In October 1992, some 285 Muslim men, women and children were slaughtered by the Tigers in pre-dawn raids in Palliyagodella. This massacre, one of the worst to have occurred during the armed conflict, is now largely forgotten
This country cannot forget the patriotic role played by Sri Lanka’s Muslims during the three-decade long war with the LTTE. Sri Lankan Muslims were clearly opposed to the division of the country. They also did not support the merger of the East with the North forced on Sri Lanka by India.
They were the only community that stood, in its entirety, with the majority Sinhala Buddhists against the LTTE’s attempts to create a separate State in this tiny island. It is in this backdrop that the Muslim community is saddened today by the unceasing and revengeful hate campaigns by an extremist few.
At different times the LTTE and its fighters were known to have been created by India and supported by some Western powers. These countries aided and abetted the separatist struggle in many ways. Nevertheless, the majority of Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka did not support the LTTE. Foreign entities are now continuing to work on multiple agendas most of which are dangerous for Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity and the unity of its people.
The LTTE commenced the first of a series of attacks on the Eastern Muslims in late December 1987 by killing close to 100 innocent Muslim civilians from Kattankudy in the Batticaloa district. 93 Muslim-owned shops and properties worth millions of rupees in Kattankudy were set on fire and destroyed by the militants on 26 June 1990.
Incidentally, the terrorist mastermind Zahran Hashim who was also born in Kattankudy, was then a five-year-old boy. On 12 July 1990, the LTTE massacred 68 Muslim civilians in the Hindu sacred village of Kurukkalmadam, in the outskirts of Kattankudy. On 3 August 1990, LTTE terrorists surrounded four mosques in Kattankudy namely Meera Mosque, Hussainiya Mosque, Masjidun Noor Mosque and Fuazy Mosque and sprayed bullets killing 147 worshippers.
Centering on Kattankudy alone, thus far over 315 Muslim civilians had been murdered by then, not counting the Muslim policemen, farmers, fishermen and Haj returnees killed by the LTTE or the 90,000 Muslims including the then young Rishad Bathiudeen driven out mercilessly by the LTTE from the Northern Province.
In October 1992, some 285 Muslim men, women and children were slaughtered by the Tigers in pre-dawn raids in Palliyagodella. This massacre, one of the worst to have occurred during the armed conflict, is now largely forgotten.
There is no denying the fact that the LTTE drove away the Northern Muslims and killed large numbers of Eastern Muslims because the Muslim community did not support the LTTE or the division of the country. The then leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) M.H.M. Ashraff, while maintaining healthy relations with the country’s mainstream political leaders as well as the peaceful Tamils of the North and the East, did not allow the Eastern Muslims to become a party to LTTE’s separatist venture.
Then political leaders such as Ranasinghe Premadasa and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga were bold to make use of Ashraff and the SLMC for the protection of the country’s territorial integrity.
The point overlooked by majoritarian extremists is that the LTTE considered the Muslims as a major obstacle to achieving ‘Eelam’. This led to the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from Jaffna and Mannar in the North. These are major contributions and sacrifices by a pathetically placed Muslim community in protecting the territorial integrity of the then viciously threatened Sri Lanka. No true patriot of Sri Lanka can forget these or attempt to brush them off.
We cannot be unmindful of the sacrifices of the Malay Muslims in the deep penetrating units of the intelligence wings of the country. We cannot forget the particularly vital supportive role played by Pakistan, Iran and the Middle-Eastern countries which the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa made full use of.
Meanwhile, thanks also to Wikileaks, the world is also not unaware of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde roles played by India, Israel, USA and the NATO countries including Norway. They have not as yet finished their job in Sri Lanka!
Today some of those extremists within the country are working on the agenda set by blood-stained warmongering external forces. These forces which failed to divide the country are trying relentlessly from June 2009, the very next month after the end of the war, to divide us communally.
Even some official versions and investigations are based on foreign narratives. Muslim bashing in an organised scale started after an extremist majoritarian organisation visited Norway in 2011. They will surely fail once again to divide us!
Sadly, persons who see only the small picture are humiliating the Muslim community’s political leadership forgetting these sacrifices and the then SLMC’s role. Time tested Muslim institutions which have served the community and the country extremely well are being ostracised.
Muslim personal laws are being wrongfully ridiculed. They are hell bent on creating more Zahran Hashims. Zahran Hashims have no place in the Muslim community. There is no justification for criminal violence. We have had enough. Do not create any more!
Those who attack a community that stood with them during troubling times do not see the bigger picture. They are trying to send the Eastern Muslims into the hands of those wanting to merge the East with the North.
(The writer is a President’s Counsel and a former Member of Parliament.)