Daily Archives: August 9, 2006
No sooner had the dust settled on the battlefield, that Muttur was turned into the other day, than the political vultures of all hues appeared on the scene. They are engaged in a scramble for political mileage to the neglect of the crying needs of the victims, who have lost almost everything in life.
It was their second tsunami. We hear heart rending stories and agonising cries of the displaced. Over 35,000 people, including 10,000-15,000 children have been displaced. Thousands of them have run for shelter to far away places and are languishing in welfare centres. The problem is becoming unwieldy by the day.
It is unfortunate that political leaders are pulling in different directions, without making a collective effort to help the victims. We are being treated to empty rhetoric from political platforms. This is not the time for political postmortems. The usual blame game, which has assumed the proportions of a national pastime, can wait until action is initiated to rebuild the lives of the Muttur people.
The current wave of displaced Muslims has come, while thousands of their northern counterparts, who were chased away by the LTTE in 1990, are living in appalling conditions in ‘permanently temporary’ shelters in various places. They have become refugees in their own country and worse still, some of them have lost even their franchise!
There have been calls for outside help. That the country has come to depend on foreign assistance to look after the displaced is an indictment of the leaders across the political spectrum. They claim to have vast vote banks consisting of millions of people. Why can’t they mobilise those millions for a worthy cause?
The people are, no doubt, willing to contribute towards helping the Muttur people, but they are without proper leadership in a society split along partisan political lines. In the aftermath of the tsunami disaster, we witnessed some semblance of a national campaign with political leaders, immaculately clad in dazzling white in a sombre mood before the television cameras, holding hands in a candlelit vigil. But their much advertised unity didn’t survive the candles they held. What is the use of a bunch of leaders who cannot sink their differences and unite at a time the country needs their guidance most?
The media, too, has come under fire for having made a sort of Hollywood thriller of the Muttur incidents, without laying sufficient emphasis on the humanitarian dimension of the crisis. They are accused of having fallen for political gimmicks. That criticism is not without basis and a concerted media effort, similar to that which triggered a flood of tsunami relief from the four corners of the world, is called for.
In Muttur, we have a situation with the potential to develop into a humanitarian crisis, the signs of which are already visible. The people must be mobilised and the country geared for helping the people of Muttur, before they too are relegated to the limbo just like the Northern Muslims.
The Muslim political leaders must take the lead in rehabilitating and resettling the displaced, without wasting their energies on political battles and squandering opportunities. They are no different from the non Muslim leaders who are playing politics with the issue. Sri Lankans, they ought to realise, are notorious for their short memory. Another disaster—absit omen!—and Muttur will be a thing of the past. They must act fast. Muttur is crying out for help!