explosion blows open SLMC cracks
By Prof. M.L.A. Cader
residents of Muttur
feel so happy about my SLMC is because I have prevented my people
from taking to arms; I have made them to become a political force.
Thereby, they can express their ideas and get relief through a democratic
process." These were the words of the late Sri Lanka Muslim
Congress (SLMC) leader M.H.M. Ashraff.
The SLMC was
born as a mass movement. Its very spirit was in creating a mass
mobility to instill political thinking in the people so that they
could see for themselves the path they were taking. This became
necessary, to deal with the continuous attack they faced during
the ethnic troubles - the constant killings and atrocities. This
mobilisation was necessary because the Muslims were not wielding
the gun and the only way they could deal with those who were holding
the gun was to band themselves together and think together; to form
a political force to deal with that kind of a situation. When there
is no mobilization and others have the gun, you become easy targets.
incident took place one year after the signing of the Memorandum
of Understanding (MoU). Several such incidents have taken place
in the Muslim areas before. The Valaichenai incident was one such
where there was a serious breakdown of law and order. Minister Rauff
Hakeem called attention to the fact that this kind of treatment
of the Muslims by an armed group must stop and the government must
give adequate protection to the Muslims. However, that died down
and there was a process of patching up. There were sporadic problems
but there were no open abductions or taxations. Muslims were allowed
to get on with their lives without much disruption.
and MPs visited Muttur in the wake of the violence there. The political
bickering on whether the SLMC should be within the government or
should it break away and become independent continued while the
incidents were taking place. Those who had the authority did not
mean a thing. The three armed forces - the army, the navy and the
police didn't stop the growing violence. Their guns were silent.
What were the Sri Lankan armed forces doing when the commotion was
taking place? Why couldn't they stop the violence and bring order?
Why did it continue for days?
up the question of the MoU and the issue of cleared and uncleared
areas. In the uncleared areas you're not supposed to fight the LTTE
but in the cleared areas you are supposed to keep order. So when
you do not maintain order in the cleared areas, doesn't it mean
you have conceded that area also to be an uncleared area and under
the rule of the LTTE? That's a dangerous situation. So who's keeping
the order? Where's the authority? Where's the legally constituted
government? These are the questions that arise.
appears to be that those who are talking - the Government and the
LTTE - do not consider the Muslims as a factor to be taken seriously.
They are not considering the Muslims as a third party to be dealt
with in the peace process. The parties feel the Muslims can be kept
out of the peace process for a length of time and be brought in
when they are wanted. That is what Anton Balasingham has been saying
continuously. He has said that this war was between the government
and the LTTE and they have to settle their issues and others don't
have an interest in this process.
In the event
the LTTE achieves Eelam, it is not going to have the Muslims as
part of its composition. No constituted government will give Eelam
and the LTTE cannot achieve Eelam unless through war. Yet, if they
do achieve Eelam they will consider Muslims as a factor and will
remove them from the area. Even in the peace process, they are willing
to tolerate the Muslims but not recognize them. That's their position.
Muslims don't want toleration. They want their position recognized.
Muslims, like the Tamils have been living in the North and East
for centuries. The Muslims are also asking for political autonomy.
The SLMC has
to put its house in order and sort out its own problems as to how
they would deal with such issues in the future. All this time the
Muslim political party and the Muslim parliamentarians have been
focussing on sorting out their own problems and not so much on how
to protect the Muslims in the North and East. That took a secondary
position.They were not thinking, organizing, mobilizing people nor
gathering intelligence. They were not in the field. They were oblivious
to what was going on in the North East while the people were demanding
attention. They wanted the political leaders to listen to them.
But the party was preoccupied with the leadership problem.
community also did not know how to put this political leadership
in order. Whereas those who wanted to divide the political leadership
were very much at work.
The Muslim leadership must emerge as one solid piece. When it is
divided it is easier to negotiate directly with the LTTE, whereas
when it is fully organized, it becomes a factor to be reckoned with.
This is not happening now. The Muslim leadership should deal with
the government and not the LTTE, to sort out its position because
the power holder is the government. What the Muslims would be getting,
how they would be treated, the kind of position they would be given
in the ongoing peace process or the settlement of it, has to be
negotiatedwith the government.
If the leadership
does not come into the scene, study the situation and keep the government
under pressure to do things, if they cannot bring justice to the
people. The Muttur incident could happen again . The political leadership
must play a meaningful role here. The Muslims want Rauff Hakeem
to play a much more committed role. The Muslims feel their problems
are not being properly addressed at the peace talks. The Muttur
incidents proves this and the leadership has to play a greater role
in identifying issues.
How can the
government take serious note of the Muslim interest, when the Muslim
leadership itself is not taking up those interests with the government?
While the Valaichenai incident took place, they talked about it
and sorted matters out. But the leadership issue dominated the political
leaders’ thinking so much so that they had little or no time
to pay attention to what was really happening in the North East
incident will not break up the peace process but it has certainly
made things clear to the Muslim leadership. It has opened up the
real issues. The leadership has to take the Muttur incident as an
opportunity to rethink its own position, and rebuild its own programme
to a point where it can deliver the goods when the next round of
peace talks begin. -The writer is the Vice Chancellor
of the South Eastern University.
deal brings back normalcy
By Sinniah Gurunathan, in Trincomalee
‘s S.Thilak, Muslim group leader Alhaj M.M. Kareem
Moulavi, R. Sampanthan and SLMM’s Abdel Burkan
are seen here with other members of the peace team soon
after signing the 6 point agreement.
limps back to normalcy, one week after the area was rocked
by violence, most displaced people are still living in camps
and welfare centres and the night curfew still continues,
police said. Government officials are now collecting details
of the damage to property during the rioting, the Divisional
Muttur area is without electricity supply since the disturbances
broke out as the main cable supplying electricity had been
damaged during the riots.
Normalcy began to return to the area after the LTTE and representatives
of Muslim religious and lay leaders reached a six-point agreement
in the presence of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.
was signed after four hours of closed-door discussions at
the SLMM Trincomalee office. Both parties reached agreement
whereby both communities would avoid violence and live without
fear or suspicion. They requested secuirty forces in government-controlled
areas to enforce law and order impartially while the LTTE
agreed to take responsibility for the security of the Muslims
in areas controlled by the Tigers.
the LTTE was represented by its Trincomalee political head
S.Thilak, the Majlis Al-Shura of the Muttur Division was represented
by M.A.G.M. Sabeer, M.M. Kareem, S.M. Javabdeen, A. Rasik
Fareed, K.A. Rahuman and M.P.M. Mustapha. TULF General secretary
R. Sampanthan was also present at the signing.The agreement
was signed in the presence of SLMM acting Trincomalee head