Harvest of havoc
East in turmoil, reaping the whirlwind
tyres, road blocks, deserted roads and heavily guarded paddy fields
formed the scene in the East last week in a tense situation following
the killing of two Muslims in the Ampara area. The movements of
people were restricted and the paddy harvesting delayed, with some
fields being harvested under military guard.
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work of several public institutions were at a virtual standstill
with many employees staying away in fear. A state bank manager said
not a single employee had turned up for duty and he had to close
The fresh crisis
was triggered off by the killing of two young Muslims, Kalanda Lebbe
Ismail and Adam Bava Ibrahim, when they went to Sennawattanchena
in Bangalawadiya. (See details in below). The tense situation hit
a flashpoint on Thursday with the disappearence or alleged abduction
of two Muslim youths, Marzook and Illiyas, who were on their way
to Ottamawadi in Batticaloa.
youths started burning tyres and forcing shops to close as part
of a hartal amidst allegations the LTTE was involved in the abduction.
One rumour had it that the bodies of the two missing youth had been
found in Eravur but it was a false alarm.
LTTE area leaders
denied any involvement in this incident and said they too were trying
to find the missing youths. Eye witnesses said that while the Muslim
groups were protesting in Karativu, LTTE members too had come there
and blocked roads. In one of the incidents some demonstrators threw
a hand grenade near a church premises, with police being unable
to control them.
who were brought from Batticaloa to harvest paddy said they were
forced to return to their homes because of the volatile situation.
They were seen at Sainthamaradu, getting into police vehicles to
take them home as there was no public transport.
working in paddy fields owned by Muslims were also reported to be
unwilling to go to the fields in fear of attacks. The field owners
told another story. They said the Tamil workers had in recent days
been agitating for extra wages and it might have been part of an
LTTE plan to create tension between the two communities.
public in the area were facing many difficulties in attending to
their day-to-day needs because the shops were closed regularly and
public transport disrupted due to the roads being dominated by mobs.
Fishermen in the area also said they did not go out to sea because
their nets had been cut by some unidentified groups.
fisherman said the nets of about 25 boats had been cut while they
were cast in the sea. Night curfew was imposed in several Eastern
areas including Samanthurai and Kalmunai to control the violence.
On Friday a curfew was imposed soon after prayers in the mosques.
week additional troops were also called in to guard main roads and
for other security duties. They were placed in strategic points
including the Bangalawadiya junction, where the bodies of the two
youths were found. Muslim farmers said they had resumed their harvesting
work after the deployment of troops but they were still fearful.
feel safe yet. Deploying troops is only a temporary solution. Politicians
come here only when there is trouble and then go away. But what
we need is to get to the root cause of this problem," one farmer
said. An officer of the Special Task Force which is spearheading
security operations said they had strengthened the guard at entry
points from uncleared areas to curb LTTE infiltration.
He said they
had strengthened STF/local area police posts at Manmunai, Kurukkalmadam,
Kaludaveli, Padirippu, and Kurumanveli. Another side of the story
was told by Muslims engaged in small-scale business and farming.
They said they were being pressurised to stage protest campaigns
regularly by some politicians with vested interests and other groups
which apparently did not work for the common good.
hartals are organised we have to close down the shops and our income
drops. It is always the innocent people who get victimised when
the two comunities clash," one Muslim trader said. Tamil civilians
too are of the same view and say that Muslims and Tamils can live
in harmony if both the communities do not fall prey to malicious
hidden agendas of various groups who seek political mileage
killings in the night
The two Muslim youths Lebbe Ismail and Adambawa Ibrahim who were
killed in Samanthurai on the 17th night had gone on their motorcycle
to give some money to labourers working in the paddy fields that
came under their supervision. Lebbe Ismail's mother-in-law told
The Sunday Times that Ismail went to Bangalawadiya with his friend
Ibrahim around 4.00 p.m.
She said they
became concerned when he did not return even by 8.30 p.m. and they
made some inquiries but little headway was made because of the late
hour. She said the following morning they came to know that Ismail
along with his friend had been killed in Bangalawadiya. Lebbe Ismail
was the father of a two-and-half-year old girl Fathima.
CID has been called in to investigate amidst allegations that LTTE
elements might be responsible, police said. A CID detective said
there appeared to be a similarity between the killing of the two
Muslims and other opponents by the LTTE. They said the bullets used
in the killing were recovered from the scene of the crime.
said the two youths had been confronted by the LTTE members at night
at Bangalawadiya, a regular crossing point for LTTE cadres to go
to Akkaraipattu from uncleared areas.
LTTE area leader in Ampara said the Tigers had no connection with
the killing which he alleged was carried out by anti-LTTE elements
to tarnish the LTTE's image. Some reports suggested the motive might
have been robbery but police pointed out that the motorcycle was
left at the spot.