Sinhala  Tamil    Seperate    
Governtment of Sri Lanka

Helping Muslims forcibly evicted by the LTTE

( Created date: 31-Dec-2008 )

The Peace Secretariat launched a self employment programme for displaced Muslims in the Puttalam district recently, with the assistance of People’s Bank. One hundred young women are to receive loans of Rs. 50,000 each to help them start their own businesses. Dairy farming, brick making, home gardening and livestock development are amongst the sectors targeted.

People’s Bank has allocated a sum of Rs. 5 million for the purpose, and the first cheques were handed over at a ceremony in Norochcholai on December 20th. The recipients are to form groups of ten and work together to develop their chosen activities.

Mrs. Muhammed Salih Januba explained the background to the problems faced by the displaced Muslims. ‘I was just 14 years old when the LTTE evicted us from Mullaitivu. I can still recollect how we reached Puttalam with nothing except what we could put in a cloth bag,’ she said. It has been very difficult for them to get back on their feet. She continued, ‘Over the past 18 years, living has been just plain hell. Most of us are still living in small huts. We are ever so grateful to the Peace Secretariat and People’s Bank for coming forward to give us a hand to pull out of what has seemed like eternal deprivation.’

In 1990, the LTTE ordered around 100,000 Muslims to leave Mullaitivu, Mannar and Jaffna areas, giving them only 24 hours to comply. It was one of the most inhuman acts of ethnic cleansing witnessed in this part of the world. Most people, including women carrying infants, had to walk miles to reach Vavuniya town. They were later sent to welfare centres set up at Norochcholai, Alankuda and Palavi in the Puttalam District.

The only sustenance the displaced Muslims had at that time was the monthly ration provided by the Government. This was supplemented by NGOs. The original residents of Puttalam also helped the people who had come to the area seeking refuge. With the passage of time, the assistance of NGOs waned and the refugees were left to fend for themselves.

The Government has recognised the need to do something to help them, and a dedicated Resettlement Ministry has been established by the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was himself forcibly evicted by the LTTE, so has firsthand experience of the hardships faced by the displaced Muslims.

Women and children were the most severely affected by the experience, as in so many places. Widows head quite a number of families now. It is for this reason that young women are being targeted in the self employment programme coordinated by the Peace Secretariat.

People’s Bank Assistant General Manager B Sirisena presenting a chequePeople’s Bank Assistant General Manager B Sirisena said at the ceremony that he had spoken with all the participants and was confident they were talented and determined young people who would utilise the funds to progress in life. He added that this was only the beginning of the collaboration between People’s Bank and the displaced Muslims and stressed that many other groups would be assisted in the future.

The Peace Secretariat has been engaging with the displaced Muslims in the Puttalam district for some time. In February, the Golden Key Hospital and the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition joined forces to conduct a medical camp in the area.It provided the opportunity for the Peace Secretariat to interact with the people and discuss their needs and interests. In addition, the Peace Secretariat has managed to organise salaries for young teachers who had been working on a voluntary basis in almost 40 local schools for more than one and a half years. Nine students who had been selected for university admission but could not proceed due to a lack of funds have also been assisted to continue their education.

Social Affairs Unit
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process


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