDS IN THE Resettlement of Northern Muslim IDPs: A Case Study of Marichukkati Village in Mannar District of Sri Lanka.

      Expose, Expose and Expose the Double Standards.

      Forgotten People – The Evicted and Displaced North Muslims of Sri Lanka (English)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JV60McNQ9o

      Published on Jun 1, 2013
      The Evicted and Displaced North Muslims of Sri Lanka. The expulsion of the Muslims and other nations from the Northern province was an act of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Tamil militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) organization in October 1990. In order to achieve their goal of creating a mono ethnic Tamil state in the North Sri Lanka, the LTTE forcibly expelled the 72,000 strong Muslim population from the Northern Province.

      Expose, Expose and Expose the Double Standards.

  • 5
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    1

    Nearly six years have passed since the war ended. There seems to be no progress for peace and harmony in the North. The war was due to the Sinhala domination and extremism treating the minorities as second class citizens. The Sinhala mentality is to subjugate and that has not changed. Thousands of Tamil civilians were murdered and thousands of Tamil girls were raped and killed and someone has to answer for it and pay for it.
    The presence of heavy army personnel (150,000) in the North and East creates more tension and fear into the minds of the Tamil civilians and there cannot be any reconciliation which the International community advises. Of course the Sri Lankan Government doesn’t want it. First of all the army from the North and East have to vacate those private lands and the owners to resettle whether in Vali North, Mannar or Batticaloa. Original settlers and owners of those lands have to be resettled. It can be Tamils, Muslims or Sinhalese.
    The army says that it had released 20.000 acres of land. What a hypocritical utter lie from the Army Commander. It is surprising that any of the MPs representing those areas has not repudiated this false statement.
    The army has to leave the private lands. They seem to be doing a charity to the Tamil people by releasing few acres of lands here and there, which are owned by the same people before the war. The Legislators are crafty and cunning towards the minorities and the Army is doing the same act. This has to stop. That is why the Tamil people wants a referendum to be held to determi9ne their destiny. The Tamils feel that they cannot live together with the Sinhalese with self respect.

  • 4
    1

    Northern Muslim have their right to come and live in the places from where they have been displaced. The difficulty is their population rise may be three fold. Even when they leaving Jaffna their dwellings were reasonably densely congested. During the last 25 years one family has become at least three. There may be lot of siblings disputes regarding the ownership of the land. Water and sewerage system should be modernized before any resettlementand multi storey apartments could a solution.

    • 1
      1

      What a Pac of bullony. Why should this issue of explosive growth of siblings be anything but unique to Muslims only. What can they do when they were made to live in refugee camps as displaced people with nothing else to do as in working the fields, pr in business and as traders, or even be employed in blue collar jobs, so they tried the next best thing that comes naturally, breed like rabbits. What did you expect? Now don’t complain about it but take it in your stride. They are not asking much but their lands and homes from where they were chased because they stood for a unitary country. There was nothing sinister or was there any motives for them to bear their burden of off-springs. But as Muslims they will not abort as it is considered a sin not only on paper, but in deed and action as well. They live thru it and see it, experience the hardships to its end. Children are always considered a blessing.

  • 4
    1

    Northern Muslim have their right to come and live in the places from where they have been displaced. The difficulty is their population rise may be three fold. Even when they leaving Jaffna their dwellings were reasonably densely congested. During the last 25 years one family has become at least three. There may be lot of siblings disputes regarding the ownership of the land. Water and sewerage system should be modernized before any resettlement and multi storey apartments could a solution.

  • 5
    1

    Let them go back to Jaffna, 95,000 Muslim families were chased out by LTTE Tamil hindu and christian terrorists.

    Let them take back what is rightfully theirs.

  • 9
    0

    This essay shows the quality of his Phd.

    • 4
      0

      Its the message, not about the Messenger SIK man. If that’s the case, there are many who are even worse and never in short supply.

  • 1
    0

    My words may seem harsh to many people. But truth is truth.
    Muslims lost their properties, belongings and their daily bushiness when they were asked to leave Jaffna.
    But their lands and homes stayed there. Some land were occupied but in 2009 they were given back to the rightful owners. What they did was in the next years they came back and sold their houses and lands for good prices. But now they claim they don’t have homes in Jaffna. It is total lies.

    • 2
      0

      I don’t believe a word you say. Of course as is always the case, there may isolated cases where some people try to make a double kill and falsely claim homes identified for displaced refugees after selling off their own homes for good prices (as you suggest). But that may be the exception and not the rule by which you imply all displaced Muslim refugees from Jaffna are upto such con-tricks.

      If what you way is true, then question arises why did we sell our lands in Jaffna in the first place? Probably since we felt insecure and money was in short supply, the motivation to sell everything simply to survive the onslaught of the storm. If we received the money we expected by the sale of our lands and homes, we would have surely invested and bought alternate homes elsewhere in the country and settled down in peace without living as a refugee in an IDP Camps. If the ownership facts are well established, then there is no way we can claim for further housing. So it is upto the authorities to make sure and take that final decision, and there is no way anyone could claim all those affected Muslims who claim to be from Jaffna, had actually sold their homes for good prices and are now claiming for housing rights in Jaffna. This is simply rubbing salt into our wounds.

  • 2
    0

    good article sir

  • 1
    2

    Dear Dr. Mohamed Shareef Asees,

    You wrote “However both the Sri Lankan government and the international community prioritized the Tamil IDPs for resettlement and sidelined the Muslim IDPs from it. This has led some Muslim IDPs to go back to their places of origin voluntarily. The former Resettlement Minister, Rishad Bathiudeen was able to negotiate with some Islamic organizations and they agreed to provide some houses for this marginalized Muslim IDPs. In 2012, Muslims in Marichukatti began their resettlement process with the support of Qatar foundation”

    Did you know who was in Charge for the past 10 years?

    “Minister Bathiudeen reminded that the Government under the able leadership of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, has undertaken several projects in the affected areas of the Vanni for the benefit of the internally displaced families.

    He said that the President has given him the entire responsibility in solving the problems of the Internally Displaced Muslim Families (IDMF) in the Vanni, who are living under trying conditions in welfare centers and camps mostly in the Puttalam District and other districts such as Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Gampaha and Kalutara.

    “A special Commissioner’s Office will be set up in Puttalam to look into the welfare of the IDMF for which the President had obtained Cabinet approval”. he added.

    He said a special unit for rehabilitation under his ministry would be set up for speedy rehabilitation activity.”

    http://archives.dailynews.lk/2005/06/28/pol15.htm

    What do you have to say?

    Kind Regards,
    OTC

  • 1
    1

    Why the Muslims of the northern area not yet re-settled back in their own homes they rightfully owned before they were chased out by these LTTE scumbags? In the future any of these racist tirades in the country by anyone should be burnt to the ground. Muslims should go back and take not only their homes but their businesses back as well. That land belongs to all who lived there before the LTTE scoundrels.

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