Top Muslim legislators wrap up northern visit

Monday, 18 March 2013 00:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The resettlement process of Muslim IDPs is taking place as per the Government promise and Tamil IDPs praise former resettlement Minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s efforts. “We understand that still there are some issues in resettlement but the process is taking place. We would like to see it speeded up so that solution is prompt, especially with regard to old Muslim IDPs,” said Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce on 11 March. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing villagers of an old Muslim IDP settlement Periyamadu in Mannar District.

Several Muslim legislators – three top ministers and another MP among them – began a tour of the Mannar and Vavuniya regions on 10 March. Three of them went on to continue the tour on 11 March. Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, Rishad Bathiudeen, M. Hizbullah, Deputy Minister – Economic Development, along with MP A.H.M. Azwer began the two day tour on 10 March from Andiyanpuliyankulam Muslim village in Vavuniya.

“According to para 5.137 of the LLRC Report, 75,000 families were expelled from the Northern Province  by the LTTE in a systematic and organised manner during a two week period in 1990. They were mainly living in Puttalam and other districts such as Anuradhapura, Kurunegala and Colombo. According to the report, around 14,000 Muslim families returned to Mannar in 2011 and 2,455 to Mullaitivu district,” Bathiudeen said.  “Due to landlessness, the original land becoming jungles, non-availability of infrastructure facilities and lack of assistance from the donor communities, they couldn’t resettle themselves fully in their places of origin. The displaced during the height of war and later were accommodated at Menik Farm – the new IDPs were all resettled. However, the protracted IDPs expelled in 1990s are yet to be resettled. The process in this regard is taking place as per the Government’s promise.”  Upon hearing concerns raised by the villagers and Muslim IDPs, the visiting ministers assured them that alternative options will be explored with regard to their burning issues, among them their land issue. The ministers thereafter travelled to the remote Thatchchanamaruthamadi village school where more than 200 Tamil medium students attend to their education with the support of 13 teachers. Minister Dr. Mervyn Silva distributed support material to the students of the school.

A former Tamil IDP (age 53) in the  hatchchanamaruthamadi village, who did not wish to be identified, said: “We are happy to say that Minister Rishad worked day and night to resettle us in the aftermath of the war. He did not ignore us just because we were Tamil IDPs but assisted us promptly. I believe any remaining displaced, be they Sinhalese, Tamils, or Muslims, too should be treated with same enthusiasm in their resettlement.” The ministers also visited the Uppukulam and Sannar settlements in Mannar and met the Muslim community in one-to-one level discussions, inquiring about their issues. Several members of resettled Tamil IDPs also praised Minister Bathiudeen’s round the clock efforts (as the then resettlement minister) to settle the Tamil IDPs promptly.  On the second day of the tour, Bathiudeen and Hisbullah, joined by former Minister Ameer Ali (PC MP) and A.H.M. Azwer MP, visited the Talaimannar pier, Piyargama’s Buddhist temple at Talaimannar, Erikkalampiti village, Museli farmers’ village,  PP Potkerny IDP settlement, Silawatura Navy base and Museli Muslim MV. As the mid-day temperatures hit 34 degrees, the visiting legislators relished the luncheon at the Silawatura Navy camp.