The Sunday Leader

Old IDPs Still In Limbo

  • LLRC asks why displaced Muslims depend only on state assistance

By Maryam Azwer

1990 ethnic cleansing of Mulims by LTTE

People evicted from their homes in the North by the LTTE over 20 years ago are in need of state acknowledgment and assistance to return to their original homes, said Dr. Farzana Haniffa, in her submission to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) on Thursday (November 4).
Dr. Haniffa is the Coordinator of the Citizens’ Commission on the Expulsion of Muslims from the North by the LTTE in October 1990.
In response to her submission, Commissioner M.P. Paranagama asked why the Northern Muslims sought assistance only from the state, and not from the Muslim communities and NGOs.
A rather surprised Dr. Haniffa responded that the state was the first entity displaced Northern Muslims looked to for assistance, and that over the years they have depended only on the community.
“They have been compelled to depend on the community,” she said, because the state was late in responding. These IDPs received state assistance only in the form of dry rations, she said.
She went on to say that of the housing assistance the IDPs had received from the government, there had been only two large scale projects, one under the tenure of the late Minister M.H.M Ashraff and one initiated by Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.
“I think the state should address them (the IDPs) and not only because there is a Muslim minister,” she said.
In her presentation Dr. Haniffa also stated that, “At the moment of their (the Northern Muslims’) expulsion, the reaction from the state, the NGO community and the international community was minimal and the Northern Muslims depended on the Muslim host community of Puttalam for emergency assistance.”
“The government seems to understand displacement as limited to those who were displaced from the Wanni during the most recent engagement between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces,” she said.
“In fact the President announced to the UN General Assembly that nearly 90% of displaced people have returned. This number does not include the Northern Muslims,” she said. “Given that the LTTE is no longer a factor there is a real possibility of return without the threat of a repeated expulsion,” she told the LLRC, the majority of whom settled down in Puttalam after the October 1990 ethnic cleansing.
However, she added that despite many of these old IDPs wanting to return, they face a variety of issues when trying to do so.
Among these is state acknowledgement of their plight, she said, which was of a specific nature. Meanwhile it was reported that Government Spokesperson and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella stated that the government was now looking into the resettlement of the old IDPs, many of whom are displaced Muslims.
“We also have the responsibility of resettling them and locating their original places,” Minister Rambukwella said at a cabinet press briefing on Thursday. A Government Information Department press release on the same day stated that a Secretariat for the Northern Displaced Muslims was being set up in Mannar to facilitate resettlement of those willing to return.
The Sunday Leader also contacted Secretary, Ministry of Resettlement, M.B. Dissanayake, who said that resettlement of old IDPs was in progress, and that around 6000 individuals had been resettled in Mannar.
The Ministry three weeks ago also initiated a survey to identify those who really want to return, said Dissanayake. “They are not suffering as much as Menik Farm IDPs,” he added.
“Assistance would be given on immediate resettlement,” he said, as long as the Ministry was aware of their resettlement. IDPs resettling voluntarily, without informing the Ministry, made the situation more difficult to handle, said Dissanayake.
Among the recommendations Dr. Farzana Haniffa presented in her submission to the LLRC were to have a uniform state policy on, and solution for these displaced persons and to provide information and finances needed for implementation of this policy.

Quick Facts
In October 1990 more than 75,000 Muslims were driven out of their homes from five districts in the North by the LTTE, after having been given between 2 and 48 hours to gather specific belongings and leave
The majority of these people later went to Puttalam as refugees, where many of them have remained since
‘Old IDPs’ generally refers to those displaced prior to April 2008, who are not among the Menik Farm IDPs
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was established by President Rajapaksa on May 15 this year to investigate events that took place during the war against the LTTE. The Commission is chaired by former Attorney General C.R. de Silva
The Citizens’ Commission on the Expulsion of Muslims from the North by the LTTE in October 1990 was set up in the absence of an official commission to look into the issues of the evicted Northern Muslims

1 Comment for “Old IDPs Still In Limbo”

  1. raj

    culture, religion, language are good as long as they are not used as a weapon to divide or punish others. Unfortunately, sometimes people are becoming fanatic about them. As a result, it creates so much rift between different ethnic groups.

    In rgards to commission, we should never forget that behavior of the past is behavior of the present and furture. If that is so, this commissiona will follow the same suit.

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