Sri Lankan Muslim stopped on the road to Mannar

leader Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem with the President Mahinda Rajapaksa

In the 2010 elections, in which Rajapaksa harvested his military success, Muslim parties found a way of aggregation with the government. But today the Muslim in Sri Lanka feel again under sever pressure by the Buddhist Sinhalese majority. A sentiment of discontent and barely tolerance of the Islam presence in the island is making itself visible, with the case of the Durambulla mosque1 for example, or the fishermen and the judge court in Mannar2.

The dynamic seems quite obvious: on one side the Muslim political parties felt that to protect their interest, it was a better way to side with the government rather than to oppose it.

Today the majority doesn’t really need anymore the support of the Muslims and the government is signalling its distaste with the episodes against the Islam community. It is a very well know tactics in Sri Lanka: there is not such a thing as bottom up unrest that is not authorized by the government. Especially after the firm grip on power of president Rajapaksa. The message couldn’t be clearer: we don’t need you anymore.

courtesy BBC

In other words the Muslim parties sought protection within the mainstream of power and now they are not needed. It is an exchange of favours. But of what sort? Surely Rajapaksa wanted a vast front to legitimate his power. But the Muslim contribution was it really necessary in 2010? Rajapaksa’s party won an easy majority, what he had to thank for the Muslims?

 Well, the Muslims are a numerous presence especially in the Eastern and Northern provinces. During the IV Eelam War the Eastern Provinces have been defeat by the betrayal of Karuna. The offensive of the Sri Lankan army needed to secure the passage in the North-western corner, in the Mannar district. Rajapaksa in person admitted that the turn around of the war occurred when they won the region of Madhu, within the Mannar district3. He said that after that, the operation has been a walk away.

In fact the area is strategically proximal to the Adam’s Bridge, the strip of land that fragmentary connects Sri Lanka with India. If you want to isolate the Vanni area from any possible supply line via mainland, you must take the Mannar district.

It is arguable then that the Muslim community supported the Sri Lankan army in its endeavour to grab the stronghold. In exchange, Rajapaksa consented to include Muslim politicians (the leader of the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress has been appointed minister of Justice) and to accept the return of the refugees from Puttalam. But the Darambulla and the Mannar episodes are the signal that the relation has already reached its peak. It can be speculated that Colombo doesn’t want the Muslims to grow too strong, especially in the areas previously under the control of the LTTE.

So Rajapaksa needed their help, but suddenly stopped them to re-establish themselves confidently in their homeland.

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