Mulslims IDPs in Mannar: Bodu Bala Sena allegations unfounded

Muslim IDPs: Not within the WNP Thursday, April 24, 2014 Wilpattu Park crisis: Borders identified, solution in sight? 0 !ournalists, photographers sho"n #illegal$ settle%ents outside Willpattu Park Zacki Jabbar reporting from Wilpattu National Park border Amidst allegations levelled by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and Industry and ommer!e Minister "ishad Bathiudeen over illegal settlements within the Wil#attu National Par$ (WNP) %& 'ournalists in!luding (oreign !orres#ondents on a (a!t (inding mission on )uesday were shown the ground situation by the authorities in the area * )he !ru+ o( the BBS !om#laint was that "ishad Bathiudeen had hel#ed Northern Muslim residents o( Maria$$ar Mari!hi$atti, -aradi$uli and Palai$ulli in the Musali Pradeshiya Sabha Division in Mannar driven out o( their villages by the .))/ in 011&, return in 2&0& and grab 22,&&& he!tares o( land belonging to the WNP* Bathuideen, who has vehemently denied the allegations, arranged and a!!om#anied the 'ournalists (rom olombo to Musali Pradeshiya Sabha Division in Mannar* Along the border o( the WNP on the #artly !onstru!ted Puttalam3 Mannar road stret!hing over a distan!e o( 4% $m, there were no signs o( any human settlements within the WNP* At the Mannar end o( the WNP, it was 5uite evident that the 64 houses77small mud huts77were standing outside the WNP, on what the Wild .i(e De#artment (W.D) has at various times des!ribed as San!tuary or Bu((er 8one* No sooner had the 'ournalists got o(( the villagers surrounded them as$ing what right the authorities had to drive them out o( their an!estral lands whi!h they had been (or!ed to leave in 011&* With a (ile in hand and !o#ies o( 4& deeds and some do!uments whi!h he termed as #ermits , Mohammed )howee$ (92) an o((i!e bearer o( the Mannar Distri!t "ehabilitation Asso!iation

said: :)here are (our villages in this the Musali Pradeshiya Sabha Division* )hey are the Mari$$ar Mari!hi$atti, where you are standing on right now* ;n the other side o( the road were the villages o( Muli$ulam ()amil), -aradi$uli and Palai$uli (both Muslim) whi!h !overed a total o( 4&& a!res* )his is where our (ields and burial grounds were also lo!ated* It is now held by the Navy* When 9<& o( the 02&& (amilies driven out by the .))/ in 011& returned in 2&0& a(ter the war had ended, we (ound that only the land !overing Mari$$ar Mari!hi$atti remained uno!!u#ied* So, we !leared the area s#ending nearly "s* 4&&,&&&* )herea(ter we also built a !ommunity =all whi!h was de!lared o#ened by the (ormer Agrarian Servi!es and Wildli(e Minister S* M* handrasena* Now, the Wildli(e De#artment at the instigation o( the BBS is alleging that our humble abodes are illegal* What were the authorities doing while our (amilies were living in this very #la!e (or !enturies #rior to 011&* As you !an see this our village and we have !ome ba!$ to it* So, #lease don>t drive us out o( here in the similar manner the .))/ did* Please, gives us all the assistan!e to get ba!$ on our (eet a(ter having wandered (rom !am# to !am# (or nearly 09 years,: he a##ealed*

Muslim IDPs in Mannar As$ed i( he was #re#ared to leave the area whi!h the W.D says belonged to the WNP bu((er ?one, )how(ee$ re#lied: : ;ur (amilies don>t want to go* Would you li$e to be evi!ted (rom your an!estral villages@ .oo$, there is the Mos5ue whi!h we built in 016&, whi!h has sin!e been damaged and #artly overgrown with the shrub 'ungle* )here were s!hools and a hos#ital also in this area*: Minister Bathiudeen, addressing the media at the !on!lusion o( the (a!t (inding mission, 'ust outside the Aasmine =ousing ity Pro'e!t, whi!h the BBS !laims was also within the WNP, said that the #light o( the Northern Muslims numbering over 0&&,&&& driven out by the .))/ had to be loo$ed at !om#assionately be!ause it was a humanitarian #roblem en!ountered by #eo#le who, a(ter all, were Sri .an$ans*

A##ealing to the BBS not to #ro#agate lies and !reate tension and !on(li!t, the Minister #ointed out that i( as the Wildli(e De#artment says the residents o( Mari$$ar Mar!hi$atti were living within the WNP bu((er ?one and it was illegal77the matter is now be(ore !ourt77then they should be #rovided alternative land and (inan!ial assistan!e to !onstru!t in the least their humble abodes* Muslims would never stand in the way o( any measures im#lemented (or the #ur#oses o( national se!urity, he em#hasi?ed* I( these B(orgotten #eo#le> had 'oined the .))/>s war against the Sri .an$an State they would never have been driven out o( their villages and would not have had to su((er (or nearly 29 years, Minister Bathiudeen noted* :Do not #rolong their su((ering and #lease resolve this issue now
and #revent e+tremist elements (rom setting the !ountry on (ire,: he a##ealed #resumably to the #owers that be* )he Island

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