Unlike the Eastern Province, where Colombo has waged a successful campaign of divide-and-rule, creating and sustaining communal disharmony among the Tamil-speaking people, the people of Mannaar have managed to co-exist in the district against all odds in the past. Vanni knew it better. The solidarity went to the extent of coastal Muslims in Mannaar sustaining a lifeline to Vanni in transporting crucial energy supplies across Sri Lanka to the de-facto state of Tamil Eelam during the Eelam War III and IV. Now, as the balance of power is gone and the country of Eezham Tamils is under genocidal occupation, the agents of Colombo manoeuvre to divide Catholics and Muslims in Mannaar and thereby to create sectarianism among the Tamil-speaking people. The vacuum of a competent Tamil polity in the region has also been favourable to the SL state, writes a political observer in Mannaar.
While the latest two episodes of such conflicts are about burial grounds of Muslims and Catholics at two different places in Mannaar, the occupying Sinhala military is fast engaged in building Buddhist stupas and erecting Buddha statues in the region.
A Muslim gang, allegedly incited by SL minister Rishard Badurdeen, is engaged in petty violence opposing Catholics burying their dead in a cemetery situated behind Kappaleanthi Maathaa church, which is situated in Chinnak-karisal in Mannaar division. The gang inciting violence is from the nearby Periya-karisal village.
Mr Badurdeen is also targeting to evict the Tamil landowners by harassing them. The SL minister has already promised the lands of the Catholics to his supporters, say concerned Muslim civil society leaders belonging to the opposition of the UPFA.
The goons are reportedly damaging the burial grounds, pulling out the cross, the symbol of Christianity and are throwing stones and bottles at the church when prayers are being held. The church has been in existence there since the times of the Portuguese.
Several attempts made by the Catholic leaders to have a meeting with the opposing Muslim group has been systematically ignored due to the political involvement by the SL minister, say Catholic community leaders.
In the meantime, tension between Tamils and Muslims have arisen following the burial of a deceased Muslim person behind the houses of Tamil occupants, who had earlier bought these lands from Muslims. Now the Muslim gang claims that these lands were used earlier as a burial ground of the Muslims and had warned the Tamil residents in person and by telephone to move away from the site immediately.
Meanwhile, the organizers of Muththamizh Community Centre in the area also complain that persons claiming to be from SL military intelligence harass them and instruct them to dissolve the centre. The callers, allegedly making the phone calls from the SL military intelligence unit, were questioning the activists whether the community organisation was formed when the LTTE was in existence in the area.
The majority of residents along the Moor Street are Tamils and Mr Badurdeen has very little electoral interest in gaining votes here. But, the SL military intelligence has allegedly found it easier to incite a ‘burial ground’ conflict in Mannaar city by nurturing a Muslim youth gang.
Despite the public outrage displayed against him, the SL minister Rishard Badurdeen, is continuing his project of causing communal disharmony that serves the divide-and-rule counter-insurgency line of the ‘military-genocide politics’ of the occupying Sinhala military.
Mr Badurdeen has also his own interests of creating and sustaining a loyal electorate of Muslims for himself, say Muslims who are concerned of the consequences of larger designs behind the tip-of-the-iceberg incidents in recent times.
On the other front, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has failed in paving ways to foster the already prevailing harmony among the Tamil-speaking people in Mannaar. It failed in addressing the civil disputes and in providing a leadership with statesmanship, say young Tamil politicians.
TNA under the LTTE was more attractive to the Muslims of Mannaar. Even though the perspectives are said to be wider today, the TNA has failed in even maintaining the level of attraction that became possible with the Muslim people during the ceasefire times.