Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Future of Mutur Muslims unpredictable

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( Moulavi Abdur Rahman is the head of Social Services Department of Sri Lanka Jama'ath e Islami, probably the largest Muslim Relief Organization in Sri Lanka. He spent a few minutes talking to this reporter about the life of the displaced people of Mutur, amidst his busy schedules managing the largest camp with more than 8,000 IDPs at Kantalai Peratruveli School)

Question: How many people have been displaced

Answer: The Muslim population of Mutur is around 40,000. About 95% of them have been displaced. About 30,000 now live in camps in Kantalai, Mullipatanai and Kinniya. After attacks in Thoppur yesterday the people from that town too have started to leave. Hence the total population of the IDPs is expected to reach 50,000

Q: This situation was long expected. Were relief organizations prepared to face this situation?

A: Unfortunately, to my knowledge, none of us were prepared with any contingency plans. During the last few days we had been keenly observing the situation. While Muslim political leaders were negotiating with defense officials to declare a ceasefire to provide relief supplies and medical care to the besieged population of Mutur, we were waiting in Kinniya with relief supplies to move as soon as we get clearance. But instead we received the message from civil society leaders in Mutur that they were preparing to leave and would reach Kantalai. We rushed to Kantalai and set up a relief camp at Peratruveli Muslim School with a medical clinic.

Since their arrival delayed we were worried and decided to go towards Thoppur with our ambulance and a fleet of trucks. The fleeing Mutur people had already arrived there. Our ambulance rushed the injured to hospital and we started to transport others by trucks to Kantalai. But we could not arrange enough vehicles to transport the fleeing.

Later many other organizations too arranged vehicles for transportation.

Q: What are the services being provided by your organization?

A: At the main camp initially we had a population of around 13,000 and now it has come down to 8,000 as people are being shifted to smaller camps. We also initially managed a camp at Ayish Vidhyalaya with around 2000 IDPs. Later on the request of another organization we handed over the camp in their charge. We also manage a camp At Mullipothana

Now we have set up another three camps in Kinniya in three different schools. Our ambulance and medical clinic work round the clock with around 10 doctors. We also conduct mobile medical services. Altogether we have treated around 6,000 patients to date.

Kinniya Medical Centre, a tsunami relief project of the Jamaath, is also fully geared to face this emergency.

But, the displaced have come almost empty handed. They are still under shock do not know how their future is going to be. No humanitarian organization can provide what they have lost. In camps they live in miserable conditions. Many of them sleep on the roads. They have no cloths to change.

Q: From where do you get volunteers and supplies

A: We have a large number of committed cadres. They gained a lot of experience in Tsunami relief operations. Some of our cadres have been trained at the Post Graduate Institute of Science at the University of Peradeniya in Disaster Management. We get supplies from our local branches and mosques. We also purchase required items using funds we receive from individuals and donor organizations overseas.

Q: How do you see the level of coordination?

A: Al Hamdulillah this time the level of coordination and cooperation among various Muslim organizations are better than previous occasions

Q: What are the other organizations in the field?

A: MFCD manages four camps. MCSL plays a commendable role in coordination and lobbying. Jamiyyathul Ulema has a role in supplies management. Muslim Aid and Ash Shabab are also active in the field. Al Kafala and Al muslimath provide logistical support to organizations in the field.

Q: What is the role of the government and INGOs

A: I think the beaurocracy deliberately moves slowly. But the role of Muslim politicians is far better than previous occasions. Many INGOs are also active in the field although non of them manage any remarkable camp. But still they are not fully involved. Probably they are waiting until the local organizations vanish from the scene unable stand for a long.

Q: How do you see the future of the Mutur Muslims?

A: It is very much unpredictable. Kantalai is a small town. It cannot bear such a large displaced population. Schools cannot be kept closed for long. If the situation didn't improve paving the way for the return of these people to their own homes, the state has to make arrangements to provide alternative accommodations and livelihood. The social cost of this tragedy may be tremendous.

Social Service Department
Sri Lanka Jama'ath e Islami
204/1, Dematagoda Road,
Colombo - 00900
Sri Lanka

Contact Nos:

Moulavi Abdur Rahman - Kantalai Coordinating Office - 0777 418 345
Farzan/Faiz - Head office - 0777 412 409
Haneez - head Office - 0777 - 412 151
Nijam - Kinniya -077 317 1724