Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Riyaz Rookaiya (3 1/2) and Fathima Hasan Zahani (2 1/2) play in the welfare centre

Civilians caught in the cross fire

The total population of Muthur before displacement was 63,690 persons (47,272 families). Out of these Muslims were 52.5% (35,319 families) , Tamil were 47.3% (28,199), and Sinhalese were 1.7% (172 families) . Men were 31,383, and women were 32,307 according the Muthur divisional secretariat based on the survey carried out in December 2005.There are 96 villages in Muthur divisional secretariat area.

So far 50,259 Muthur civilians have been registered as displaced. The total Internally Displaced People as at 9 am on August 8 th 2006 in camps were 41,270 persons (Trincomalee Town 6 camps- 2828 persons, Kantale 8 camps- 19,880 persons, Seruwila 16 camps -10,292 persons, Kinniya 6 camps- 1678 persons, Thampalagamam 9 camps- 6592 people and one camp in Negombo-153 persons.) The people left to other districts such as Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Colombo as well.

There are 33 families (153 persons) arrived in Negombo from Kantale on August 8th 2006 at 2am. They are staying at Al-Hilal Central College in Periaymullai, Negombo. There are 73 men, and 80 women staying here. The people will be relocated in Kamachoda Jumma Mosque compound tomorrow, in order to hand over the Al-Hilal Central College buildings back to start classes.

They were not displaced outside Muthur during the height of war in 1990s. This is the first time that, they are displaced to a longer distance.

The following information is gathered from various witnesses among the Internally Displaced People from Muthur.

“They were told to leave Muthur immediately by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The people of Muthur sought refuge in schools and mosques, which came under attack of the Sri Lankan forces. People started to move again from place to place. The LTTE diverted the fleeing Muslims from the main road (A15) to their controlled area which had a check point established with many cardres on the spot.

The men were separated by the LTTE from women, and told the women and children to move on. But many women refused to leave , until the men are freed. Some men were released, the rest is still missing. They were taken 200 hundred yards away from the rest of the crowd. Their hands were tied at back. The loved ones of those who are still missing do not know what has happened to them so far.

At the same time the Sri Lankan forces continued to fire multi-barrel launchers, which led the fleeing families to run in different directions. No one knows exactly whether they would have been killed by LTTE or Sri Lanka military attack.

Most people of Muthur have left their homes without another set of clothes for change. They starved for 48 hours. They walked a long way on barefoot in hot sun. They drank muddy water. Most could not cope with the heat and fainted. The feeble could not be accompanied longer. The sick died on the way. They could not carry the dead bodies along with them to carry out the religious rites. The dead bodies of loved ones left alone on the roads. The living family members feel that, they are deprived of their duties.

They could not take the injured for treatment. Some lost their valuables such as cash and jewelleries. They said prayers while walking, and pleaded for help. People cried out of fear.The people including the children witnessed the horrors of war. The children are traumatized.

Parents say that, they are not eating properly, and not having a deep sleep. The children panic for any noise, thinking shells and bombs. Their education is discontinued due to displacement.”
The people want peace, and live in harmony. They recollect the peaceful days in 2002,2003 soon after the Ceasefire was implemented. Now they want an assurance from both parties for them to go back to their own place, and start their lives again. The most of the people shed tears, while exchanging their experiences. It is a new different environment for them to adopt and adjust. But they have no better choice.

�I was living with my daughter,son in law and grand daughter, who is just fifteen day old.We were asked to leave Muthur by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.We had no choice,except to safe guard our lives.Sri Lankan forces have started to shell before we went to a safer place.I crawled under a bed with my just born grand daughter.She got injured on her spine.There was no treatment.We starved for three days without a dip of water.There was not even dirty water available to drink.Later we managed to move to 65th milepost.We walked with barefoot for fifteen kilometers.We got some food from the residents.We shared the food with others after three days.Then we walked to Thoppur.We walked the whole Friday.We pleaded for help,and got into tractors to get to Kantale.My daughter and grand daughter were killed in 2004 Tsunami.I am afraid to return to Muthur� says Ibrahim Faleela Umma (55) from Thakkuanagar in Muthur

�I am married and having one year old daughter. We have witnessed a lot of unwanted things,while displacing from Muthur.I am living in a room, while my wife and daughter are living in another room in the welfare camp.There is no family life.I do not know how long we are going to live like this� says a small scale businessman Seeni Mohamed Yusuf (25) of Akkaraichchenai in Muthur

A child on �Eanai�, which is used as baby cots to put the babies to sleep. Saree is used to make �Eanai�

�My son is three month old.I lost my house and properties in the recent violence in Muthur. I have nothing left. There are more people like me from Muthur.I walked a long unforgettable journey in my life with my child without food and water for more than forty eight hours.I can�t face the same situation again in my life� says Anwar Muzammila (30) of Habeebnagar in Muthur

�We were told to go to schools mosques to seek shelter.But the Sri Lankan forces started shelling those places, where we sought refuge.No place was safe.We were trapped in between fighting by both parties.We are Innocent civilians,who want lead a normal life.I walked for twenty kilometers in hot sun.I had neither food nor water for two days.I was about to faint.Then somebody provided little water,and washed my face.I have already lost my wife and six year old daughter in Boxing day Tsunami.I lost my house as well.I have restarted my life after Tsunami.I have to live to take care of my six children, who are not yet married and living with me.Almighty Allah has to find a way for me to get rid of this agony� says a small scale businessman, Kathar Mohideen Naina Mohamed (62) (tears in his eyes while talking) of Thakkuanagar in Muthur

Internally Displaced People say that,they are afraid as to how long they have to stay in the welfare camps, as length less violence continues

�We want an assurance from the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for our lives and properties.We are not engaged in fighting.Also we not involved in politics.But why are we targeted? This is not acceptable at all� says Sultan Naazeer (35) of Thakkuanagar in Muthur

�We have suffered a lot, since we left our homes in Muthur. Students have no eduction due to displacement.The year five scholarship exam has been postponed in Trincomalee district due to current situation. We are not against any community.we want to live in harmony with other communities in the area� says a school master Abdul Salam Abdul Subuhan (49) of Muthur town

The space has to be shared, as more internally displaced people like to come to Negombo for health and safety reasons

�I had a small boutique shop. I earned Rupees 300/= as an average daily income. I have neither money nor space to start a small shop now.There are five members in my family. I have a son and a daughter. Apart from my own children, I am looking after my niece, whose mother was killed in Tsunami. She is just two year old. My mother was killed in 2004 Tsunami.I have not got a house yet.I was living thirty meters away from the sea, before leaving my village on Friday. We were relocated in between the sea and river after Tsunami� says A.L.Gafoor Rajisa (30) of Thakkuanagar in Muthur

�I do not know who is alive and who is not alive in my family.Because all are scatted everywhere.There is no way to make contacts with our loved ones. I left Muthur with my wife and four young children with the dress which we wore� says a labourer A.L.Jasheen (39) of Periya Palam in Muthur

Fathima Safura (2 1/2) of Thakkuanagar in Muthur

�I heard shooting sound July 31st 2006 night, and woke my husband. He said it must be between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan forces.There was electricity since 9.45 pm on the same day.We heard firing being exchanged between both parties.Bullets fallen on our roof. We thought that, it was not safe to stay there, and left in night dresses and gone and stayed with our relatives.We had neither food nor water.Later we all moved to Akkaraichchenai for safety.We cooked rice.But we did not have vegetables or fish.The shops were looted.We ate rice with coconut. Our children did not have proper meal since then. My niece got injured in front of my eyes, while we were staying in a Matharasa� says Mohamed Subair Mehroon Nisha (30) of Thakkuanagar in Muthur

The internally displaced people of Muthur want to stay in Negombo until the violence and killings are stopped in Muthur