Sunday, 20 March 2011

WILL IMAM BE AN “IMAM” TO THE JAFFNA MUSLIMS?

S.M.M.BAZEER

“I give you the end of golden string;
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
Built in Jerusalem’s wall ”.
- William Blake (Jerusalem 1820)


Photo: Jaffna Refugees in Puttalam February 2008

TNA’S FIRST MUSLIM MP: IMAAM
The recent appointment of R.M. Imam as a MP to parliament by the TNA was hailed as a great honour to the Muslims of Jaffna when they had not cast a single vote to the TNA. This sentiment was shared not only by Imam himself but also by Prof. Balasundarampillai, the former Vice Chancellor of Jaffna University. To add to all this, the General Secretary of the SLMC also welcomed it as an “act of reconciliation by the LTTE, who evicted the Muslims from Jaffna in 1990”. Hassan Ali, also went onto say that the LTTE repeatedly expressed their repentance about their actions. In recent months, the political understanding between the TNA and the SLMC has confounded the Sri Lankan Muslims, especially in the North and East. The TNA, when it was TULF had failed to condemn the LTTE’s atrocities against the Muslims in the North and East. It is on record that the TULF and all other Tamil parties except EPDP failed to condemn the LTTE for the Kattankudy massacre when they were convened in Ashroff’s house in Colombo in August 1990.

The TNA (formerly known as TULF) were in a difficult situation with regards to filling Elaventhan’s MP position. According to their list, Imam would be the successor and the failure to appoint him would cause much embarrassment for the TNA. The TNA has closely watched Imam and assessed him to be a person of unassuming character with invariable allegiance to the party. The situation in the East was alarming and the TNA had to put their record straight that they are a party representing the “Tamil speaking” people in practice. The Northern Muslims in refugee camps in Puttalam held a protest against the appointment of R.M. Imam as TNA Muslim MP and also some 6000 Muslims participated in the protest and alleged that Imam had never visited them for the last 17 years.

During the last general election (2004) TNA approached S.A.C. Mubeen, (Former Organizer of the Displaced Northern Muslim) to contest in their party but Mubeen refused the offer. However, many others including Mubeen recommended Imam, thus he became a TNA candidate for Jaffna Muslims. Imam has family roots from A.C.Abdul Cader Advocate who stood firm in defending the right to wear a fez cap (known as Thurukki Thoppi in Tamil) in courts during the British Raj. Although Mr. A.C.Abdul Cader came from Jaffna, he married and lived in Kattankudy.

It has always been alleged that the SLMC were inconsiderate in prioritizing the Eastern Muslims over the Northern refugees. It is said that the leader of the SLMC, Hakeem had promised Sufiyan Moulavi, during the last general election that an arrangement would be made to share the position of national list MP with Baiz of Puttalam. This was not the case, when Baiz was appointed as a national list MP, for Puttalam where the Jaffna Refugees are sheltered. The Jaffna Muslims had been politically active before they were expelled by the LTTE. Jaffna Mayoral position was once held by Sultan in 1955, with the backing of Communist Karthigesu. Some decades later, M.G. Basheer held a position of Deputy Mayor and Mr. Imam himself was also a member of the Jaffna Municipal council. The Jaffna business community and the middle class had relocated to Colombo and other places whilst the poor had no option but to languish in Puttalam Refugee Camps. The Jaffna Refugees in Puttalam live in penury, in comparison to the Refugees who were displaced from the other parts of the Northern Province. Anyone visiting the Northern Refugees in Puttalam could see that they have been left politically voiceless and have been marginalized by the politicians of the District. In this backdrop Imam has been appointed to be their political representative. It seems imperative that the Muslims of Jaffna need their own man to look after them.

The SLMC bagged the Jaffna Muslim votes, with the promise to appoint their own man Sufiyan Moulavi but then failed to do so.

Ironically, the new TNA MP is a Muslim with a name of Imam yet has nothing to do with the religious meaning of Imam.

In Islam, the word “Imam” is used to describe a person who leads the prayer at the mosque; a community leader who is capable of answering theological queries.

However he has taken a pledge to work for the resettlement of the expelled Jaffna Muslims. The question is whether Imam will be able to lead his people back to their “Home Land” or will serve the purpose of his masters. The records show that Imam could not secure the release of 35 Jaffna Muslim youths who were detained by the LTTE when he made a request to the LTTE in 1990.

FATE OF 35 MUSLIM YOUTHS DETAINED BY THE LTTE IN JAFFNA
A joint statement was issued by Jaffna Muslim Dignitaries in September 1996 and the statement was published in the national Tamil newspaper “Veerakesary” on the 9th of June 1996 and Mr. Imam was one of the five signatories of the statement. The LTTE did not respond to their humble request, nor did any Tamil civil society organizations in Jaffna express their solidarity with the Jaffna Muslims. The civil organizations in Jaffna were not brave enough to challenge the LTTE’s mono-ethnic nationalist policies or their denial of multi-party democracy.

“Lived jointly but not severally” (“Otti Vazhlthoom Vetti Vazhavillai” )
“What we humbly ask the Tigers on behalf of the Jaffna Muslims who have not committed any mistakes is that you release the 35 Muslims youths who are in your custody. Some parents have died because of the pining of the loss of their children. Those parents, wives and children who live apart in the huts as refugees would be pleased by their arrivals” The statement ended with “Our homeland is also the North.”

A few months later in October 1996, Amnesty International met the parents and families of the Muslim youths who were in the LTTE custody and campaigned for access and or release of the detainees. Once again, this appeal fell on deaf ears.

“Amnesty International is deeply concerned for the safety of 32
Muslims who were taken into custody by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) in Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya Districts between 1989
and 1991. The LTTE has provided no information about where they are
holding them or about their state of health. It is not known whether
the 32 Muslims are still alive or not. Amnesty International has
repeatedly called upon the LTTE to reveal their whereabouts and state
of health and to allow them immediate access to their relatives, a
doctor and members of the International Committee of the Red Cross

III. Details of the 32 Muslims
Below are the names, ages at the time of detention, and other details
concerning the 32 Muslims:

1. Naina Mohamed Roshan, 21, detained on February 3, 1990 in Jaffna
District.
2. Kamal Ajmayeen, 25, detained on May 28, 1991 in Vavuniya District.
3. Sameen Niyas, 18, detained at 9:00 P.M. on July 2, 1990 in Jaffna
District.
4. Abdul Wahab Ajward, 24, a tailor, detained on August 3, 1990 in
Jaffna District.
5. Abdul Gafoor Nakeeb, 28, a porter, detained near Thandikulam
checkpoint, Vavuniya District on May 28, 1991.
6. Jamaldeen Farook, 26, detained on May 28, 1990 in Vavuniya
District.
7. Abdul Majeed Jaleese, 32, a businessman, detained on September 25,
1990 near Muslim College Road Mosque, Jaffna.
8. Mohideen Abdul Cader, 39, detained on February 17, 1990 in
Vavuniya District.
9. Abdul Jabbar Subair, 39, a porter, detained on May 28, 1991 in
Vavuniya District.
10. Mohideen Thamby Sabarullah, 43, a porter, detained on May 28,
1991 in Vavuniya District.
11. Hamza Nawaz, 17, a tailor, detained on July 20, 1990 while on his
way home in Chavakachcheri, Jaffna District.
12. Ismail Rameeze, 22, detained on January 1, 1990 in Jaffna
District.
13. Badurudheen Siraj, 16, detained on July 1, 1990 in Jaffna
District.
14. Badurudheen Jaleel, 25, detained on July 1, 1990 in Jaffna
District.
15. Abdul Jabbar Firooze, 20, a textile merchant, detained on
February 17, 1990 opposite his house in Jaffna while returning from
the mosque.
16. Abdul Latheef Mohamed Rameez, 20, a labourer and fisherman,
detained on January 26, 1990 at the Velanai LTTE camp, Mankumban,
Jaffna District.
17. Abdul Majeed Najeeb, 36, a porter, detained on May 28, 1991 in
Vavuniya District.
18. Abdul Latheef Rajab, 19, a van assistant, detained on September
21, 1990 in Mankumban, Jaffna District.
19. Seeni Aliyar Inudeen, 27, detained on October 25, 1991 in
Karaiyoor, Jaffna District.
20. Seeni Aliyar Raleezkhan, 19, detained on January 27, 1990 in
Jaffna District.
21. Shahul Hameed Thanzil, 42, detained on April 20, 1991 in Vavuniya
District.
22. Abdul Raheem Jabreen, 24, detained on February 15, 1990 in
Mankumban, Jaffna District.
23. Neeran Mohideen Najeeb, 26, detained on December 10, 1989 in
Jaffna District.
24. Badurusaman Ramzeen, 23, a student, detained on March 10, 1989 in
Mullaitivu town, Mullaitivu District.
25. Jamal Mohamed Rafeek, 21, detained on February 24, 1991 in
Chunnakam, Jaffna District.
26. Abdul Jabbar Sunthoos, 24, detained on July 19, 1990 in Jaffna
District.
27. Ashankany Mohamed Nilan, 19, detained on July 19, 1990 in Jaffna
District.
28. Mohamed Hamza, 68, detained on July 25, 1990 in Jaffna District.
29. Seinulabdeen Firudouse, 43, detained on January 24, 1990 in
Mullaitivu District.
30. Vabusa Mohamed Farook, 52, detained on October 25, 1990 in
Mullaitivu District.
31. Cader Mohideen Subair, 26, detained on October 8, 1989 in
Mankulam, Vavuniya District.
32. Shareefdeen Baseer, 20, detained on May 28, 1991 in Vavuniya
District.

(AI Appeal date: Oct. 23, 1996)

This did not end there, another group of Jaffna Muslims also made a joint resolution in July 1997 to go on a fact finding mission to Jaffna to evaluate the ground situation whether they could resettle there. They categorically indicated that they would like to meet the LTTE leaders in order to clarify their position that the LTTE had made a mistake in believing that the Jaffna Muslims had accepted the eastern leadership. A decade later the eastern Tamil people have decided to have their own leaders. As time went by, those who demanded the release of the detainees have forgotten them and the Jaffna Muslim refugees in Puttalam have also lost their zeal to return to their “Home Land”.

IMAM AND PRABAKARAN
Imam was reported to have met Prabakaran recently in Wanni during the funeral of the slain MP. Sivanesan, and Prabakaran had told him that his entry to Parliament would “Strengthen Unity” between Tamils and Muslims (According to Iqbal Athas, Sunday Times Defense correspondent: 16/03/2008). Imam had the opportunity to ask Prabakaran about the Muslim youths who were taken by him in 1990 but may have been awed by his presence and forgotten all his requests. It was like the meeting of mythical characters, Kuselar with Lord Krishna (One of the Hindu deities). Kuselar who lived in poverty had visited Krishna to get his boon but having met with Krishna he was ashamed to ask him for help. However Lord Krishna knew about the purpose of Kuselar’s visit and made him rich. (The writer does not attempt to elevate the character of Prabakaran by this anecdote.)

In 1960’s and late early 1970’s some of the Eastern Muslim Federal party MP’s crossed over to the ruling parties and Tamil Politicians reacted racially and labeled them as “Thoppi Protties” (those who turn caps) in reference to their religious identity. By the appointment of Imam as a MP, the TNA appears to have concluded that he would not be another “Thoppi Protti” although his ancestors fought for the right to wear a cap in Courts.
16/05/2009
Thanks::thenee, lanka guardian,Vzilippu,Lankamuslims

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