Muslims seek the third seat on Sri Lanka’s negotiating table
Although the peace process in Sri Lanka is currently locked in a stalemate, the conflict itself is in the endgame stage. And in parallel with a division within the Tamil Tiger movement, reflecting the differences between the northern and the eastern Tamil Tigers, political divisions have also deepened between the predominantly Hindu Tigers and the country’s Muslim minority. The Muslim minority has become more vocal (and threatened to get more militant) in its demand for a separate seat on the negotiating table — on par with the Tigers and the Sri Lankan government.
Rauf Hakeem leads the Muslim Congress, one of the main Muslim political parties. He says Muslim representation in talks “needs to happen”. “If it doesn’t happen, I don’t think the peace process can succeed, since Muslims are an important component.
“Among the three districts in the eastern province, two districts contain Muslim majorities.”
“This ostrich-like attitude by the Tamils is causing a lot of concern among Muslims. Simply to say only those parties that engage in war need to talk is rather like telling Muslims to take up arms and engage in war.
“Already there is discontent among Muslims, particularly among the young, and we pray that they will not get radicalised as has happened in many parts of the world. There are signs of it already in some areas and therefore it is important if you are permanently to resolve this issue that the Muslims be recognised and given their due status.” [‘BBC’]
All this sounds eerily familiar to those who follow the subcontinent’s history.