Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence (CMTPC)

The coalition of Muslims and Tamils is a Sri Lanka based organization-comprising Muslim and Tamil identified persons who as a general principle are committed to pluralism and social justice in all its forms. Specifically, we are committed to the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Tamils in the country, particularly in the north and east, and to a just and equitable solution to the ethnic conflict. We can be contacted at:

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Muslims want presidential commission

Monday, October 30,2006
Source : Daily Mirror

The Northern Muslims driven out of the province by the LTTE in 1990 have called for the appointment of a presidential commission to inquire into the circumstances which led to their displacement and take immediate measures for their resettlement. The call was made at a ceremony held at the Palavi junction in Puttalam, where nearly 100,000 of the evicted Muslims have been living temporary shelter for the past 16 years, to mark the 16th anniversary of their expulsion from the North.

Musali Peoples Parliament (MPP) President S.M.A. Niyas said the Government should prepare the ground work for the resettlement of the displaced Muslims from Mannar and Kilinochchi.

He said issues faced by the displaced Muslims should be included in the talks between the Government and the LTTE, noting that remedial measures had not been taken, despite an increase in the number displaced from 85,000 in 1990 to 125,000 this year.

The MPP was formed by the Muslim IDPs from Musali division in Mannar.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Forcible Expulsion of Northern Muslims

Of Sri Lanka- An Awareness Campaign

October 2006 London


27th of October -5th of November 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Impressions: war and peace in Mutur

What have war, ethnic cleansing, inter-ethnic hostilities done to us? The town of Mutur and surrounding areas in Mutur district were the site of intense violence, of acts of ethnic cleansing carried out by the LTTE and forces of the State, including bombing, wanton killings and forced mass displacements and a general air of indifference by politicians just a month ago. Today, attention has shifted elsewhere, to Muhamalai, to Habaranna, to Galle and the continuing tragedy of the armed forces and the LTTE clashing and killing each other, in which more people are going to be displaced. We still do not know about the actual numbers of people displaced this year. This is a short impressionistic imprint of a village in Mutur district today, a village unable to recover, unable to recuperate in the continuing condition of war and instability. In this predominantly Muslim village, whose people want to remain unidentified, many of the people have come back, most of them reluctantly, to their houses, broken apart by bombing and shelling. And they have taken up residence there, not knowing where else to go. But they live in fear and loss. They feel totally helpless.

“War is not outside us, the war and the violence is inside us. It’s in our children’s drawings. Our children draw the story of displacement in their sketches of that August month, and subsequent days of bombing and shelling, finding our friends gone; each one of them is a record of our history; each carries pictures of the hill of Kiranthimunai where young Muslim men were separated from the women by the LTTE so that they could be massacred. You know all about that. They draw multi barreled gun, some of them have not even seen it. They draw pictures of fleeing people.”

What we present about Mutur is not confined to it only. After the devastating war in the Trincomalee District in the past few months, the areas in and around Mutur, including Sampur, have become a land pock marked with the war that has swept through it like the ferocious tsunami that hit the shores of Sri Lanka. But the war has not just created destruction, it has ripped into the very fabric of society, normalcy, community bonding, trust in one another and in one’s neighbours. The situation in this town is representative of other Tamil and Sinhala villages overturned by this cruel war, very much like what happened in April in the towns and villages of Trincomalee, where one was attacked from all sides. Yet some aspects are specific to it too, in this war of very specific targets, mistrusts, fears. We of course continue to hope, against all hope. Please do listen to us.

“We live amidst the constant battery of the Multi (mulit barreled cannon). Just mere artillery shelling is nothing to us. It’s like child’s play now. When the multi pounds from our side, it uproots the buildings, the buildings take off into the air, as though they have left our bodies. It feels like that.”

“We are ready to run, take off, any moment. We feel that as there are no people in Sampur, LTTE will use our villages to attack the forces from. The LTTE is in neighbouring Alinagar and other places. We will be mere cannon fodder. The Muslims are ranged around the camps of the forces. If the LTTE attacks the camps, then that’s it. We will be just crushed like ants. We cannot go through Kiranthimunai, and the terrible fleeing.”

“We cannot forget Kiranthimunai which is now part of our local history. What happened at Kiranthimunai is forever in our minds. We walked all the way to Thoppur. There was no water anywhere. We dipped the ends of our sarees in puddles on the way and squeezed the water out. The cloth was a filter for the mud. This is the tale we will tell our children.”
She does not cry or speak much, this woman who lost her child in her tummy when she ran miles, falling, falling on the way.

“Allah gave me this gift of child. But I did not take care of it properly. People say now, you could have left the place early, gone to Trinco. It’s through my carelessness that I lost this child”

“ So many pregnant women lost their babies. We are afraid now to have babies. If we are to run again?”

A six month pregnant woman cannot feel life in her tummy. Her husband had disappeared, given up for dead at the hands of the LTTE. But he appears one day, with injuries that he does not want to talk about. In her sorrow of her missing husband, she had not thought of looking to her own welfare. In any case there is no gynaecologist , nor any facilities in her area. How can she go to Trinco given the way things are in the area?

“We are numb with no feelings left. We are left speechless. A Tamil man who fed the fleeing Muslims,on the way, in a neighbouring village and who transported some of them in his van was shot dead by the LTTE for helping the “Sonis” “So, you are giving soda to the Sonis?” He was asked. His family seems to have vanished from the place. We cannot look to any assistance from Tamils, how can we?”

The people are in shock, feeling depressed with their state of total helplessness. The tragedy of Mutur is a very specific tragedy. At the same time, it is part of the tragedy of war and peace in Sri Lanka. It’s the same story in Sampur when Tamil women walked hundreds of miles to get to safe places, with a large number fleeing to Batticaloa. Trincomalee has become an epicenter of insecurity and violence. The majority of refugees fleeing to India are mainly from Trincomalee, who first cross overland to Mannar and then crossed illegally to India. Following the Marvil Aru sluice dispute, Sinhala villagers from the area fled the place in sheer terror. The phantom of Kebethigollewa and Welikanda, where Sinhala border villagers were massacred by the LTTE, driving them from their homes and villages.

Tamils in the district like the other communities are caught between the terror of the LTTE and that of the state. A woman from a camp for displaced people in a government controlled area, who had remonstrated with the LTTE for taking away her 14 year old child for training way back in March, was told by them, “you can wear these very same clothes that you are wearing and go and live among the Sinhalese as a Sinhalathi (Sinhala woman). How can I do that, what are my means for doing that?” Everybody knows she would not be able to find a safe home in the ‘Sinhala’ areas. The violence has had a direct impact on relations between communities with an increased level of suspicion, tension and even communal violence as was seen in the riots against Tamils in Trincomalee Town during the Tamil and Sinhala New Year. The riots were ironically and cruelly set off by a bomb in the market place that claimed victims of all the communities.

The tragedy of Mutur is not purely a tragedy of one town or district. Mutur a predominantly Muslim town has Tamils too. 17 aid workers (mostly Tamil, with one Muslim) were allegedly massacred by members of the armed personnel in Mutur town at the height of the war. With LTTE’s acts of ethnic cleansing toward the Muslims, Tamils in Mutur feel beleagured and lost. There is a shortage of Tamil speaking doctors in the area, but Tamil doctors are scared to go to Mutur district, fearing danger from the armed forces and perhaps reprisals from Muslims in the area, though this is not so strongly articulated.

While the destruction of lives is one of the tragedies of the war, the greater tragedy is that of how communities, who have not merely co-existed, but had communed together and been interdependent, both in times of well-being and adversity, have been cleft apart. The other tragic irony is that the conditions of war have actually not left any of the communities in the east untouched, and all three communities have been affected by both the LTTE and the armed forces. This very vicious war that has and continues to divide people according to ethnic lines, has deliberately tried to pit people against each other. At the same time, the conditions of war and the modus operandi of the LTTE and the state, bind the people in one common thread of suffering that all marginalized feel.. A Tamil woman from Mutur district said, the army would stay here for 10 or 15 days. After that? Is it war again? This could have been a Muslim woman, a Sinhala woman. When a Sinhala woman in Kantale displaced from the Marvil aru area says, I will go back if the artillery battery stops, it could have been stated by a Tamil woman too. Even in the face of increasing communal suspicions against the other community, there is a realization that one’s own security is tied to that of the other. For a number of Mutur Muslims, until their Tamil neighbours return, there can be no return of ‘normalcy.’

The impact of violence on the people is at multiple levels. But media and political focus is on statistics- how many killed, how many displaced or on particular incidents which captures the attention of the media and the general public. There is something beyond the direct victims of the violence – an affect population. Nobody asks how many cannot sleep at night in their own homes (where the house is still standing?) and how many have to find refuge in numbers in one house or in a public building in their own community; how many cannot farm, fish or trade out of fear or security restrictions; how many are in debt as a direct result of the violence, destruction and displacement or simply because they cannot withdraw money from banks as the banks do not have money (in Jaffna and Killinochchi); how many patients who cannot get their regular doses of medication for diabetes, cancer or any such disease; how many are traumatized?

In this continuing state of instability and uncertainty, one cannot move on. This is perhaps the most debilitating state of existence for the majority of people here: They, we, cannot move on beyond the state of war. For they are surrounded by war; it can resume any time. People who speak for peace or war for peace cannot remain silent in the face of this. Both the LTTE and the Government have by their actions further ethnicized this conflict, forcing the civilians to become part of the war efforts. In this war of ethnicity, the people have been given short shrift, their needs, fears and aspirations unheeded to. Their voices unheard.

By Coalition of Tamils and Muslims for Peace and Coexistence (CTMPC)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Some Reflections on Muslims and the Peace Process

by Fara Haniffa
source : lines May 2006 /August 2006

Given the particular demographic that I represent I feel that I would most usefully contribute towards this discussion of human rights and the peace process if I talk a little bit not about the many human rights violations that occur on a daily basis almost, and continues to undermine the possibilities of a just peace, but on the larger more general issue of inclusiveness and the question of minorities. I believe such an intervention will help broaden our discussion on the peace process from a rights based perspective as well as identify some of its shortcomings that do not get adequate press.

From its inception the peace process, in the hands of both the UNF and the UPFA regimes has been significant in its practices of exclusion. These are troubling and go against many of the accepted principles of conflict transformation. The UNF regime was only minimally inclusive of the President and the opposition, marginalized Tamil representatives other than those sanctioned by the LTTE and reduced Muslims to a group “not directly party to the conflict.”
[i] The current government too through the minimally transparent process by which the P-TOMS agreement was entered into continued this exclusionary practice. I would like to spend a little time on the issue of Muslims within the peace process, their exclusion in discussions on representation at talks, the discussion of human rights issues and the critique of war in general.

Now the Muslim issue is getting more press today and there is more of an attempt at Muslim consultation and there are more mechanisms in place to ensure that this is done than at any other time during the process. The P-TOMS for all its failings and the problematic processes through which it was formed must be recognized as a precendent of some importance. Therefore this presentation is not principally a litany of Muslim exclusion. I want to raise certain questions regarding the manner in which Muslim issues have been dealt with and make certain points about the peace process in general that I think might be useful for this discussion.

Many of the discussions that I have attended in the past three years on the peace process have featured one standard argument against Muslim participation in the negotiations. The argument is that Muslims do not “deserve” such participation. They do not deserve it because they did not participate in the armed struggle or did not join the Tamil political struggle for minority rights. The fact that this claim still has currency even at a time when the Muslim issue is on the peace process agenda is cause for concern and merits inquiry into the nature of inclusion. But I will not deal with that now. Muslim participants at such workshops address the issue variously through claiming that Muslims did in fact participate in the initial stages of the armed struggle, that Eastern Muslim politicians worked closely with the Tamil leadership on the language issue for instance, that they supported Tamil aspirations, that Muslim members of the Federal Party were amongst those that were beaten up during the Satyagraha at Galle Face and so on. Much of the above is valid and historically accurate and constitutes a part of the history of the conflict that is yet to be written. I want however to depart from that kind of back and forth and suggest that the very fact that we are viewing the current situation as a prelude to a sharing of spoils is problematic. While one is sympathetic to the arguments put forward by Tamil nationalism and the narrative of its long struggle, it is essential that we take a more long term view of the peace process. While conceding Tamil aspirations it is imperative that in refusing to recognize the deep feelings of anxiety and marginalization that are being shown by the Muslims, we do not set the groundwork for a future where conflict, again, is an inevitability. We owe it to the future to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

One other point is crucial here. We need to be self reflective and be critical of the valourising of armed struggle that is also implicit in this discussion. This is true not just of those celebrating the Tamil struggle but also those in the south that are calling for war in the aftermath of the assassination of foreign minister Kadirgamar. While there may be justifications for armed struggle in certain instances it must also be tempered by a recognition of the consequences of militarization. The brutalization of society that is a requirement of war, the undervaluing of humanity and the demonizing of a fellow human being that war entails, that becomes part of the everyday of any society at war, are not sufficiently considered in this discussion. The valourising of confrontation in everyday life, the proliferation of small arms, preferring confrontational methods of solving disputes rather than consultation and consensus, are all part of the everyday reality that we as a society at war for over twenty years have internalized. The fact that it is large numbers of civilians that sacrifice their lives, livelihoods and homes, and that women and children, and amongst those the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable suffer the most heinous abuses of war we have come to recognize even if we do sometimes forget. But the larger impact of the war on the country is only discussed by us in Colombo in terms of the damage to the economy and infra structure. The brutalization of society even at a distance from the front and the depletion of our humanity we are yet to come to grips with and address adequately. Any discussion of human rights must be informed by such a realization.

The next point I want to address is that of minority aspirations in the context of the peace process. Minority political agitation in the context of ethnic majoritarianism has been the reality of the Sri Lankan situation. However the particular meaning that the term “minority” has accrued in Sri Lanka has not been conducive to rights based agitations by minority groups on the basis of their minority status.

Uyangoda states that unlike in India, minority status in Sri Lanka does not grant any community constitutionally accepted privileges or special entitlements. According to Uyangoda, the appellation “minority” has in fact meant a justifiable ground for discrimination. Therefore in Sri Lanka the political category of minority is deemed to entail political disabilities and a lower value to community self esteem. It is in this context Uyangoda argues that the Tamil nationalist claim that we are not a minority but a nation derives its meaning.

Such a devaluing of minorities have had consequences in other arenas. For instance Muslims are less than a foot note in the grand narratives of Sri Lankan history, and Sri Lankan Muslim minority self identity is based on constantly shifting ground that can find no strong widely sanctioned narrative of entitlement on which to stabilize itself. The Muslim psyche too has been pervaded by this sensibility to the extent that, in the ongoing religious revival and political reawakening, Muslims consciously distance themselves from the term “minority.” I argue elsewhere that the success of the piety movement in the country is attributable in part to the possibility of identifying with a larger global Muslim Umma that is profoundly exotic and not limited by the beleagured minority position that Muslims are forced to occupy. Recently, in a discussion on valuing minorities, one Muslim civil society actor from the east stated angrily that the term minority must be stricken from the dictionary. Eastern Muslims constantly assert their majority status in the eastern province and the Oluvil declaration mirrors Tamil nationalism in calling for recognition of Muslim nationhood.

Both the LTTE and the Government want the Muslims to take a back seat in the peace process and trust them to see that Muslim interest are looked after. Her Excellency the president’s address to the Muslims in the after math of the P-Toms in fact was a splendidly charismatic articulation of such a position. Is this any way to respond? She asked them. The problems with such a claim are the precedents. Neither the Ceasefire Agreement, the various rounds of the peace talks nor the recent P-Toms has articulated Muslim interests in a way that recognizes Muslim positions. And the paternalism that goes against all principles of inclusiveness that must inform such processes I think reflects a fundamental failure to understand Muslim aspirations. Earlier rounds of peace talks promised Muslim inclusion at the point of discussing “substantial political issues.” What “substantial political issues” might entail have not been clarified. Further the exclusion of Muslims from normalization talks must be queried as there are substantial areas of Muslim interest in any such discussion. The security and livelihood guarantees for the return of the expelled Muslim in the three districts of the North, and the issue of taxation have to be addressed at the highest levels. It is well known that Muslims have felt discriminated against and directly targeted in the aftermath of the CFA. Muslims feel that their livelihoods are being systematically undermined, that they have no freedom of movement and fear for their security. They feel threatened both by the LTTE as well as the mostly Tamil bureaucracy. The regardless of the veracity of some particular allegations these are concerns that merit inquiry. Such concerns and anxieties were not adequately taken account of in the history of the current peace process. In fact there is hardly any forum where Muslim human security concerns get an adequate hearing. In such a context Muslims struggle to articulate their discomfort with a process that sees them only as spoilers. While this failure by either the government or the LTTE to adequately comprehend the Muslim position is partly attributable a lack of information, it is rooted I suggest in this negative status accorded to minorities. The best argument for the inclusion of Muslims is the need for a peace that is acceptable to all and that as I stated earlier, will not lay the groundwork for conflicts in the future. However such an inclusion of Muslims can only happen after questioning of and shifting our internalized positions regarding minorities.

Let me conclude with one final point. In our post colonial nation building zeal not only did we internalize the marginal status of minorities we undermined the possibility of valuing our multiplicity. In pursuit of particular kinds of nation states we lost sight of the fact that our unusual and concentrated diversity within an Island state was a resource that could culturally enrich all our lives. The fact of plural perspectives enhancing any discussion, a notion that most of us subscribe to we have not been able to translate to a valuing of our ethnic others. We have lost all knowledge of our shared pasts. For instance, the census as recently as the end of the 19th Century had a category of Tamil Buddhist, and todate, we have Muslims in the Hill country that have Sinhala ge names. We have lost this history today and the ghettoisation of communities continues. In the aftermath of a conflict that has fractured our polity along a variety of ethnic and regional fault lines there are no shortcuts to reversing this process. This is a sad trend that we must address in the peace process as well. We have to consciously work towards reversing the value laden labels of minority and majority. For instance, it is essential that any power sharing agreement be adequately cognizant of local minorities. Tamils and Muslims in the South, Sinhalese in the North and East, Muslims in the North, and Tamils and Sinhalese in any Muslim South Eastern Unit. I suggest that the issue of preventing minority marginalization is made a priority discussion agenda at the peace talks in order to shift the conversation atleast briefly away from the issues of majority entitlement.
[iii] If this is done I think we will take a small step towards ensuring a future plural polity that can at a minimum ensure human rights and human security for its citizens.

[i] The Preamble to the Cease Fire Agreement refers to Muslims as a group not directly party to the conflict.
[ii] Uyangoda Jayadeva. (2001) Questions of Sri Lanka’s Minority Rights. Colombo. ICES p.05
[iii] This is a suggestion that was made in the consultative process to the document on a National Vision for Multicultural Sri Lanka more than two years ago.