Muslims and the Thamileelam Struggle

A Commentary

By K. Gunaseelan.

“Muslims should support the ongoing Peace Process brokered by Norway”
                                                                – Sri Lanka Muslim Congress


I read the comments made by Mr. Rauf Hakeem following the news item that the LTTE leader Mr. Velupillai Pirabakaran had invited the Muslim leaders to discussion regarding the grievances to the Muslims of the North and East. Mr. Hakeem, while acknowledging the good gesture of the LTTE leader, had commented that Pirabakaran has not named who those Muslim leaders are. He further added that if Pirabakaran were to invite some Muslims by propping them as Muslim leaders, merely to divide the Muslim community with a ‘divided-and-rule’ motive, then that would be regretful.

I like to comment on the second part of Minister Hakeem’s remarks.

He was a cabinet minister under the PA government since 1995 for one full term and a major part of the second term, when the PA government made a nobody Douglas Devananda into somebody and propped him up as a leader of the Tamils, when everyone including Minister Hakeem knew that the Tamil people supported the LTTE and its leader Pirabakaran as the sole representative of the Tamils. Mr. Hakeem cannot claim ignorance. Similarly Kadirgamar was also used as a ‘Tamil’ when he was/is a Tamil only in name. By this the PA government attempted to divide the Tamils. Mr. Hakeem was a cabinet Minister and he never ever commented on this deceitful maneuver to divide and rule the Tamils. As a cabinet Minister of the then Government, Mr. Hakeem should take collective responsibility on this insincere attempt to divide and rule the Tamils. And now he wants the very thing, which he and the government he belonged to did to the Tamils, not to be done to the Muslims by Mr. Pirabakaran!

I also quote from the comment by EelamNation [9 April 2002] on this subject: 

“It should be recalled that it was a Muslim Minister who implemented the notorious standardization policy, which effectively shut doors of higher education to the Tamil students”.

I too recall this. Mr. Baddiudin Mohamed was that Minister of Education. At the December 1969 Advanced Level examination, for the 1970 University admissions, there were more than 100 Tamils who got selected for 150 vacancies in the Engineering faculty. The Katubedha University didn’t exist then. The racist SLFP government had just been elected to power in 1970. Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the mother of the present president, was the prime minister and head of state. That government refused to accept the results. It ordered a re-correction of the answer papers of all 100 odd Tamil entrants to the Engineering Faculty. That did not bring any change as the marking was done strictly according to the Education Department rules.

The SLFP Government then came out with a bright new idea called ‘media-wise’ standardization for university admissions. This standardization policy of the then government inflicted severe blow to the Tamil community. It was this standardization for university admissions, may I recall, which caused the youth unrest in the Tamil community. It was the introduction of media-wise standardization that made the Tamils to realize, ‘enough is enough’ and something must be done to prevent the erosion and ultimate extinction of the Tamil community. The University admission policy was the final straw that broke the camel’s (Tamils) back. The media-wise standardization policy, made the Tamils to become united, and with the ensuing youth unrest, led to the birth of various liberation groups including the LTTE.

The LTTE was born a couple of years later in the mid-seventies, but the ‘fertilization’ of the LTTE ova took place on the day this discriminatory policy was introduced. Of course, by then there were many other problems of grave concern to the Tamils. Government sponsored Sinhalese colonization was one of the most significant and the Tamils politicians were totally helpless. All these culminated in the Vaddukoddai declaration to demand and fight for a separate state.

Muslim Minister Baddiudin Mohamed’s Role

It was the 1970 University standardization, which ultimately woke up the Tamils to the reality of the danger they were facing. It was the Muslim Minister Baddiudin Mohamed who did this to the Tamils. Or we could say the racist SLFP Government, which had caused many hardships to the Tamils once again put the Tamils into further misery, using this Muslim.

May I further recall that, in addition to the standardization, a district quota system for university admissions was brought in from 1974. Education Minister Baddiudin Mohamed labeled the Muslim community as an underprivileged community and gave additional privileges to the Muslim students to get University admissions. It was made possible then for Muslim advanced level candidates who had satisfied the minimum qualifications, if their marks could satisfy entrance from any district irrespective of his/her district of education, to enter the university through a ‘host’ district. To explain more clearly, a Muslim candidate who received his/her education in Colombo (e.g.: Royal College) if his/her marks did not satisfy admission from the Colombo district, but could satisfy admission from a remote district (e.g.: Mahiyangana) then the Muslim can be considered to be from Mahiyangana and gain admission as a candidate from the Mahiyangana district! I personally know a Muslim, educated from the lower classes right up to the Advanced level in a leading school in Colombo, who obtained a mere 4 simple passes (4s) at the 1973 A- level examination, and was not even called to apply to any of the university courses (‘first call’), and following this new rule for the Muslims, which was hurriedly introduced in the middle of the selection procedure, all of a sudden just before the final selections were made, an application form was hastily sent and thereafter he gained admission to the Medical faculty! This is no secret to the students and parents of that period. Thankfully such privileges don’t exist any more.

Pirabhakaran’s Apology

Velupillai Pirabakaran has apologized to the Muslims on behalf of the LTTE for their action in chasing out the Muslims from Jaffna. All Tamils know why this happened. It is an open secret that the government was using the Muslims, as they always do to weaken the Tamils. They were used as spies in the very heartland of the Tamils to thwart the freedom struggle of the Tamils. That caused grave concern and frustration to the LTTE including the Tamil civilians. Information was passed on to the Sri Lankan security forces from some Muslims living in Jaffna and the Tamil Liberation movement suffered many setbacks. This led to what is now history. It is indeed unfortunate that this was done to the Muslim community as a whole, but Tamils know why. Regrettably many Muslims who had nothing to do with such unfaithful acts also had to suffer for the fault of a few. The LTTE couldn’t wait till they could prove who the saboteurs were ‘beyond reasonable doubts’; if they did, a likely event would have been – no more LTTE.

If I may recollect, please correct if I am wrong. Subject to correction, the Tamils at the start of their struggle in the 1970’s were keen to include the Muslims of the North and East too as ‘Tamil speaking people’, and it was the then Muslim leaders who rejected it, saying that they have a separate identity and even though they speak Tamil they are not Tamils. They refused to be a party to the liberation struggle of the Tamil-speaking people. Please correct me if I am wrong since I am depending purely on my memory. Now all of a sudden, when they realize that the Tamils may see light at the end of the tunnel, the Muslim leaders are attempting to include themselves too as Tamils speaking people, to claim their share of the cake that they once opposed claiming a separate identity.

I don’t think the Muslims contributed in any big way to the Tamil struggle. It is, however, undeniable that the Muslim also suffered immensely in the conflict, but only because they were living in the conflict zone. The government was conveniently using the Muslims to do their dirty work. So naturally they were in the ‘firing line’. But they did not suffer directly as a result of contributing to the liberation of the Tamil speaking people. They suffered opposing and obstructing the aspirations of the Tamils. Now they want Pirabakaran to solve their problems too! They did not help to bake the cake but now they are demanding a share of the cake to eat.

Jinnah Method

I hope the Jinnah method will not happen again. Jinnah got Pakistan from the flesh and blood of the great Mahatma Gandhi. Jinnah did not fight for Pakistan. There was no demand for a Muslim state until the last moment and only on the eve of victory, with his threat to sabotage the freedom of India, by his clever ‘below the belt’ act, he got Pakistan. He kept totally mum until the last moment, and then he said, “What have the Muslims to gain from the Freedom of India? The only thing that has happened as far as the Muslims are concerned is that the masters have only changed from that of the British to that of the Hindus”.

I have nothing against the Muslims. I feel the Muslims should not be left out in the peace process, otherwise true peace will be elusive. Tamil leaders must be magnanimous; otherwise the Tamil leaders will be no different to that of the past Muslim leaders. We don’t need any apologies from the Muslim leaders. However the Muslim leaders must realize how unfair they were when the Tamils were treated badly and discriminated by the successive Sri Lankan Governments; especially when those Muslim leaders were taking full advantage of the situation.

The Tamils, however, should forget the past mistakes committed by the Muslim leaders and should embrace with open arms calling the Muslims too to participate in finding an amicable solution to all living in the North and East.

Courtesy: Circle Digest 
(Thursday, April 11 2002; Volume 2001;Number 2732).


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