|Tuesday, 16 April 2002|
by Rodney Martinesz
SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem told the Daily News that his face to face meeting with LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was largely an exercise in confidence building to sustain negotiations on the protracted issues concerning the Muslims.
He decided not to take up the contentious issues but talks chiefly centred on the peace process which included the apprehensions and misgivings of the Muslims of the East, Hakeem said.
He said the LTTE leader approached the matter with a lot of magnanimity and showed willingness to respect the Muslim dimensions, a crucial factor that has to be considered.
The SLMC leader expressed his appreciation of the decision of the LTTE leader to welcome the Muslims who were evicted, back to their homes in the North and that the committees to facilitate this will be set up soon to speed up the process.
Meanwhile a joint communique issued by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress said:
The discussion that took place today (13.04.2002) between the LTTE and the SLMC was friendly and constructive.
At this meeting held at the Secretariat of the Political Headquarters of the LTTE at Kilinochchi which lasted 3 hours, the LTTE was represented by its leader Mr. Veluppillai Pirapaharan, Political ideologue Mr. Anton Balasingham, Head of Political Wing Mr. S. P. Thamil Chelvan, Commander for the Batticaloa-Ampara districts Col. Karuna, Commander for the Trincomalee district Col. Pathuman and Mrs. Adel Balasingham. The SLMC was represented by its National Leader Mr. Rauf Hakeem, Chairman Mr. Athaullah, Senior Deputy Leader Dr. Uthumalebbe, Deputy Leader Mr. Mohideen Abdul Cader, Secretary, Policy Propaganda Mr. Basheer Segu Dawood, Deputy Chairman Mr. Mashoor Noordeen and Additional Secretary Policy Propaganda Mr. Mashoor Mowlana.
Decisions were taken at this meeting to solve some serious problems currently faced by the Muslims living in the North/East. Mr. Pirapaharan invited the displaced Muslims of Jaffna and Vanni to return to their homes. It was decided to establish a Joint Committee consisting of representatives from the LTTE and SLMC to facilitate the return and resettlement of the refugees. It was also decided to similarly encourage the return to their villages of the displaced Muslims of the East by creating a conducive environment.
For years Muslims were unable to cultivate their agricultural land in the North/East. It was decided to facilitate the cultivation of all such lands by Muslims.
The LTTE also agreed to stop forthwith the practice of collecting funds from the Muslims of the East for the war effort.
In order to solve, through dialogue with senior commanders, the problems the Muslims face in the districts of the North/East and to strengthen mutual understanding between the Tamils and Muslims. It was decided to appoint representatives from the SLMC.
It was decided to continue the high level contacts between the parties.
It was also decided that the Muslims should be represented at the forthcoming peace talks between the Government and the LTTE and that such representation should be from the SLMC.
It was further agreed that the Muslims are a separate community with their own identity and the political, cultural and other rights of the Muslims, as a distinct community of the North/East must be safeguarded. It was decided to continue the discussions to protect the separate identity of the Muslims.
Recognising that the SLMC enjoys the support of the vast majority of the Muslim community it was decided that discussions with regard to the Muslims of the North/East should be conducted with the SLMC.
Produced by Lake House