The Muslim Affairs Circle of the Sri Lanka National Congress launched Kharithathu Ththareeq a road map affecting th Muslim Community in Sri Lanka.
Recently, Kharithathu Ththareeq, a Road Map to address issues affecting the Muslim community in Sri Lanka was presented to the President of the All Ceylon Jammayathul Ulama, AlHaj M.I.M. Rizwe Mufthi, by Minister Milinda Moragoda, Leader of the Sri Lanka National Congress (SLNC) amidst a large gathering of Muslim community leaders at Marine Grand hotel, Marine Drive, Wellawatte.
This roadmap was developed by the Muslim Affairs Circle of the SLNC.
Alhaj Rizwe Mufthi speaking on the occasion, praised Mr. Moragoda for the support he has extended to the Muslim community in strengthening social and educational institutions. He pointed out that by improving the quality of people’s lives, harmony and understanding between different communities can be achieved.
The Muslim Affairs Circle of the Sri Lanka National Congress under the leadership of Mr. Milinda Moragoda has assisted in the release of two mosques (in the Batticola district, and in Trincomalee) from the Security Forces.
Minister Milinda Moragoda together with the Defense Secretary Mr. Gothabaya Rajapaksha, and other relevant authorities, has had extensive discussions regarding the use of the Tamil language in police stations and other government institutions in areas predominantly inhabited by Tamil-speaking populations.
The Kharithathu Ththareeq is an extension to the above and will help address issues affecting the Muslim community in a more systematic manner.
Picture shows Mr. Milinda Moragoda presenting the Road Map to Alhaj Rizwe Mufthi President All Ceylon Jammayathul Ulama.
Sri Lanka belongs to all of us: Diversity is Our Strength:
- Help create a Political Culture which leads to mutual respect between all Communities.
- Educate other communities on Muslim culture and the Muslim way of life.
- Enhance the standards of Muslim National schools and also make available Vocational Training for those who do not wish to pursue academics.
- Support the All Ceylon Jammayathul Ulama to obtain authority in all matters related to Halal Certification.
- Assist in the Resettlement of Muslims in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and the restoration of Normal Life with Housing and Economic Activity.
- Assist in the Return and Restoration of Mosques, Schools, etc., in the Northern and Eastern Provinces for the benefit of all.
- Assist in arranging a monthly meeting with the Security Forces and the Police to discuss and resolve on-going issues and problems faced by the Muslim Community.
- Assist in obtaining Prayer facilities in Public and other Institutions.
- Ensure the implementation of the Government circular, which permits the wearing of the Muslim Dress (Hijab) in Schools, Hospitals, and other Government Institutions.
- Assist in addressing the Drugs & Narcotics related issues faced by the community.
- Assist in the training of staff in Tamil Language proficiency in Government Institutions where the General Public will interact.
- Facilitate and address grievances faced by Muslim Tsunami victims.
A BAHRAIN resident has been arrested in Sri Lanka after converting to Islam and writing two books in Sinhalese allegedly offensive to the spiritual leader of Buddhism.
Sarah Malanie Perera, 38, was detained in the capital Colombo on Saturday as she was due to leave her homeland after a three-month holiday.
Discover Islam has now issued an international appeal to human rights groups to help secure her release, after being contacted by one of her sisters.
Relatives in Bahrain also fear she may not be allowed to return here as her residence permit expires today.
Ms Perera came to Manama in 1985 to assist her elder sister Mariam, who owned a gifts and flowers shop called Madhuri in The Palace Hotel, Adliya.
She worked there for two years before staying at home to care her sick old mother Aisha.
Ms Perera later worked as an assistant accountant for the US Navy, before becoming a teacher at the Child Development Centre, Juffair.
Born and brought up in a Buddhist family, she embraced Islam in 1999 after studying religion at Discover Islam.
Her father Norbet Perera, mother Soma and sisters Padma, Rasa, Padmani and Malanie, later also converted to Islam at separate times.
They are now called Mohammed, Aisha, Fatima, Raihana, Fowzia and Sarah respectively.
“Ever since she (Sarah) embraced Islam, she was compiling a book on Islam and comparative religion,” said her sister Mariam yesterday.
“In September 2009 she has completed her compilation.
“She has printed it into two beautiful books entitled From Darkness to Light and Questions and Answers.
“During her visit to Sri Lanka, she printed the books and was due to come back to Bahrain on Saturday.
“She was sending some copies of the books through cargo and the owner of the cargo office, who happened to be linked with an extremist racist organisation called Helaurumaya, contacted the police claiming the book was offensive to Lord Buddha.”
Mariam claimed the group forced the police to detain her sister beyond the 24-hour limit before a case must be transferred to the courts.
“Sarah went home after taking three months holiday to finish a property issue, as my father died six years ago and no one was there to care for it,” she said.
“As we all are married and have families plus jobs, it was impossible to go back earlier and thought she would finalise the matter during her vacation.
“But we didn’t know she would be arrested for writing the book.”
A Discover Islam official said the arrest of Ms Perera was unfair and demanded Bahrain’s authorities take action to ensure her quick release.
“We want all the international authorities and human rights organisations to help sister Sarah,” they said.
Relatives say Ms Perera’s books were not abusive to Lord Buddha and merely explained the original teachings of Buddha according to the Buddhist scriptures.
They said she wrote it to explain why she chose to convert to Islam and it was an attempt to bring people of all faiths closer by recognising their similarities.
Ms Perera is being held in Mirihana Police Station, Colombo, while investigations continue. firstname.lastname@example.org
RIYADH Rizana Nafeek’s indigent family fell on hard times when civil war forced her father, a Sri Lankan woodcutter, to stop going to his traditional cutting forest. Salvation seemed to appear, however, when a local recruiter suggested that Nafeek, then 17, go to work as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia. The agent put a false birth date on her passport so officials would not see that she was underage. But now Nafeek faces a death sentence after being convicted of murdering a four-month-old infant put in her care by the Saudi family who hired her in 2005. Entering her fifth year in Saudi detention, Nafeek is appealing her sentence. She contends that she did not harm the child and has retracted the confession – written in Arabic, which she does not understand – on which her conviction was based. An Asian human-rights group assisting her appeal says the child’s death was a tragic accident that should not be compounded by executing Nafeek, which would violate international conventions, accepted by Riyadh, banning death sentences for crimes committed by juveniles.
Nafeek “is facing the death sentence for a mistake made while feeding a four-month-old baby which resulted in the death of the child, which sadly has been misunderstood as a crime,” the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission says in an online statement. Nafeek’s ordeal is extreme, but it highlights the perils faced by many women from her part of the world as they seek to escape dire poverty. Rights groups say they are exploited by human traffickers posing as legitimate employment agencies, thrust into a totally foreign language and culture, and work in an environment with few legal protections. Her story also raises the sensitive issue of how an estimated 1.5 million foreign domestic workers, mostly maids, are treated in Saudi Arabia. “While many … enjoy decent work conditions,” others endure “slavery-like conditions” that include “non-payment of salaries, forced confinement, food deprivation, excessive workload, and instances of severe psychological, physical, and sexual abuse,” said a report issued in 2008 by the New York-based Human Rights Watch. The report caused a furore in Saudi Arabia, where newspaper columnists and government officials rejected it as one-sided and exaggerated. Last year, the government-appointed Shura Council adopted regulations laying out fair treatment of domestic help. But there is no mechanism to enforce the regulations. About three-quarters of the 500,000 Sri Lankans working in Saudi Arabia are housemaids. This account of Nafeek’s story comes from Saudi newspapers, reports by human-rights organisations, interviews with Sri Lankan diplomats in Riyadh and others familiar with her case. In a 2008 interview, Abdul Mohammed Marleen, who was the Sri Lankan ambassador at the time, said Nafeek came from a “very poor family” in the mainly Muslim village of Muttur in eastern Sri Lanka. Her woodcutter father, Mr Marleen said, was thrown out of work when the Tamil Tiger insurgency took over the forest where he used to chop wood. “Knowing the pathetic situation of the family, a recruiting agency stepped in and said it would send Rizana to Saudi Arabia as a housemaid,” Mr Marleen said. It forged her passport to say she was 23 so as not to violate international anti-human trafficking laws and Saudi labour regulations, he added. In the kingdom, Nafeek was sent to a family in Dawadmi, about 400km west of Riyadh. Although she had no training in infant care, including bottle-feeding, she was asked to look after the family’s infant son. Soon after, he choked to death after being bottle-fed by Nafeek, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission. Kifaya Ifthikar, a Sri Lankan woman who regularly visits Nafeek, said she was told by Nafeek that she fed the baby, put him in his cot and went to the kitchen. “She didn’t know he was dead until the mother saw the baby and started screaming,” Ms Ifthikar related.
Nafeek had been with the family less than two weeks when the child died, Mr Marleen said, noting that within this short period “there could not be any motive for her to kill the child out of revenge or anger towards the employer”. Still, the parents accused Nafeek of strangling the child and called police. “In custody, she’s alleged to have confessed to the killing,” Mr Marleen said. “But her position is that she doesn’t know how to speak Arabic.” According to Saudi press reports, the police asked someone who claimed he spoke Nafeek’s native language of Tamil to translate during her interrogation, but that person is no longer in the kingdom. At trial, Nafeek did not have an attorney and her confession was the basis for her 2007 conviction and death sentence. Since then, the case has gone from a local court to an appeals courts and back. One appeals court affirmed the death sentence, but a higher appeals court instructed the Dawadmi court to take another look at the matter. The last hearing, held in December, adjourned without a new date for convening. The Asian Human Rights Commission, which has hired a Saudi lawyer, Kateb Fahad al Shammari, to handle Nafeek’s appeal, says in its online statement that after “careful consideration of all facts we are of the view that what has happened is an enormous tragedy but it can lead to … a further tragedy of an innocent inexperienced teenager being executed”. Nafeek was 17 at the time of the child’s death and the Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits execution for crimes committed when an offender is under 18. Although under Saudi law Nafeek could be released if the child’s parents pardon her, they have declined to do so. Bandar bin Mohammed al Aiban, the president of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission, a government-appointed body, declined to comment on Nafeek’s situation while it is on appeal in the courts. He added that the commission is monitoring the case. Ms Ifthikar, a Sri Lankan dental surgeon who lives in Riyadh, said she decided to regularly visit Nafeek after reading about her. “I felt I should do something as a human,” she said. Nafeek is held in a one-storey house that has been converted into a women’s detention centre, and that generally has between five and seven prisoners, Ms Ifthikar said. She added that Nafeek is being treated well by her Saudi jailers. “She’s being looked after 100 per cent properly,” Ms Ifthikar said. But, she added, “there should be some mercy and she should come out”.
Sri Lanka has been increasingly the scene of much ethnic violence. The Northern Muslims are the victims of the earliest large scale act of ethnic cleansing in our history. Close to 80,000 persons, constituting the entire Muslim population of the five Northern Districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi were summarily expelled from the province by the LTTE on one fateful day in October 1990 at a few hours notice. The details of the constraints imposed on the victims varied from location to location depending on the degree of brutality of the local LTTE leadership, but nowhere were those evicted able to sell, transfer or otherwise secure or dispose of their property or to take with them cash or other moveable possessions. The operation was carried out so quickly and with such ruthless efficiency that there was little or no resistance. The state failed to intervene. Sadly, the protests of the national leadership, Tamil and non-Tamil, and of the national and the international community were muted.
“The Law& Society Trust (LST) together with the Community Trust Fund (CTF), the People’s Secretariat (PS) and the Rural Development Foundation (RDF) has setup a Citizen’s Commission to investigate they expulsion of Muslims from the Northern Province by the LTTE in October 1990”. This initiative is a result of the untiring efforts of the Northern Muslim leadership and a few civil society activists coordinated by Dr. Farzana Haniffa. The Terms of Reference of the Commission, of which I am a Member, goes on to set out the objective as “to produce authoritative documentation of expulsion and its consequence”, including in its coverage “the history of the expulsion, the experience of two decades of displacement and expectations, and in some cases the experience of resettlement”.
The largest numbers of those victims were from Mannar district of which I had, much earlier, been Government Agent for 3 years (mid 1965-mid 1968) I have happy memories of close interaction with many families there, both Tamil and Muslim. Inter-ethnic relations in Mannar were a model to the rest of the island. I have visited the district many times in 70s and 80s, and each time I found that inter-ethnic relations continued to be good. There was nothing on the ground to explain why the Northern Muslims were selected by the LTTE for eviction. The distraught evicted persons who I visited in Colombo soon afterwards kept asking it of me and I had no answer. Clearly the reasons were rooted elsewhere. Did the LTTE pick on the Northern Muslims because they were the most vulnerable with no record of ever resisting Tamil leadership?
Immediately after my service in Mannar I served 3 years as GA Batticaloa (mid 1968 – early 1971) and, much later, 3 years as GA Jaffna, then including Kilinochchi (mid 1981- mid 1984). Batticaloa and Jaffna districts also had large Muslim population and there too inter-ethnic relations were very satisfactory. The diversity was salient, e. g. Kattankudy, the largest Muslims town in the island, has very distinctive cultural and economic features sustained over many decades. It was much later that Tamil Muslim conflict in the East was promoted by outsiders who used Muslim home guards, as well as by the LTTE who sought to secure the subjugation of the Muslim population through a series of massacres. Despite these disruptions, most of the Tamil and Muslim populations of the North and East have, by and large, continued to live together in peace. Whenever I go back I feel as comfortable and as welcome in Muslim towns and villages in the North and East as when I was the Government Agent there decades earlier.
All this does not mean that there is no difficulty in reversing ethnic cleansing after a lapse of 20 years. That reversal should have been effected long ago. After a community departs from a locality, their properties progressively degenerate. Further, over the years, others move in to fill the vacant spaces created in the educational, social, economic and political life of that locality. At the other end, the displaced populations get settled in to their new locations with new neighbours, new schools, new economic and social activities, etc. New relationships get established superseding, in due course the old. The younger generation may have no ties at all binding them to the earlier location. With every passing year, reversal of ethnic cleansing becomes more difficult. Without focussed intervention, very few may go back. The appointment of this Commission is very welcome, though long over due.
The task of reversing ethnic cleansing is difficult but necessary. As I see it, the main task of this Commission is to push for and facilitate the resettlement of displaced Muslims back in the locations from which they were evicted. The displaced population needs to be motivated and helped to return. The conditions, facilities and inducements must therefore be attractive and the obstacles to return must be minimized. Particular attention needs to be paid to promote acceptance of the return on the part of the local communities among whom the returnees will resettle.
It will help to place each particular displacement and the return of the displaced in as broad a context as possible. Every act of ethnic cleansing is unique, and so too the related circumstances. If the issue is seen as a zero sum game between the two communities immediately involved, mobilizing comprehensive support for reversal of ethnic cleansing may pose some difficulties. On the other hand if ethnic cleansing is viewed in a broad context as affecting those of all communities, Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, and that policies to counter and reverse ethnic cleansing will bring joint gains to all victims, it would be easier to secure comprehensive backing for such policies. A balance needs to be struck between highlighting the special features of each case and the common features of all ethnic cleansing. The principles on which the remedies to all acts of ethnic cleansing are based should be independent of the ethnicity of the perpetrators and of the victims.
To permit any act of ethnic cleansing to stand would amount to withholding justice from the victims, to rewarding the perpetrators, to encouraging such acts in the future and, above all, to perpetuating a national crime and humiliation. On the other hand, no family or individual can be compelled to return to an inhospitable environment. The focus therefore should be on promoting voluntary return. This requires designing and executing the programmes in close interaction with and the participation of both the displaced communities and local community into which they are to return. The remedies must be seen by all concerned as a step towards the restoration of the honour, not only of the victims and the perpetrators, but also of those who stood by and let the eviction occur. This Commission could play a lead role in spreading this message in relation to all acts of ethnic cleansing throughout our island.