A hidden hand behind Akkaraipattu incidents
By: D. Sivaram (Taraki)
There is a simple formula today for bringing down the UNF government by manipulating Muslim politics. One can precipitate a crisis in the east by instigating Muslims to protest against the LTTE. Then build on the crisis to make it difficult for the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress to remain in the UNF. Or, prod the SLMC or sections of it to make demands that the LTTE and the UNF cannot meet at this juncture.
The incidents that led to the Police clamping a local curfew in the Akkaraipattu Addalaichenai towns on the southeastern coast should also be scrutinised in this light. The problem began with the abduction of Wajid. On Tuesday morning Abdul Wajid and his friend Mohammed Rameez were walking from the Akkaraipattu post office when armed persons who had come in a vehicle without number plates stopped the two youth and asked Wajid whether he was S. M Azmeer, the local EPDP organiser.
They did not accept Wajids explanation he was not the man they were looking for but his younger brother. The armed men had slapped Wajid and had hauled him into the van and sped off from the spot.
Moments later, S. M Azmeer and his colleagues spread the story in the town that the LTTE had abducted Wajid. In the afternoon, EPDP cadres and Banda, the personal driver of SLMC MP, A. L. M Athaullah, called a Hartal against the LTTE.
Later in the evening, group of local hoodlums led by Banda and a local henchman of Athaullah called Sameem, burnt tires and threatened Tamils living close to Muslims neighbourhoods in Akkaraipattu town.
Three days before the abduction of Wajid, a group of about ten EPDP cadres had arrived in Akkaraipattu. Azmeer was seen going about in the town with some of them. According to local Police sources, the EPDP group had had discussions at Athaullahs residence the night before the abduction. On Wednesday morning it was clear that the group led by Athaullahs driver and Sameem were bent on exacerbating the situation further. They made an attempt to abduct a Tamil youth at the Akkaraipattu junction, near the Tamil Muslims border of the town. The youth escaped but his motorbike was damaged by the thugs.
The Police imposed curfew was observed only in the Tamil neighbourhoods of Akkaraipattu that day. The Banda, Sameem group was out at the junction, defying the curfew and burning tires.
The local Police just stood by, taking no action to prevent the activities of the hoodlums led by Banda and Sameem.
The group was trying hard to provoke some reaction in the Tamil quarter, to make it an excuse to trigger a major conflagration in Akkaraipattu, said an LTTE official there.Hearing of the developing crisis, the sole Tamil MP for the Amparai District, Ariyanayagam Chandra Nehru called senior Police officers and urged them to send more non-Muslim Policemen to the area to enforce the curfew and to restore law and order.
The situation was reminiscent of what the Police had done in Valaichenai in June, when mobs were setting fire to shops in the Tamil quarter of that town. Tamil MPs in Batticaloa even on Thursday to explore means of handling the situation and to consider the activities of the Banda-Sameem group and its links to the EPDP.
Many question arise over the incidents in Akkaraipattu this week.
Why did EPDP cadres arrive in the town three days before the abduction? Why did the EPDP allegedly meet up at Athaullahs residence on Monday night?
Why did Athaullah allow his driver and supporters to defy curfew, set tires on fire and threaten Tamils living near the Muslim border in the town?
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the EPDP were at loggerheads in the past over the latters recruitment of Muslim youth in Kalmunai, Akkaraipattu and Pottuvil. The SLMC took serious exception to the EPDPs efforts since 1994 to establish its own network among the Muslims of the southeastern coast. It raised strong objections at the highest levels in the PA at the time.
As a consequence of this, the few EPDP organisers in the Muslim towns of the region became dormant. The EPDPs Muslim network in the region became totally defunct after the group was routed in the general elections of December 5, 2001.
Therefore, it was indeed a surprise when Azmeer was reactivated suddenly, just days before the abduction of his brother Wajid. It was also curious that the SLMC in Akkaraipattu (read Athaullahs supporters) should have suddenly cosied up to the EPDP at this particular juncture.
Here we have to take into consideration the fact that the main challenge and threat to the SLMC leadership today is from a powerful faction of the party led by Athaullah. The more vociferous members of the group are very staunchly opposed to Hakeems memorandum with the LTTE. They argue that the Muslims should have no truck with the Tigers. The group has also publicly expressed the view that the SLMC leadership should be in the hands of Amparai Muslims.
Hakeems supporters in the east say that the dissidents are using this as an excuse to strike a deal with the PA.Nine members of the SLMC, led by Athaullah boycotted Parliament recently demanding that the Muslims should have an autonomous region in the southeast, comprising the electorates of Pottuvil, Kalmunai and Sammanthurai. A temporary settlement has been apparently reached now and the MPs have indicated they may return to parliament.The SLMCs late leader M. H. M Ashraff dropped the demand for a Southeastern Muslim autonomous council in 2000 when he established the National Unity Alliance. The nine MPs who are now demanding the council fully backed Ashraffs decision to drop the demand for the Southeastern council for Muslims. Not a word was mentioned about the matter when the SLMC leader met Prabhaharan or when he took part in the Thailand talks.
There is nothing wrong in the demand for a separate council for the Muslims. But why was the idea suddenly pulled out of the SLMCs political wardrobe, dusted and displayed to bring pressure on the UNF? Why so at this conjuncture? Why did the PA rush to express support for the southeastern council?
When one considers all these questions in the light of the numbers game in parliament and the strategies of the PA to recapture power as the one year mark for dissolving parliament by the President draws close, the answers seem obvious.
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