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Pic Coyutesy: irinnews.org

October is a significant month in the annals of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict which lasted for 30 years.

It was in October, 1990, that thousands of Muslims were forcibly evicted from their homes in the Northern Province by the LTTE.

While some of them have returned to their villages after the end of the war, many continue to live in the areas which they have made it their homes after being evicted.
Over 72,000 Muslims were evicted from their homes 26 years ago. Ever since this incident, the relationship between these two communities included a lot of undertones.
This particular event widened the gap between Tamils and Muslims of the North and East. Whether this gap has been filled in the subsequent years after the war is a question that needs to be looked into.

Arthur-wamananOver the years leading up to the terminal stages of the war, the relationship between the Tamils and Muslims in the North and East has not been constant.

As a matter of fact, reconciliation between both these communities has not been given much prominence when compared to the efforts taken to reconcile the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

Muslims too had faced their share of problems due to the conflict. Therefore, it is important that both the Tamil politicians and the government take their grievances into account as well.

New constitution
With the government moving forward with the drafting of the new Constitution, a key aspect that has been discussed is the manner in which the issues of the North and East would be addressed.

The Tamil and Muslim people in particular are keenly watching the developments as to how the new Constitution would address their demands.

politicalLast week saw an exchange of words between the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) on the modalities through which a solution could be reached to the issues of the minorities of Sri Lanka.

The exchange of words was to do with the merger and the demerger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. While the TNA has been in support of a merger, the SLMC has opposed the concept of a merger.

In case both provinces are merged, then the Muslims who are a majority in East would become a minority. That probably is the key concern of the Muslims with regard to this issue.

Relationship affected
However, the relationship between the Tamils and the Muslims in both provinces has not been a smooth ride.

When the final phase of the war triggered in Mawilaru, off Trincomalee in 2006, the relationship between the two communities became somewhat sour owing to the recommencement of hostilities. The final phase of the war in East saw a large number of Muslims affected and targeted. The presence of the LTTE made it difficult for both communities to have a cordial relationship.

At a time when the country is moving towards a new Constitution, it is important for the minority communities and the respective political parties to use the opportunity to come out with their issues and proposals.

However, it is important that representatives of both communities come together, negotiate, and iron out differences.

It is important that both the TNA and the SLMC, the two major parties that represented the Tamils and Muslims, come to the negotiating table and come to a certain agreement before the Constitution is drafted.

At the moment, discussions pertaining to a solution are discussed predominantly based on what the TNA demands. Any solution that is reached should also have the consent of the Muslims and the Sinhalese who live in both provinces.