A Muslim gang, carrying guns, stormed the fishing village of Koanthaip-piddi in Mannaar Town division on Friday and destroyed 23 fishing huts and two fiberglass boats with axes, causing ethnic tension between Tami Catholics and Muslims. Rishard Badurdeen, a politician from Mannaar, who has become SL minister of Industry & Commerce in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cabinet after defecting the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), is alleged of inciting ethnic violence in Mannaar attempting to woo Muslim voters in favour of Rajapaksa’s ruling SLFP.
About 800 of 3,200 fisher families, most of them Catholics, who had displaced from Vidaththal-theevu village in 1999 following a military operation by the occupying Sri Lankan forces, sought refuge and later settled down in ‘Joseph Vaas Nakar’ village in Mannaar DS division.
A fisheries jetty was constructed at Koanthaip-piddi to facilitate the livelihood of the Catholic fishermen settled in Joseph Vaas village.
In the meantime, Muslims, who were evicted by the LTTE in 1990 and who have begun to resettle in recent years, have been claiming that the jetty of Koanthaip-piddi belonged to Muslims, who lived in Uppuk-ku’lam.
The dispute was being resolved through civil sources at the divisional and district level.
According to a decision taken at a conference held on 26 June 2012 by the civil officials, new lands were allocated at 2nd Mile Post along Mannaar main road for the 800 fisher families from Vidaththal-theevu.
But, the newly allocated lands were already subjected to a legal dispute. An interim injunction order restricting settlement was issued on 29 June.
As a result, the Catholic fisher families were deprived from residing in Joseph Vaas Nakar and also in the new land located along Mannaar main road as the said land is in legal dispute.
The fisher families, undergoing hardship to earn for their day to day survival, resumed their usual fishing activities using the jetty at Koanthaip-piddi as earlier.
It is at this juncture, the armed gang, allegedly operated by the SL minister Rishard Badurdeen triggered a section of Muslims, numbering around 300, who concluded Jumma Prayer on Friday noon to walk with them to threaten the Catholic fishermen.
The latest episode of deploying armed Muslim gang and inciting violence is reported while the SL minister was staying in Mannaar.
Rishard Badurdeen, engaged in land grab and exploitation, has also gone on record threatening Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, the Catholic Bishop of Mannaar, in a public address in the Sri Lankan Parliament.