UPFA won only Musali PS in Mannar, but has ignored BBS harassment of villagers – PS Chairman 

by Zacki Jabbar
The Musali Pradeshiya Sabha was the only council in the Mannar District that the UPFA had won at the last local government elections, but the majority of its original Muslim inhabitants had not been given back their ancestral lands due to a campaign propagated by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), the Chairman of the MPS, W. M. Yehiyan said yesterday.

 He told the "Sunday Island" that some of the 4,000 Musali Muslim families who had returned to their villages in 2010 after having been driven out by the LTTE in 1990, had voted for the UPFA at the 2011 local council polls.

But, it was unfortunate that the BBS which was widely believed to have the backing of some powerful persons within the ruling establishment, was preventing the majority of the other families evicted by the LTTE and forced to live in refugee camps in Puttalam and other parts of the country for 24 years, from resettling in their ancestral lands, by falsely claiming that they had encroached into the Wilpattu National Park (WNP), he said.

"We appeal to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and relevant Ministers to resolve the issue by reigning in the BBS, which is not only tarnishing the image of Buddhism but also creating communal disharmony."

 The Musali Muslims, Yehiyan pointed out, had also supported the UPFA at the last Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, but were still being treated as "Forgotten People", a tag which they had carried since 1990.

The Military had taken over their lands including the whole villages of Silawathurai and Mollikulam totaling over 700 acres. Those evicted held valid ownership deeds and other relevant documents. Prior to 1990, the largest contingent of Muslims in the Mannar district lived in Musali Division, which encompassed 28 villages within 20 Grama Niladari Divisions. Population wise it was Muslims (84%,), Tamils (13.4%) and Sinhalese(2.6%), he said.

 The PS Chairman noted that in terms of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommendations , a Presidential Task Force Committee comprising all relevant State institutions had allocated 100 acres each in Marichchikatti and Palakuli and 80 acres in Karadikkuli for resettlement of the displaced Muslims, but the BBS was creating trouble by falsely alleging that 73 Muslim families unfairly omitted from the resettlement scheme had encroached into the WNP, when they had only constructed mud huts about a kilometer from the WNP border.

 Mohammed Thoweek, an office bearer of the Mannar District Rehabilitation Association said that when the original Muslim inhabitants of Marikkarthevu Marichikatti, which was also about a kilometer from the WNP border, returned in 2010, they had spent over Rs. 300,000 and cleared their lands. Subsequently, they had also built a new community hall, opened by the then UPFA Agrarian Services and Wildlife Minister, S. M. Chandrasena.

"Now, the Wildlife Department at the instigation of the BBS is claiming that our humble abodes are illegal. What were they doing when our families were living in this very place for generations prior to 1990? This is our village and we have come back to it. So, don’t drive us out of here in the similar manner that the LTTE did. Please, gives us all the assistance to get back on our feet, after having wandered from camp to camp for nearly 24 years," he appealed.

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