COLOMBO: The en-masse expulsion of Muslims from Sri Lanka’s Northern Province by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in October-November 1990, was not “ethnic cleansing” but a measure to “protect” them, argues P Ariyanetthiran, a former Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP from the Eastern District of Batticaloa. “It could not be described as ethnic cleansing because it was to be temporary. The Muslims were told that they would be allowed to come back after the successful conclusion of the war for a separate Tamil Eelam. The properties and personal effects seized from the Muslims were to be kept safely and given back on their return. But this did not happen because the struggle for Tamil Eelam failed and the seized properties fell into the hands of the government forces,” Ariyanetthiran told Express.
On the demand of TNA MP M A Sumanthiran that the Northern Provincial Council should apologise to the Muslims through a resolution, he said: “There is no need to apologise now because, in the course of the war, the LTTE had publicly apologised and said that the Muslims could come back.”
Explaining the background to the expulsion of 75,000 to 90,000 Muslims from the six districts of the Northern Province, Ariyanetthiran said that Muslims were asked to quit en masse “for their own protection” in view of the anti-Tamil activities of Muslims in the Eastern Province at the instigation of the Lankan government and military. Muslims were being used as spies. The Sinhalese-Muslim Home Guards killed Tamils. Army-sponsored units like “Green Tigers” terrorised Tamils.
Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V.Anandasangaree said that it is wrong to ask the entire Tamil community to apologise for the doings of the LTTE. According to him, Northern Tamils had no problem with the Muslims, and if they did not protest at that time, it was because they were scared of the LTTE.