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East erupts in communal violence

Heightened tension in the Batticaloa District, following clashes between the Tamil Makkal Vidudalai Puligal (TMVP) and the Muslims, is expected to cast its shadow on the June 4 maiden session of the newly elected Eastern Provincial Council.
 
Continuing skirmishes between the TMVP and a group of Muslim youths has compelled the police to impose local curfew. Two Muslim youth abducted last week, allegedly by the TMVP cadres, have still not been released, despite repeated appeals.
 
Intervention of senior Muslim politicians, both local and national, to diffuse the simmering situation, has so far failed to produce any positive results.
 
The TMVP is adamant not to release the two youths from Eravur.
 
TMVP’s refusal to release the abductees has sent a strong message to the rest of the country that, the party is ready to take on the Muslims, who the party suspects to have masterminded the assassination last week of Shanthan - a senior TMVP cadre in Kathankudi, reported The Bottom Line agency.
 
As TMVP cadres continue to go berserk in the Muslim hamlets in the east, threatening and intimidating Muslims, the police failed to bring the TMVP under control, resulting in Muslim youths and militants taking up arms against the TMVP.
 
While the TMVP cadres pose threats to the Muslims, the Muslim militants, on the other hand, have threatened to strike at Tamils living in some of the Muslim villages.
 
This has resulted in more than 400 to 500 Tamil families living in the border villages, fleeing to safer locations.
 
Already some 252 Tamil families have sought refuge at Thannamunai Punitha Valanar Vidyalaya and another 250 families at Mylampaveli Sri Vigneswara School.
 
The Government has, to date, not evolved a mechanism to issue dry rations and other relief to these people.
 
However, the TMVP has initiated a relief programme and begun distributing dry rations to the refugees.
 
Similarly, several hundreds of Muslims are also living in fear for the same reasons.
 
The police, to date, have not made any arrests in connection with the killing of Shanthan and his bodyguard Dharshan on 22 May. A native of Savalakadai in Amparai, Shanthan’s father was killed in a Tamil-Muslim conflict in the early 90s, after which Shanthan joined the Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF - Razeek group).
 
Former TMVP leader Karuna Amman appointed him to be in charge of the Ariyampathi division in Batticaloa. Shanthan functioned as the de facto chairman and delivered the goods to the people of the area. Shanthan also took a strong stance against Muslim colonisation within the division, resulting in a feud between him and the Muslim community.
 
Shanthan’s wife later contested the March 10 local polls and became the chairperson of the council, but according to local reports, her husband virtually ran the council. Shanthan was also a trusted lieutenant of the present Eastern Province chief minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan.
 
Local intelligence sources point out that Shanthan’s killing in a predominantly Muslim area has not only led to suspicion, but is construed as a mischievous act aimed at triggering off fresh clashes between the Muslims and the Tamils.
 
A polarisation of the Tamils and the Muslims was widely speculated following the May 10 Eastern Provincial Councils election, as, for the first time, the ruling party fielded two chief ministerial candidates from both the Tamil and Muslim communities.
 
However, as anticipated, the communities, though worked separately to promote their respective candidates, did not enter into any sort of communal clashes.
 
A sudden outbreak of violence in Kathankudi is now viewed as an attempt by a few unknown elements to destabilise the east and portray the TMVP leader Pillaiyan as a weak leader, according to The Bottom Line.
 
It was following the killing of Shanthan and his bodyguard that, the TMVP cadres went berserk, spraying bullets at Muslims in Kathankudi. In this incident, three Muslims were killed, one was hacked to death and a Sinhalese sustained injuries.
 
The police were brought into the scene to bring law and order, to no avail. The Muslim clergy and other leading personalities made several appeals to the police to check on the armed TMVP cadres roaming the streets, but the police had no control.
 
It is at this point that Pillaiyan personally visited the Mosque in Kathankudi after Jumma prayers and assured protection for the Muslims. Pillaiyan’s assurance did not materialise in time to prevent TMVP cadres abducting two Muslim youths from Eravur.
 
The Interfaith Committee in Batticaloa and several other organisations immediately gathered together to diffuse the situation. They held a series of talks with Pillaiyan and his arch rival M.L.A.M. Hizbullah and pleaded with them to immediately bring the raging violence to a halt.
 
Hizbullah and Pillaiyan took personal interest to settle the issue by talking to their respective communities, but failed. Hizbullah even went to the extent of addressing a group of TMVP cadres at the Eravur police station, appealing them to release the abducted youths, to no avail.
 
Frustrated and angered by the delay in releasing the two Muslim youths, the youth in Eravur, defying an order from their elders, organised a hartal. The Mosque Federation made every attempt to convince the youth to abandon the hartal but the youth were already fired up. They demanded the immediate release of the youth or, face the consequences.
 
As civil societies from both communities were now looking for ways and means to quell the increasing tension, two more Muslims were allegedly abducted by the TMVP. However, intervention by civil societies led to the release of the two Muslims. They were handed over to the Eravur police after being beaten and bruised. They were later hospitalised.
 
Questions are raised as to why the police could not bring the situation under control, which has virtually brought a split between the two communities.
 
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) general secretary and Eastern Provincial Councilor Hasan Ali said he was disappointed that the police had not moved forward to calm the situation but instead, had ignored certain burning issues, thereby, giving a free hand to an armed group to unleash violence against the Muslims.
 
Coming down hard on the police, he said that, under the law of the country, the police had the powers to arrest anyone found in possession of arms, but the police failed to arrest the armed TMVP cadres seen roaming the streets.
 
“The police is harassing us. The Government might suddenly say we are responsible for this situation. This, we predicted even before the election,” he said.
 
National Unity Alliance (NUA) Leader, Housing Minister Mrs. Ferial Ashraff admitted that there was ‘plenty of tension’ in the east and added it was high time that meaningful steps were taken to eradicate this irretrievably.
 
She said that the prevailing situation in the east was much worse than prior to the May 10 election.
 
She said that suspicion between the Muslims and the Tamils has been prevailing for a long time and added that, respective governments had failed to bridge the gap between these two communities.
 
“We are a people who have fighting blood in us and, I actually don’t know why we are fighting and for what. I don’t think anybody is trying to put these communities together. It is a cause of concern,” the Minister expressed.
 
She said the government is duty bound to intervene, to ensure matters do not get any worse. “We must see that violence is not accelerated,” she said.
 
 
Heightened tension in the Batticaloa District, following clashes between the Tamil Makkal Vidudalai Puligal (TMVP) and the Muslims, is expected to cast its shadow on the June 4 maiden session of the newly elected Eastern Provincial Council.
 
Continuing skirmishes between the TMVP and a group of Muslim youths has compelled the police to impose local curfew. Two Muslim youth abducted last week, allegedly by the TMVP cadres, have still not been released, despite repeated appeals.
 
Intervention of senior Muslim politicians, both local and national, to diffuse the simmering situation, has so far failed to produce any positive results.
 
The TMVP is adamant not to release the two youths from Eravur.
 
TMVP’s refusal to release the abductees has sent a strong message to the rest of the country that, the party is ready to take on the Muslims, who the party suspects to have masterminded the assassination last week of Shanthan - a senior TMVP cadre in Kathankudi, reported The Bottom Line agency.
 
As TMVP cadres continue to go berserk in the Muslim hamlets in the east, threatening and intimidating Muslims, the police failed to bring the TMVP under control, resulting in Muslim youths and militants taking up arms against the TMVP.
 
While the TMVP cadres pose threats to the Muslims, the Muslim militants, on the other hand, have threatened to strike at Tamils living in some of the Muslim villages.
 
This has resulted in more than 400 to 500 Tamil families living in the border villages, fleeing to safer locations.
 
Already some 252 Tamil families have sought refuge at Thannamunai Punitha Valanar Vidyalaya and another 250 families at Mylampaveli Sri Vigneswara School.
 
The Government has, to date, not evolved a mechanism to issue dry rations and other relief to these people.
 
However, the TMVP has initiated a relief programme and begun distributing dry rations to the refugees.
 
Similarly, several hundreds of Muslims are also living in fear for the same reasons.
 
The police, to date, have not made any arrests in connection with the killing of Shanthan and his bodyguard Dharshan on 22 May. A native of Savalakadai in Amparai, Shanthan’s father was killed in a Tamil-Muslim conflict in the early 90s, after which Shanthan joined the Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF - Razeek group).
 
Former TMVP leader Karuna Amman appointed him to be in charge of the Ariyampathi division in Batticaloa. Shanthan functioned as the de facto chairman and delivered the goods to the people of the area. Shanthan also took a strong stance against Muslim colonisation within the division, resulting in a feud between him and the Muslim community.
 
Shanthan’s wife later contested the March 10 local polls and became the chairperson of the council, but according to local reports, her husband virtually ran the council. Shanthan was also a trusted lieutenant of the present Eastern Province chief minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan.
 
Local intelligence sources point out that Shanthan’s killing in a predominantly Muslim area has not only led to suspicion, but is construed as a mischievous act aimed at triggering off fresh clashes between the Muslims and the Tamils.
 
A polarisation of the Tamils and the Muslims was widely speculated following the May 10 Eastern Provincial Councils election, as, for the first time, the ruling party fielded two chief ministerial candidates from both the Tamil and Muslim communities.
 
However, as anticipated, the communities, though worked separately to promote their respective candidates, did not enter into any sort of communal clashes.
 
A sudden outbreak of violence in Kathankudi is now viewed as an attempt by a few unknown elements to destabilise the east and portray the TMVP leader Pillaiyan as a weak leader, according to The Bottom Line.
 
It was following the killing of Shanthan and his bodyguard that, the TMVP cadres went berserk, spraying bullets at Muslims in Kathankudi. In this incident, three Muslims were killed, one was hacked to death and a Sinhalese sustained injuries.
 
The police were brought into the scene to bring law and order, to no avail. The Muslim clergy and other leading personalities made several appeals to the police to check on the armed TMVP cadres roaming the streets, but the police had no control.
 
It is at this point that Pillaiyan personally visited the Mosque in Kathankudi after Jumma prayers and assured protection for the Muslims. Pillaiyan’s assurance did not materialise in time to prevent TMVP cadres abducting two Muslim youths from Eravur.
 
The Interfaith Committee in Batticaloa and several other organisations immediately gathered together to diffuse the situation. They held a series of talks with Pillaiyan and his arch rival M.L.A.M. Hizbullah and pleaded with them to immediately bring the raging violence to a halt.
 
Hizbullah and Pillaiyan took personal interest to settle the issue by talking to their respective communities, but failed. Hizbullah even went to the extent of addressing a group of TMVP cadres at the Eravur police station, appealing them to release the abducted youths, to no avail.
 
Frustrated and angered by the delay in releasing the two Muslim youths, the youth in Eravur, defying an order from their elders, organised a hartal. The Mosque Federation made every attempt to convince the youth to abandon the hartal but the youth were already fired up. They demanded the immediate release of the youth or, face the consequences.
 
As civil societies from both communities were now looking for ways and means to quell the increasing tension, two more Muslims were allegedly abducted by the TMVP. However, intervention by civil societies led to the release of the two Muslims. They were handed over to the Eravur police after being beaten and bruised. They were later hospitalised.
 
Questions are raised as to why the police could not bring the situation under control, which has virtually brought a split between the two communities.
 
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) general secretary and Eastern Provincial Councilor Hasan Ali said he was disappointed that the police had not moved forward to calm the situation but instead, had ignored certain burning issues, thereby, giving a free hand to an armed group to unleash violence against the Muslims.
 
Coming down hard on the police, he said that, under the law of the country, the police had the powers to arrest anyone found in possession of arms, but the police failed to arrest the armed TMVP cadres seen roaming the streets.
 
“The police is harassing us. The Government might suddenly say we are responsible for this situation. This, we predicted even before the election,” he said.
 
National Unity Alliance (NUA) Leader, Housing Minister Mrs. Ferial Ashraff admitted that there was ‘plenty of tension’ in the east and added it was high time that meaningful steps were taken to eradicate this irretrievably.
 
She said that the prevailing situation in the east was much worse than prior to the May 10 election.
 
She said that suspicion between the Muslims and the Tamils has been prevailing for a long time and added that, respective governments had failed to bridge the gap between these two communities.
 
“We are a people who have fighting blood in us and, I actually don’t know why we are fighting and for what. I don’t think anybody is trying to put these communities together. It is a cause of concern,” the Minister expressed.
 
She said the government is duty bound to intervene, to ensure matters do not get any worse. “We must see that violence is not accelerated,” she said.