Although there was a feeling among those Muslims who had come across our reports that we were trying to highlight their plight and expose the atrocities meted out to them by the Tamil militant groups, there is disquiet among them regarding certain aspects of our reporting. We have regretted in subsequent reports that some of the things said about Muslims in the East, particularly in Special Report No. 3 had been unfair, inaccurate and one- sided in certain aspects. The situation prevailing in the latter half of 199O made it difficult for us to talk to Muslims themselves. We have subsequently tried to make amends. Once again we apologise for our shortcomings and for any injury caused as a result. Within our limitations we try to give out information and analysis in the shortest possible time, so that we could influence current developments and be of service to those whose rights are being violated. It is not our brief to reflect with leisure and erudition on events past which matter little to people in their day to day lives. We will make mistakes, but will be most happy to stand corrected. This has to be an ongoing development and part of a dialogue as well as mutual education. [Top]
The following is an extract from a letter
sent to us by a Muslim academic: "I am writing this letter to clarify a
statement in your recent publication titled "The Trapped People among Peace
Makers and War Mongers".
On page 46, under the sub- title 4.1.1 The Muslims of Mannar, you state that the Muslims of Mannar Island moved to other areas during the Portuguese and the Dutch periods and that the Muslims had been re-established in the present places during the British era. Further, you state quoting Phillipus Baldeus that Erukallampiddy was not a Muslim village during his time.
The above statements are historically wrong. The following facts bear evidence to this. There is evidence of the Muslim presence in the Mannar Island and other areas even during the Portuguese and Dutch periods. The Portuguese and the Dutch documents indicate that the Muslims were employed as divers, transporters and elephant catchers during the above two periods. Secondly, the traveller Baldeus, though indicating a church near Erukkalmpiddy, did so in close proximity to present Erukkalampiddy. The local traditions indicate that Erukkalmpiddy village was not occupied by any religious group other than Muslims at anytime in its history. There were churches established by the Portuguese and the Dutch around Erukkallalmpiddy Muslim village (e.g., Sampaturai, St.Jude, etc). Baldeus may have been referring to one of the churches in close proximity to the prominent Muslim settlement Erukkalampiddy.
It is very unfortunate that your misleading report carries an account of the history of Mannar Muslims at a time when the LTTE is denying the birthright of the Muslims to live in the Northern Province. In addition, your historical account may be misinterpreted to mean that the present Mannar district Muslims are new comers to the region. You probably know that the history of the Muslims of the Northern Province has not been written so far and your account may be taken as based on facts by uninformed people"
We are sure that the reader is better informed about Mannar's past than we are. What we made was only a suggestion that the Muslims may have responded particularly to Portuguese persecution by moving to safer areas. We have been clear that any community which is displaced from its home for reasons of insecurity, whether Palestinian, Muslim, Tamil or Sinhalese does not lose its right to the land. We have been clear that the historical claims of Muslims in Mannar are not in any way inferior to those of others in region.As for historical detail, we stand corrected. [Top]
A group of Muslim citizens from Sammanturai
in the Amparai District has published a book in Tamil with the title "Another
corner of Eelam". The book gives both historical detail and reflects the
Muslim feeling of alienation resulting from the misdirection of the Tamil struggle.
It also brings out the little known fact that 132 Sammanthurai Muslims were
killed by the various Tamil militant groups up to August 1991. The book also
answers inaccuracies from Special
Report No.3. It is a welcome book excellently written with moderation by
people with a deeply felt desire for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence
with their Tamil brethren. The book is a contribution from the people- in the
long run more important than the juggling of politicians in Colombo high society.
We give below an extract from the preface and will follow it up in future reports. The book is obtainable from the Publications Bureau, Jumma Mosque, Sammanthurai, Sri Lanka. Title: "Eelaththil Innumoru Moolai".
The preface begins by pointing out that Sammanthurai was a fertile area where the Muslim majority and Tamils, mainly from the service castes,lived in peace for centuries. The communalism of the state gave rise to the Tamil liberation struggle. Not only did the Muslims support the aspirations of the struggle materially and by providing safe places for militants on the run, but Muslim youths too joined the militant groups.
The preface then proceeds: ".... As though an evil eye was cast on fraternal relations between Tamils and Muslims, a contrary development took shape in the late 8Os. The guns of Tamil youth which were trained on banks, government establishments, co-operatives, the police, army and the STF turned their barrels towards Muslim shops, educational institutions, social workers, Muslim intellectuals, responsible social leaders, high officials, innocent civilians and farmers. The Muslims were left powerless and prostrated in the face of these "liberation activities". Tamil youths carrying sophisticated weapons, the partiality of the IPKF, and later the LTTE looking the other way in a bid to win support from local Tamils, are the main reasons for this. Further, local elders and religious leaders made a conscious decision to urge restraint on the part of Muslims. However the unfortunate events of 17th May l989 and again 23rd July 1991, when Muslims had to run away from their homes into refugee camps were carefully contrived and executed.
"On the other hand local and foreign information networks , international terrorist agents and those in authority who give them a voice, together with ` European' Human Rights activists have in the name of` reports' spread mythical legends in this country, India and Western Europe. These have represented Muslims as murderers, informers, bandits and religious fanatics.More than all these, the Amparai District report( Special NO.3) of the UTHR (JAFFNA), where it concerns Muslims, has the appearance of being both subjective and far from the truth. Like a bull trampling over one fallen from a tree, this international propaganda document which represents the victim as the oppressor, leaves us in a state of deep shock. Who are these international propagandists? We who are left wondering in anguish as to how do we contact them and explain our true position are not approached any anyone.
"We have therefore been driven to bring
out the truth in a publication in our defence.... In a search for a future of
friendship and amity,we place this report before you with an open heart and
without ulterior motives. It represents the tragic history of a community that
has faced needless loss of life and has been driven to penury.
"This is not intended to be merely the saga of a people. But it is meant to lay the foundation for an ongoing dialogue that will bring about the rebirth of a new fraternal relationship..."
Towards the end of the book it says after condemning the unfair propaganda against Sammanthurai Muslims : " Again we must defend every community and isolate the forces of evil. Each community must respect the other and protect and establish the other's communal, cultural and religious rights.
"Only thus can our fraternal relationship be re-established. Each community instead of thinking about revenge must count their memories of friendship and gratitude. We cannot continue to live in the same house and break our common wall..." [Top]
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