Big NGOs gone missing during Sri Lanka's crisis
Munza Mushtaq in Colombo,
August 16, 2006, 9.40 p.m..
A week has passed and not a single officer attached to the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has gone to Muttur to
verify the actual fate of the estimated 100 to 200 Muslims who were
reportedly slayed by the LTTE for their alleged links to an Islamic
organization named Jihad, a newspaper report in the Sunday Standard
(www.standardnewspaperslk.com) newspaper said.
Senior Muslim Minister A.H.M. Fowzie who had just returned to Colombo
from Kantale told the Sunday Standard that he was absolutely mystified
as to why none of these 'big-time INGOs' had not visited the crisis
"I don't understand why they haven't gone. Even Minister Mahinda
Samarasinghe in the presence of President Mahinda Rajapakse phoned the
ICRC head in Sri Lanka and assured security protection to all ICRC
staff who go to Muttur courtesy the Army, but they still haven't'
gone," the minister said.
He further noted that although no official number was available it was
estimated that at least 100 Muslims were massacred by the LTTE, and
the bodies may still be strewn across the onetime battle areas.
Meanwhile, the government's main Muslim ally's deputy leader Abul
Kalam has slammed non Muslim political parties, international
non-governmental organizations, and other 'big time' groups for
differentiating between the hardships faced by the Muslim civilians
and failing to issue even a statement expressing concern on the plight
of their community.
Mr. Kalam, representing the National Unity Alliance (NUA) noted that
it was shocking to note that the majority of these parties and INGOs
had come out and expressed their condemnation and shock over the
slaying of the 17 aid workers attached to the non-governmental
organization Action Against Hunger, while not a single of these
organizations had made any statements with regard to the situation
faced by the Muslims in the East, where an estimated 100 reportedly
been killed and some 35,000 are displaced.
"Not a single Tamil party or any other democratic party has openly
condemned the situation which has befallen the Muslims. Why is
everyone communalizing this, Why isn't anyone looking at this problem
from a 'national issue' perspective ?" the NUA deputy leader queried.
He also noted that reaching out to the Islamic international community
in hope of solace for the Sri Lankan Muslims would be an utter myth,
when taking into consideration that this same Islamic international
community has failed to open its eyes and react in the most ethical
manner with regard to the Lebanon crisis.
"The Muslims who have been victims due to the battle between security
forces and LTTE are frustrated even in the manner the international
community, including the co-chairs and the European Union and even the
United Nations has reacted to their plight. Everyone seems to be only
interested in the 17 dead aid workers. There is absolutely no mention
about the plight of the Muslims, which includes the killing of more
than 30 and an estimated 100 still missing," Mr. Kalaam stressed.
Meanwhile, social service workers currently based in Kantale demanded
to know where all these 'so called big organizations and their
representatives' are. "Not a single authoritative officer representing
INGOs in the capacity of the International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC), a plethora of bodies coming under the United Nations have
visited these camps. It is only smalltime NGOs such as Muslim Aid,
United Methodist Committee on Relief, Jamiatul Ulama, Muslim
Foundation for Culture and Development and Jama'at-e Islami who are
active in these crisis areas," sources said.
The sources also pointed out that it was 'absolutely appalling' to
witness these so-called INGOs who claim to be working for the people
peacefully traveling in their plush four-wheel drives and holidaying
in expensive resorts, while civilians who are in need of their
assistance are languishing.
Reports reaching the Sunday Standard disclosed that the sufferings of
these IDPs are much worse than the victims of even the 2004 December
26 tsunami. Sources claimed that the situation was so bad that
although many days have passed since they came to Kantale, most of
them are still 'utterly confused'.
Citing reasons for their claim, sources pointed out that most of the
camps housing these civilians were overflowing and was so bad that in
many instances people were sleeping on top of each other.
"A small school in Parathweli in Kantale which taught some 1000
students is now overflowing with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
numbering a whopping 10,000 to 12,000 civilians. Kantale simply cannot
cope with this sudden requirement, while lodging spaces and even basic
facilities needed for these displaced persons are grossly inadequate,"
They also stressed that in comparison with the tsunami victims, they
always had the possibility of going back to their homes after the
catastrophe ended, and most of them were relocated in close proximity
to their original homes unlike in the case of these nearly 50,000
displaced, who have been temporarily sheltered some 50 kilometres away
from their homes.
"The most important factor was that the tsunami victims had absolutely
no security threat unlike what has befallen these Muttur IDPs,"
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Published: Wed Aug 16 12:13:32 EDT 2006