Rebel Muslim MPs cut committee deal

[TamilNet, Monday, 11 November 2002, 15:08 GMT]
The Government of Sri Lanka Monday appointed a committee headed by its Interior secretary to look after the interests and concerns of Muslims in the island’s northeast in a bid to retain the crucial support of eight MPs of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the main partner of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s ruling coalition, who have been boycotting Parliament amid allegations that the opposition was manipulating them to instigate communal tensions in the east to scuttle the peace talks for ending the island’s conflict and to topple the United National Front government.

The eight MPs rebelled against party leader, Mr. Rauf Hakeem, and oppose his participation in the Norway mediated peace talks between Colombo and the Liberation Tigers.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Liberation Tigers in April to resolve the problems faced by Muslims in the northeast.

Mr. Rauf Hakeem, leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and Mr. Vellupillai Pirapaharan, the leader of the Liberation Tigers signing a Memorandum of Understanding in Kilinochchi, 14 April 2002.
Senior Sri Lankan Government officials said that the committee’s activities wouldn’t overlap or hamper the work of the Sub-committee on De-Escalation and Normalisation (SDN) established in accordance with the agreement reached between the LTTE and the The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) in the second session of the first round of peace talks held between them in Thailand recently.

The SDN is scheduled to meet in the east this month to mainly discuss and explore means of addressing the concerns of the Muslims in the region.

The following is the text of Monday’s press release regarding the committee issued by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Interior.

“The Minister of interior on a directive of the Prime Minister today appointed a high powered official committee to look into the security measures of Muslim areas in the north and east and ensure that an effective mechanism was (sic) in place as regards law enforcement and to bring about a rapport with all communities in the area and to establish the identity and safeguard interests of the Muslim community of the area.

The committee headed by Mr. M. N Junaid, secretary to the Ministry of Interior, comprises Mr. T.E Anandarajah, Inspector General of Police, Mr. Nimal Gunatilleke DIG and commander of the Special Task Force, Mr. Indra de Silva will serve as the secretary to the committee (sic).

The terms of reference of the committee are as follows:

  • 1. To look into the security measures in the Muslim areas in the north and east and to suggest law enforcement.

  • 2. Bring about a rapport with other communities in the area.

  • 3. To establish and bring about a dialogue with the Police, the STF, the armed force and the Tamil community in the area.

  • 4. To establish the identity and safeguard the interests of the Muslim communities in the area.

  • 5. To recommend measures to the government to avoid lapses that occurred in the previous negotiations with other communities and institutions where Muslims had to undergo hardships and suffering.

    The committee has been asked to submit a report on these matters within one month.

    The appointment of the committee is a sequel to an assurance given by the Prime Minister to a group of SLMC members of Parliament that the concerns they have raised regarding security of Muslims would be addressed and that the government was firmly committed to protect and entrench (sic) the security of the Muslims in relation to persons and property. The Prime Minister has assured that the Muslims will be free and have the right to look after their affairs like the other communities without any hindrance or interference.

    The Prime Minister has also told the MPs that the government has declared on many occasions that the interest of all communities will be effectively safeguarded through the constitutional structures that will be established to achieve a durable peace in the country.”


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