COLOMBO: Sixty eight Sri Lankan Tamil writers, artistes, professionals and academics have asked the Tamil community and its leaders to publicly condemn the eviction of 80,000 Muslims from the Tamil-speaking Northern Province by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1990 and pledge that they will not tolerate any kind of ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka.
The joint statement signed by writer Shyam Selvadurai, human rights activists Dr Rajan Hoole and P Saravanamuttu, economist Dr Muthukrishna Sarvananthan and artiste Sumathy Sivamohan among others, said that the eviction represented “one of the worst instances of the narrow, exclusivist thrust of the Tamil nationalist political campaign in the past 30 years.”
It went on to say that the failure of the Tamil civil and political leadership to understand and acknowledge the eviction had prevented the Tamil community from dealing with its own past and its own political and moral responsibility towards minority communities.
“An examination of how we have contributed to the polarisation of relations between our two communities has not been forthcoming even after the end of the 30-year war. We must realise at least now that there is no exclusive political solution for the Tamil community and that the question of political power sharing and equal rights confronts all minority communities,” the statement said.
“The document: The Quest for Redemption: The Story of Northern Muslims” prepared by the Citizens Commission on the expulsion of Muslims by the LTTE, made a most damning pronouncement about the silence of the Tamil community on the eviction.
The LTTE had accused the Muslims of supporting successive Sri Lankan governments in the latter’s fight against the Tamils. The Muslims, though Tamil-speaking, had adopted a “live and let live” policy vis-à-vis the majority Sinhalese community. Once the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) left Sri Lanka in March 1990, the LTTE expelled all the Muslims from the North and killed about 140 Muslims praying in a mosque in Kathankudi in the Eastern district of Batticaloa.
After LTTE’s defeat in May 2009, the once pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) sought rapprochement with the Muslims to jointly struggle for autonomy for the Tamil-speaking peoples. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) responded positively. The TNA and SLMC are to have periodic consultations on finding a lasting political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.