N.M Ameen, President of Muslim Council of Sri Lanka. EPS

COLOMBO: The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) has challenged the claim of C.V.Wigneswaran, Chief Minister of the Tamil-majority Northern Province, that the charge of step-motherly treatment of Muslims in the matter of re-settlement is baseless.

In a letter to the Chief Minister dated December 27, 2016, the President of the MCSL, N.M.Ameen, said that the CM’s contention that out of the 4307 families which had obtained lands between 2013 and 2016, 73.02 percent were Muslim, 25.66 percent were Tamil, and 1.32 percent was Sinhalese, was misleading.

He pointed out that by 2013, there were very few Tamils left to be resettled, as government and the international community had prioritized Tamils’ resettlement after the war ended in 2009. Hence, in the settlement program which took place after 2013, the percentage of Muslim families appeared to be high, he said.

But the fact is that there are still thousands of Muslim families to be resettled in their former homes in the Northern Province, Ameen said.

Speaking to Express on Thursday, another MCSL official, Hilmy Ahamed, said that the LTTE had expelled 100,000 Muslims from the Northern Province in 1990 in an inhuman act of ethnic cleansing. And in the last last 26 years, that displaced population had swelled to 300,000. Out of these, about 40 percent had gone back to their former homes and lands in the North. Of the rest, some do not want to go back, but thousands are keen to go back and reclaim their rights.

Ameen requested the Northern Chief Minister to enlighten the MCSL about his plans to resettle those forcibly evicted in 1990.

He drew the attention of the Chief Minister to the fact that some extremist Buddhist groups are preventing the return of the Muslims to their lands in Mannar district in the Northern Province on the specious plea that they have encroached on the Wilpattu Wildlife Reserve in Puttalam district outside the Northern Province.

Earlier, on December 27, Chief Minister Wigneswaran had given statistics to show that Muslims had not been discriminated against in the matter of post-war resettlement.

He said that among the 4307 families which had obtained lands between 2013 and 2016, 73.02 percent were Muslim, 25.66 percent were Tamil and 1.32 percent were Sinhalese.

Up to December 2015, 26,668 Muslim families had applied for resettlement. Out of these 24,040 families were resettled and 2801 families remained to be settled.

Out of the 2801 families to be resettled, 1570 were in Jaffna and 1231 were in Vavuniya. In Mannar, which has always had a large proportion of Muslims, all those who sought resettlement had been resettled.

Wigneswaran pointed out that many Muslims had not applied for resettlement because they had settled in the South Sri Lankan district of Puttalam. If and when they apply they will be resettled in the North, he assured.

Earlier, the Chief Minister had objected to the Central government in Colombo appointing a special committee or “Task Force” to oversee Muslim and Sinhalese resettlement in the North.

The “Task Force” had as members, Central Ministers D.M.Swamnathan (Resettlement), Faizer Musthapha (Local government and Provincial Councils), Rishad Bathiyutheen (Commerce), and Duminda Dissanayake (Agriculture). There was no one from the elected Northern Provincial Council.

The all-Central government Task Force was formed following complaints by Muslim and Sinhalese leaders that Muslim and Sinhalese displaced families were subjected to step-motherly treatment by the Tamil-dominated Northern Provincial Council and administration.

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