Sri Lanka will today mark the twentieth anniversary of the forced eviction of Muslims from the North by the now wiped-out terror outfit- Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The official commemoration will be held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa with Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Minister Rishad Bathiudeen (former Minister of Resettlement), and FAO (UN) Resident Representative Patrick Evans, in attendance.
On October 25, 1990 Northern Muslims were ordered out of LTTE-controlled area, which led the entire Muslim population of Jaffna, and Mannar numbering roughly 100,000 persons to leave within 48 hours.
According to Researcher Sharika Thiranagama the orders for the Muslim eviction came from the highest rung of the Tigers.
“This was an LTTE-only military operation, and there is no evidence of civilian collusion; no ordinary Tamils participated in the eviction. Neither was any reason for the operation ever offered. Did the LTTE, faced with a numerically and politically stronger Muslim minority in the east, simply decide to evict a much smaller and more politically vulnerable Muslim minority in the north? Precise reasons are difficult to establish. What is certain is that this was a decision to remove an entire community, and without any attempt to legitimise the action through popular campaigns,”
On October 1990, throughout the five districts of Kilinochchi, Mullaithivu, Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna, the Tiger terrorists announced that all Muslims living within the Northern Province must leave within 48 hours. On Mannar Island, the LTTE announced that all Muslims must report to the LTTE office by October 24, and leave by the October 28. Despite protests by moderate Tamils and the Catholic clerics, the rebels sealed off Erukkalampiddy town in Mannar on October 28, and forbade all further dealings between Tamils and Muslims.
On October 25, in the Mannar mainland, the rebels announced that the Muslims must surrender their possessions, register with the LTTE office, and leave on 25. They were allowed to bring five traveling bags per family, one gold sovereign and maximum of 2000 rupees. At the final checkpoint leading south, in Vavuniya, all additional items were confiscated.
Muslims from Puthukudiruppu, Tharmapuram, (Mulaithivu) Uppukulam and Erukkalampiddy were subsequently assembled on the beach without food, water or sanitation facilities, and forced to begin their outward journey.
In Jaffna town, where the majority of the Northern evicted community is derived from, Muslims were summoned to the grounds of Osmania College on October 30for a meeting where they only ordered to leave by noon.
The Jaffna Muslims made their exit through a route carefully laid out by the Tigers, which took them through LTTE checkpoint after checkpoint. At each they were searched and more and more of their possessions removed. Jewellery was taken from the women. The thefts form some of the bitterest recollections of the Jaffna Muslims. In the end, the evictees had only the clothes we were wearing.
By November 1990 the Muslims were gone from the north; the LTTE had succeeded in converting the area into the Tamil-only territory for which it was fighting. This ethnic cleansing has since come to be known as the Eviction, and the community of Muslims created by this act, formally known as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refer to themselves as ‘northern Muslims’ and ‘ahathi’ (refugees). The Eviction created a whole new demographic, created in the aftermath of an unthinkably traumatic event that broke one set of communities in the north and created another-that of the refugees. Through peace processes and ceasefires, the right of Sri Lanka’s northern Muslims to return-together with an LTTE guarantee that they will not be evicted again–has never been given adequate priority.
Meanwhile Jaffna District Secretary (Government Agent -GA), Imelda Sukumar said in an event held on November 6 at Jaffna Osmania College that Jaffna Muslims evicted 20 year ago will be soon resettled in their own places.
The event was organized by nearly ten Muslim organizations in Jaffna in memory of the evacuation in 1990. Sukumar added that government of Sri Lanka was correct in asserting that there is no place in Sri Lanka for any race to claim exclusive rights to it.
She further added that several Arabian countries had directly approached offering funding for the resettlement of Muslims in Jaffna. (Asiantribune.com)