- Request for separate admin district for Ampara
By Waruni Karunarathne
The general Secretary of the SLMC, Hasan Ali reiterated that the Muslims are not asking for a separate state as portrayed by some politicians and local media. “In 1961 they curved out the southern part of Batticaloa and extracted some area from Moneragala and made it a separate district called Ampara.
They made the administrative capital in Ampara,” he added. According to him, the administrative capital is set in an area where the Sinhala minority lives, whereas the majority of the Ampara district is Tamil speaking Muslims who live mostly close to the coastal area in Kalmunai. He explained that earlier the administrative capital was in Kalmunai as 90 % of people in the Ampara district live in coastal areas.
However, later the administrative capital was moved to Ampara where the Sinhala minority lives, which was about 25 km away from the coastal area – and therefore it limits access of the Muslims to the administrative capital. “The entire administration is run by the Sinhalese where as 75% of people in the district are Muslims and only about 24% are Sinhalese. Since 1961 they never appointed a Tamil speaking Government Agent for the Ampara district – the GA was always a Sinhalese,” Hasan Ali complained.
He pointed out that the Puttalam, Kalmunai and Samanthurai electorates, where Muslim majority lives, should be a separate Muslim administrative district. He added that all the governments that came to power in Sri Lanka have not been able to give recognition to the Muslims in the country. He also added that the SLMC has fought with Tamils politically against the separatism in the country and therefore insisted that the SLMC does not mean or encourage any division among the ethnic groups.
Leader of the Tamil-Muslim Alliance Asad Sally added that this is not a new demand of the Muslims but the Muslims in the area had been asking for a separate administration for a long time. “During the time of Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumarathunga, Ashraff negotiated and got a DRO’s office to Kalmunai but now the government has taken it back to Ampara,” he said. According to him, the present government and even the UNP government had promised to make necessary administrative arrangement which they have failed to do.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader President of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL), N. M. Ameen added that the proposal is not particularly for the Muslims but for the Tamil speaking people in the area. He condemned people being critical of this request as according to him they are only asking for an administrative arrangement for the Tamil speaking people in the area.
“In the Ampara GA’s office (Kachcheri) entire administration is run in Sinhala and Tamil speaking majority in the area face communication barriers,” he said reiterating the view of the SLMC. Ameen pointed out that there are Sinhala ADA divisions in Vavuniya for Sinhala speaking minority in those areas and added that the Muslims would also welcome such arrangements for the Muslims in Ampara district for their administrative assistance. “According to SLMC, UNP had agreed in an MOU and even the present UPFA government has agreed to make necessary administrative arrangement for Muslims in Ampara,” he added. According to him, their requests are not new and they had only brought it up to the attention of the president ahead of the presidential election in order to get a positive response to their long standing demands.
He added that some people are trying to carry propaganda against this proposal by directing it towards a nationalistic periphery which is not right. According to him, some have accused Muslims saying that they are being backed by the TNA to make this move. On the contrary, he added that a Pradeshiya Sabha (local government) headed by the Tamil political party, has passed a resolution against this proposal. “What they do not understand is that this proposal is in the interest of all the Tamil speaking people to give them better access to administrative facilities – and the Muslims intend no division or any harm,” he insisted.