12/07/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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About 100,000 Muslim refugees victim of Tamil Tiger ethnic cleansing go home

by Melani Manel Perera
Refugees lived primarily in camps in Puttalam district. In 1990, Tamil Tigers expelled them en mass from the northern part of the island. A repatriation ceremony will take place on 26 December in the presence of President Rajapaksa.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – About 100,000 Muslim Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) will go home before the end of the year. For the past 20 years, they have lived in refugee camps in Puttalam District and neighbouring areas. Tamil Tigers had expelled them.

The repatriation of northern Muslim communities will begin on 26 December in a ceremony in the presence of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The announcement was made by Vanni Member of Parliament and Resettlement Minister Rishard Bathiyutheen who himself  lived for a while in the Puttalam refugee camp.

The war between Tamil Tigers and the army deeply marked the fate of the Muslim population from northern Sri Lanka. In 1990, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) forced Tamil-speaking Muslims to leave their homes in what constituted to an act of ethnic cleansing.

The first to leave were some 1,500 people from Chavakacheri, followed by more from Kilinochchi, Mannar and Jaffna. The latter were rounded up and held in Osmania College and force to leave the city in two days, taking only the clothes they had on their back and 50 rupees.

At least 10,000 families, or 75,000 people, were expelled from the northern region occupied by the Tamil Tigers.

Following the ceasefire between the LTTE and the government of February 2002, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress had made a proposal to Tamil rebels for the return of Muslim refugees from the northern part of the Island. An agreement was signed in April of that year but was never respected by the Tigers.

Over the years, Muslims from the Northern Province increased in numbers but were forced to live in refugee camps until now.

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