Sunday, September 28, 2008


Muttur Massacre and the Izeth Hussain
The article, A new approach to the management of our foreign relations, by my former colleague and friend K. Godage (published in The Island of September 19 and also in the Lakbima News of September 21) had the following : "In this regard, I wish to refer to two particular incidents, both in Trincomalee, where our armed forces were NOT involved but as a result of the police not arresting the perpetrators who, according to the respected Jaffna University Teachers for Human Rights, were Muslim Home Guards (in the incident involving the French NGO) and a small group of armed men (NOT members of the regular Armed Forces) in the second incident where a group of students were killed, the good name of the brave men of our Armed Forces, to whom this country owes a deep debt of gratitude, has been tarnished."

In an earlier article (The Island of September 2) also Godage made the point that the French NGO aid workers were said to have been killed by Muslim homeguards, and he continued, "There has been deep hatred between the Muslims living in Muttur and the Tamils who were working for the French NGO and this is common knowledge in Muttur." In that connection he referred the reader to the "report of the respected UTHR of Jaffna." He proceeded to make the point that as a result of the stupid act of trying to cover up those two crimes the GSP+ facility might be lost and three hundred thousand jobs and a million livelihoods might be in jeopardy.

There have also been more than one article by Chris Lankathileke making the point about Muslim involvement in the Muttur massacre, and Rajiva Wijesinha also referred to it in an article. In the course of the weeks it has become apparent that the notion of Muslim responsibility for the Muttur massacre has become established as the unchallenged truth. As soon as the Wijesinha article appeared I made enquiries among Muslim friends and found that the unanimous reaction was one of stunned surprise that such a notion has gained currency. It had been widely assumed for many months that only one of the three persons who carried out the massacre was a Muslim home guard.

According to my contacts there certainly was ill-feeling among Muttur Muslims towards the aid workers of the French NGO Action Contre le Faim because of a perception that the latter were sympathetic to the LTTE. It may be that those aid workers believed that they had to reach compromises with the LTTE to function effectively in areas where there was a significant LTTE presence, and that was misunderstood by the Muslims. Or it may be that those aid workers were indeed overly sympathetic to the LTTE. However, all that does not mean that the Muslims actually carried out that massacre. To carry out a massacre on that scale, more particularly when it was obvious that the victims had powerful foreign backing, the perpetrators had to have a high degree of confidence that they could get away with it. It is impossible – or at least extremely difficult - to believe that members of the Muslim community, a marginalized group, could have had such confidence.

What has been most perplexing for myself and my Muslim friends is that we have not been able to unearth any UTHR report that casts responsibility for the massacre on the Muslims. Certainly over the years the UTHR has earned a high reputation for its responsible and scrupulously researched reports, on which a high degree of credibility can be placed. Consequently any UTHR report assigning Muslim responsibility for the massacre has to be taken very seriously indeed. But as far as we can gather, there has been no such report.

All that we have been able to unearth is UTHR Special Report No. 30 of 1st April this year, a detailed and lengthy report which I have read carefully. I will cite here no more than just a few details that are essential for the purposes of this article. It alleges that over the massacre there has been a "blatant cover up by the Sri Lankan authorities, their experts, Attorney General and diplomats overseas." It alleges that the killers included a Muslim Home Guard (Jehangir) and two police constables (Susantha and Nilanka), and that the massacre was carried out in the presence of the SL Naval Special Forces. According to the Report the evidence suggests that the killers had the prior approval of the ASP and the OIC (names given in the Report), but that it was highly unlikely that the latter made their decisions on their own, and that they may have received an instruction that the aid workers should be killed from their superiors in Trinco (a DIG and SSP whose names are also given in the Report). There is absolutely nothing in the Report that can be read as assigning exclusive Muslim responsibility for the massacre.

However, there may indeed be a UTHR report or some sort of a document assigning Muslim responsibility for the massacre. In that case there can be not the slightest doubt whatever about the Muslim reaction. There will be Muslim unanimity, not just a broad consensus, that the Government act forthwith to bring the killers to book, because the Islamic conception of Justice requires no less. Our Muslims will then hold that all that the Muttur massacre means is that the Muslims, like every other ethnic group in the world, can produce its quota of brutal murderers. In the alternative, that is if no punitive action is taken, it will be held that our Muslims are being treated with special indulgence by the Government, as a consequence of which our heroic armed forces are disgraced, Sri Lanka will be subjected to more bullying by human rights lobbyists, GSP+ will not be renewed, and the livelihood of a million Sri Lankans will be jeopardized. The Government’s responsibilities are quite clear.

But what if there is no such UTHR report or document and falsity about it has somehow been made to prevail, taking in people like Wijesinha, Lankathileke, Godage, and doubtless many others? It would mean that what might appropriately be regarded as a crypto-fascist racist gang has been at work to foment hatred against our Muslims. It was that kind of gang that ran riot under the 1977 Government, which was quite easy for them because J. R. Jayewardene was himself a fascist of the obnoxious Nazi kind. Fortunately, in 1994 democracy was restored, and we still have a vigorous democracy though it may be flawed in several ways. But the Government has to be wary over the possibility that crypto-fascist racists can try again to get the upper hand, destroying democracy in the process. I hope therefore that the President will take tough action over what looks like an attempt to foment anti-Muslim racist hatred.

courtesy: www

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