SL ministers taking side harm communal harmony in Mannaar

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 25 March 2009, 01:46 GMT]
Mistake and oversight of government officials in re-allocating an already leased out land have caused a conflict between two Tamil speaking communities in Mannaar. Two ministers of the Colombo government, taking sides, but failing in sorting out the issue is adding to the tension, sources from Mannaar said.

The major communities of Mannaar are Catholics and Muslims, both Tamil speaking.

The Mannaar region is reputed for the harmony between these communities.

Decades ago, when Mannaar was under Jaffna diocese, a particular land was reportedly allotted on long term lease to an education institution in Mannaar town. But either by non-availability of records or by oversight the land was allotted to 27 landless Muslim families by the government officials of Mannaar in the late 1980s.

In the 1990s during the absence of the said families who were forced to leave Mannaar, the school administration took over a part of the land. Recently, only 13 of them were able to re-occupy their lands through deliberations of the government officials.

However, the school which was keen in getting the entire land called for a meeting of the school associations such as old students and parents Tuesday morning around 7:00 a.m. The school is largely attended by the Catholic community, even though Muslim students also study there.

It became a stand-off when members of the school community entered into the land where the Muslim families were making fences and tried to remove them. The parties had to be dispersed by police firing around 9:00 a.m., causing tension as the concerned land is located in the Moor Street, a densely populated part of the city.

While Douglas Devananda, a paramilitary leader and cabinet minister for social services is allegedly taking side with the school, Abdul Risath Bathiyutheen, the minister for resettlement and disaster relief services has reportedly challenged Mr. Devananda saying that the matter comes under his jurisdiction.

The government officials who convened a meeting of the communities Tuesday evening were unable to resolve the dispute due to the tricky situation developed by the involvement of the two ministers taking sides.

The concerned Muslim families are not willing to accept land offers in places not conducive to their community life.

The burning issue, if not sorted out amicably, may snowball into a major communal conflict in Mannaar, the officials said.

The Tamil National Alliance parliamentarians would have easily sorted out this matter had they been in an operative position, as they have good rapport with both the communities, civil sources in Mannaar said.


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