Tamil-Muslim alliance being targeted
[TamilNet, Thursday, 24 July 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Attempts are being made to break the alliance between the Tamils and the Muslims. A Muslim opposition MP, Mr. Mohammed Mahroof was assassinated on Sunday. In another incident, a gunman was said to have been 'arrested' attempting to get close to a ruling Muslim MP. The government has promptly blamed the LTTE for both. However, the violence against Muslim officials comes at a time when the alliance between the LTTE and the leaders of Muslim people is paying off for both sides.
According to Sri Lankan police, Mr. Mohammed Mahroof was travelling in a
jeep in the east of the island, when the vehicle was fired at, killing
him and five others. The police claim the attack was carried out by the
Tamil Tigers. However, the Sri Lankans have routinely blamed the Tigers
for any political killing on the island. While many of these accusations
have been disproved, none has resulted in proving the LTTE as the killers.
Ironically, the police claim that they were not informed in advance of
the opposition MP's visit and hence were unable to protect him. Given
that the North and East of the island are in a state of war, it is
surprising that the police were not informed, and while the local security
forces claim they did not know of his presence, the gunmen clearly did.
Adding further doubt to the police claim was also a Reuters news release
which said, "..the law maker met the local police to discuss the villagers'
safety just before he was killed," indicating that the Lankan forces knew
of Mahroof's visit.
A week ago, 32 residents of the Muslim village of Irikanndy were
arrested by the
LTTE for abducting an unarmed Sea Tiger unit which had sought assistance
from the villagers following an accident at sea.
The LTTE has appealed to the Muslim leadership to facilitate the release
of the Sea Tigers, and it is believed that Mr. Mahroof may have been
traveling to the location to meet the affected families.
While the government has been making political capital of the arrest of
the 32 Muslims, the Muslim leadership has neither condemned nor
challenged the detentions.
Another flaw in the government claim is that the LTTE does not have a
significant presence in the area, whereas the Sri Lankan security forces
do. This had prompted the Sea Tigers to seek help from the village in the
Over the weekend, a gunman was allegedly arrested at a Muslim religious
festival in Amparai with a handgun and grenades in his possession. The
police allege that he was a member of the Tamil Tigers
intent on assassinating Mr. Mohammed Ashraff, the Ports Minister.
Killing Mr. Ashraff would have little benefit for the Tamil Tigers
strategically, as he does not influence Sri Lanka's military designs in
the Tamil homelands. Further, the Tigers would not risk damaging their
international standing by killing a muslim politician. Hence observers
are skeptical that the Tigers would have attempted an assassination.
For the past few months, the alliance forged by the LTTE and Muslim
leaders has been strengthening. The uniting of the minority races on this
Indian Ocean island has clearly irked the majority Sinhalese government.
In a recent government reshuffle, Muslim MPs were moved to less
While the Tigers were talking with Muslim leaders under the auspices of
the Red Cross (ICRC), several attacks on Muslim villages took place.
Despite these disruptive incidents, the talks concluded successfully.
The LTTE has not yet commented formally on Sunday's incidents. However, an
LTTE official told us that agent provocateurs were hoping to spark
Tamil-Muslim infighting. "The relationship between Tamils and Muslims
has been steadily improving recently. The government needs to split the
two sides to play one off against the other as it has done in the past,"
"Incidents like these may spark off Tamil-Muslim communal violence. Who
will benefit from that scenario?" the Tiger official said. "We have
worked hard to reach a stable agreement with the Muslims. And don't
forget, the Muslims are Tamils, too."
The practice of setting Tamils and Muslims against each other was first
started by President J.R. Jayawardene, under advice from Israeli
Intelligence, based on the simple premise that once the opposition groups
were fighting amongst themselves, it would be easier to dominate them, a
stratagem that had worked successfully in Lebanon.
The government alleges that the Tigers were killing MPs who might support
the devolution package, the 'final draft' of which is expected to be
unveiled in November. We put this to the LTTE official. "We have never
seen these proposals. And unless the government talks to us (LTTE) a just
and lasting solution cannot be formed," he said. President Chandrika has
not been able to convince everyone even within her own coalition
to support the proposals, and the UNP (the opposition) has not endorsed it
A criticism leveled at the Tigers is their continued silence in the light
of government accusations. The LTTE official pointed out that as the
government routinely accused them of any political killing, they could
not be expected to respond every time.
When we asked the LTTE official who he thought was responsible for Mr.
Mahroof's death, he said he did not know, and added "The government has
deliberately closed the book on an investigation by blaming us. What is
it keen to hide?"