Puttalam Sinhalese fear Muslim settlers - ULF

[TamilNet, Saturday, 11 April 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Resettling refugees from the Muslim community in the Puttalam area and allowing them to register as voters there is perceived as a threat by members of the majority Sinhalese community who are native to those areas, said United Lalith Front's (ULF) Ms. Srimani Athulathmudali, MP, recently in Parliament.

srimani_athulathmudali.gifDuring the debate in Parliament to extend the emergency, Ms. Athulathmudali said that refugees doing business in the towns in the Puttalam area, on the western coastline, was a violation of the rights the of Sinhalese businessmen.

She reiterated that Ministry of Defence should take immediate steps to protect the rights of the Sinhalese living in the area.

Puttalam, in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka, has had to absorb waves of Muslim refugees in the wake of their exodus from the North. Their resttlement in the Puttalam area has given rise to fear among the Sinhalese that it could change the demographic pattern in the area.

It has also given the Muslim MPs of the area additional support and importance, which is resented by MPs who traditionally represented the Puttalam District relying on a Sinhala vote bank.

Ms. Srimani Athulathmudali, wife of United National Party (UNP) senior cabinet minister Lalith Athulathmudali, who was gunned down in 1993 on the eve of the last Provincial Council elections, was swept to power when her party contested under the Peoples' Alliance banner in 1994.

Though made a cabinet minister, she fell foul of Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga for her (Athulathmudali's) lukewarm support of the PA's political package for the devolution of power and was sacked from the cabinet last year.

Since then, Ms. Athulathmudali has taken an increasingly strident anti-minority stance on the national question.

Speculation is rife that ULF will join the opposition UNP to contest the forthcoming provincial council elections.

 

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