A Hidden Hand behind Akkaraipattu Incidents
24 October 2002, Northeastern Herald
There is a simple formula today for bringing down the UNF
government by manipulating Muslim politics. One can precipitate a
crisis in the east by instigating Muslims to protest against the
LTTE. Then build on the crisis to make it difficult for the Sri
Lanka Muslim Congress to remain in the UNF. Or, prod the SLMC or
sections of it to make demands that the LTTE and the UNF cannot meet
at this juncture.
The incidents that led to the Police clamping a local curfew in the
Akkaraipattu – Addalaichenai towns on the southeastern coast should
also be scrutinised in this light. The problem began with the
abduction of ‘Wajid’. On Tuesday morning Abdul Wajid and his friend
Mohammed Rameez were walking from the Akkaraipattu post office when
armed persons who had come in a vehicle without number plates
stopped the two youth and asked Wajid whether he was S. M Azmeer,
the local EPDP organiser.
They did not accept Wajid’s explanation he was not the man they were
looking for but his younger brother. The armed men had slapped Wajid
and had hauled him into the van and sped off from the spot.
Moments later, S. M Azmeer and his colleagues spread the story in
the town that the LTTE had abducted Wajid. In the afternoon, EPDP
cadres and ‘Banda’, the personal driver of SLMC MP, A. L. M
Athaullah, called a Hartal against the LTTE.
Later in the evening, group of local hoodlums led by ‘Banda’ and a
local henchman of Athaullah called Sameem, burnt tires and
threatened Tamils living close to Muslims neighbourhoods in
Three days before the abduction of Wajid, a group of about ten EPDP
cadres had arrived in Akkaraipattu. Azmeer was seen going about in
the town with some of them. According to local Police sources, the
EPDP group had had discussions at Athaullah’s residence the night
before the abduction. On Wednesday morning it was clear that the
group led by Athaullah’s driver and Sameem were bent on exacerbating
the situation further. They made an attempt to abduct a Tamil youth
at the Akkaraipattu junction, near the Tamil – Muslims border of the
town. The youth escaped but his motorbike was damaged by the thugs.
The Police imposed curfew was observed only in the Tamil
neighbourhoods of Akkaraipattu that day. The ‘Banda’, Sameem group
was out at the junction, defying the curfew and burning tires.
The local Police just stood by, taking no action to prevent the
activities of the hoodlums led by Banda and Sameem.
“The group was trying hard to provoke some reaction in the Tamil
quarter, to make it an excuse to trigger a major conflagration in
Akkaraipattu”, said an LTTE official there.Hearing of the developing
crisis, the sole Tamil MP for the Amparai District, Ariyanayagam
Chandra Nehru called senior Police officers and urged them to send
more non-Muslim Policemen to the area to enforce the curfew and to
restore law and order.
The situation was reminiscent of what the Police had done in
Valaichenai in June, when mobs were setting fire to shops in the
Tamil quarter of that town. Tamil MPs in Batticaloa even on Thursday
to explore means of handling the situation and to consider the
activities of the Banda-Sameem group and its links to the EPDP.
Many question arise over the incidents in Akkaraipattu this week.
Why did EPDP cadres arrive in the town three days before the
abduction? Why did the EPDP allegedly meet up at Athaullah’s
residence on Monday night?
Why did Athaullah allow his driver and supporters to defy curfew,
set tires on fire and threaten Tamils living near the Muslim border
in the town?
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the EPDP were at loggerheads in
the past over the latter’s recruitment of Muslim youth in Kalmunai,
Akkaraipattu and Pottuvil. The SLMC took serious exception to the
EPDP’s efforts since 1994 to establish its own network among the
Muslims of the southeastern coast. It raised strong objections at
the highest levels in the PA at the time.
As a consequence of this, the few EPDP organisers in the Muslim
towns of the region became dormant. The EPDP’s Muslim network in the
region became totally defunct after the group was routed in the
general elections of December 5, 2001.
Therefore, it was indeed a surprise when Azmeer was reactivated
suddenly, just days before the abduction of his brother Wajid. It
was also curious that the SLMC in Akkaraipattu (read Athaullah’s
supporters) should have suddenly cosied up to the EPDP at this
Here we have to take into consideration the fact that the main
challenge and threat to the SLMC leadership today is from a powerful
faction of the party led by Athaullah. The more vociferous members
of the group are very staunchly opposed to Hakeem’s memorandum with
the LTTE. They argue that the Muslims should have no truck with the
Tigers. The group has also publicly expressed the view that the SLMC
leadership should be in the hands of Amparai Muslims.
Hakeem’s supporters in the east say that the dissidents are using
this as an excuse to strike a deal with the PA.Nine members of the
SLMC, led by Athaullah boycotted Parliament recently demanding that
the Muslims should have an autonomous region in the southeast,
comprising the electorates of Pottuvil, Kalmunai and Sammanthurai. A
temporary settlement has been apparently reached now and the MPs
have indicated they may return to parliament.The SLMC’s late leader
M. H. M Ashraff dropped the demand for a Southeastern Muslim
autonomous council in 2000 when he established the National Unity
Alliance. The nine MPs who are now demanding the council fully
backed Ashraff’s decision to drop the demand for the Southeastern
council for Muslims. Not a word was mentioned about the matter when
the SLMC leader met Prabhaharan or when he took part in the Thailand
There is nothing wrong in the demand for a separate council for the
Muslims. But why was the idea suddenly pulled out of the SLMC’s
political wardrobe, dusted and displayed to bring pressure on the
UNF? Why so at this conjuncture? Why did the PA rush to express
support for the southeastern council?
When one considers all these questions in the light of the numbers
game in parliament and the strategies of the PA to recapture power
as the one year mark for dissolving parliament by the President
draws close, the answers seem obvious.