LTTE, Muslim parley on key issue

[TamilNet, Thursday, 27 March 2003, 17:42 GMT]
“Muslims enjoy the same rights as Tamils in areas under our control. There is no need for them to ask us for their fields because we did not take any. They could not cultivate their lands because of the war. Now they are free to come here and engage in agriculture”, said Mr. T. Ramesh, the LTTE’s special commander for the Batticaloa-Amparai District, speaking to the press Thursday afternoon at the conclusion of a meeting with a delegation of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

Sri Lankan armed forces banned farming in thousands of acres in the large fertile hinterlands of the Batticaloa and Amparai districts for more than a decade to starve out the LTTE. Muslims too own lands in several parts of the region’s vast agricultural tracts.

Meeting Ravi

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), the Tamil National Alliance MP for Batticaloa, Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, and the Government Agent for Batticaloa, Mr. R. Mounagurusamy, were present at the meeting, which began around 10 a.m. at the Diivisional Secretary’s Office in Vavunathivu, 5 kilometres southwest of Batticaloa town.

Mr. Basheer Segu Dawood, Deputy Minister for Housing in the United National Front government, led the SLMC delegation.

Mr. Basheer told the press that the meeting was quite cordial and fruitful. That the Muslims can freely cultivate their lands now will help cement good relations with the Tamil people and re-build trust among the two communities, he added.

Meeting Ravi

The LTTE delegation suggested that all lands seized illegally during the Tamil Muslim violence in 1985 should be returned to their original possessors.

Groups of armed Muslims, backed and instigated by the Sri Lankan armed forces, destroyed many Tamil villages in the Batticaloa and Amparai districts and drove out Tamils from their traditional places of residence.

Tamil politicians in the east charge that extremist Muslim groups backed by the Sri Lankan security and intelligence establishments engaged in ethnic cleansing in many Tamil villages in the region.

The LTTE and the SLMC agreed to have committees meet on 29, 30 and 31 March in Pondugalchenai, Karadiyanaru and Kokkaddicholai in the Batticaloa district to identify lands belonging to Muslims and to expedite the process of their return to cultivation.

As it was felt there could be legal aspects to be addressed in the process, both parties agreed to handle the matter through the GA and the committees appointed for the purpose.

Both parties discussed a wide range of issues to further consolidate good relations between the Tamils and the Muslims in the east, sources said.

The LTTE delegation was led by Mr. T. Ramesh, head of the LTTE’s political division in the Batticaloa Amparai District, Mr. E. Kousalyan, the head of the TEEDOR in the district, Mr. K. Nisam, and the chief of the LTTE’s finance division in Batticaloa, Mr. S. Suvi.

The meeting was organized by the SLMM. In the recent peace talks between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka held in Hakone, Japan, it was decided that such a meeting would be held as Muslim parliamentarians from the East had said that they were not satisfied with the peace process' benefits to the Muslim people, despite the ceasefire reaching the one-year mark.

 

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