Defence Minister orders:
Security strengthened in East

by Kalinga Weerakkody
Minister of Defence Thilak Marapana has instructed the three commanders of the security forces, the IGP and the chief of Special Task Force (STF) to strengthen security in the East following the killing of five Muslims within a week by LTTE.

The directive was issued at a top level meeting headed by the Defence Minister yesterday on a request made by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader (SLMC) Rauff Hakeem.

Minister Rauff Hakeem had pointed out the importance of taking immediate action to ease tension at least in government controlled areas citing the possibility of communal violence fuelled by LTTE erupting between Tamils and Muslims.

The Defence Minister told top commanders and the IGP to take every possible step to restore normalcy between the two communities.

The Minister has also emphasised the importance of implementing short and long term security measures in the East to prevent any further occurrence of such incidents.

Hakeem was accompanied by Trincomalee SLMC MPs M. S. Thowfeek and K. M. Thowfeek who are brothers.

Secretaries of the Defence and Interior Ministry were also present at the meeting.

Meanwhile the SLMC leader was due to meet the leaders of the 17-member North Eastern Muslim MPís Forum at the time this edition went to press.

On Monday the army prevented an attempt by a group of Muslims who attempted to attack a bus escorting a group of Tamils from Trincomalee to Pachchanoor following the incident.

Hakeem on his return to Colombo met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe accompanied by Ministers Tilak Marapana, Milinda Moragoda, and John Amaratunga and had a lengthy discussion on steps to curb the tension.

Following the killings Muslims held a hartal in Trincomalee, Muttur and Kalmunai on Monday. It spread to Samanthurai and Akkaraipattu areas yesterday.

Information from the East said that in most of the areas shops were closed and tyres burnt on the road, affecting public transport from early hours of yesterday.

When ĎThe Islandí asked the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) spokeswoman at Ampara what action had been taken to monitor the situation in the area she said, we have only collected information through the police and no team had visited the area". The SLMM said that it hoped to organise a meeting between the Muslim and Tamil representatives.

In April this year following Muslim-Tamil communal violence backed by LTTE several lives Muslims and Tamil were lost and 8000 families were displaced in Muttur and other areas.

The government paid Rs. 32 million as compensation to the Muslim families who were affected.