Sat, 23 Aug 2003

Sri Lankan Muslims under the gun of LTTE

The Island, Asia News Network, Colombo

Five Muslims were killed within a week in the north and east by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and two other Muslims were reported missing the other day. An ex-police constable, a suspect in the killing of well known Tamil politician Kumar Ponnambalam, was also killed at Rawathawatha junction on Thursday. The most brazen killing was that of the chief suspect in the killing of the Southern Provincial Council Minister M. K. Ranjith who was being taken in a prison van to Embilipitiya courts, when two gunmen in a van overtook, blocked the prison van, took away the suspect and pumped more bullets into him. A constable guarding the suspect was also killed.

These killings, five in the north and east with two ghastly killings in the South, stand in contrast to the pious notes of peace and tranquility sounded by peace organizations and at seminars on human rights in Colombo and elsewhere. Despite the one-and-a-half years of peace that has prevailed and the absence of direct armed conflict, innocent people are being slaughtered each day.

Our law is lapse that a suspect who is wanted for one of the most publicized crimes is let off on bail in a short time. In contrast an innocent motorist involved in a traffic accident is locked up for days if the victim succumbs to injuries. The case of a murder suspect being pulled out of a van, taken away and shot dead, indicates a rise in criminality to unprecedented heights that calls for drastic measures to be enforced by the police.

While the teaching of human rights to policemen and servicemen are all very good, the fact that should not be forgotten is that their prime duty is to protect law and order. People in this country have a right to be protected by the police, failing which it will be only natural that they adopt ways and means to protect themselves.

On Thursday The Island reported that militant Muslim youths are being trained in armed combat and some have been dispatched abroad for such training. Since the Muslims came under the attack of LTTE terrorists, there have been reports of such youth brigades being formed in defense of the Muslim community.

Once again these reports are surfacing. Thursday's report said that the ongoing wave of LTTE attacks on Muslims, the latest in a series of attacks subsequent to the government LTTE cease-fire reached last February appeared to have strengthened LTTE hard- liners. The government's failure to provide adequate protection has contributed to this new situation.

The LTTE is quite obviously attempting to force its way in the east. It is trying to ride roughshod over both Sinhalese and Muslims, who together constitute a greater part of the population of the eastern province. The only way in which the LTTE can take over the east is at the point of the barrel of a gun and not at a free and fair election.

This is the only explanation for the continuing violence by the LTTE in the east, the violation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the abduction of children, smuggling of arms etc. and now attempts by LTTE cadres to issue orders to government employees.

Muslim youth arming themselves, particularly with the assistance of foreign agencies, has inherent dangers. Fundamentalist terrorism is now spread throughout Asia -- Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and even Singapore. The current situation with the Muslims under the gun of the LTTE provides very fertile grounds for al-Qaeda kind of fundamentalism. We hope that it will not happen here considering the problems of Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

If it comes to a proliferation of other armed groups with foreign assistance, the government itself must be blamed. Looking away from LTTE terrorism is simply inviting other equally deadly varieties to come in.