Muslim party to boycott Lanka aid deal

Associated Press

Colombo, June 25:

Sri Lanka’s main Muslim party said today it will boycott a deal signed between the government

and the Tamil Tigers to share international tsunami aid because it doesn’t include Muslims as equal partners. “They are looking at us as bystanders and this is not acceptable. We cannot participate in it,” Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress told a news conference, a day after the deal was signed. The December 26 tsunami hit the eastern coast where most Muslims live. Hakeem said his party will appeal for an amendment to the deal to include Muslims, second-largest minority after the Tamils. Hakeem said the aid sharing deal may set a precedent and reduce Muslim chances for autonomy when a final deal is agreed upon between the rebels and the government to end the country’s civil war. The Tigers generally don’t trust the Muslims, because they see them as siding with the government. During the two decades of war, the rebels carried out systematic killings of Muslims, including an August 1990 massacre of 130 people at two mosques on the same day. The rebels have driven out thousands of Muslims from Jaffna Peninsula, and many continue to live in camps.

The aid-sharing deal has already been rejected by the Marxists and the Buddhist monks. The pact paves the way for the government and rebels to share $3 billion in foreign aid, ensuring the Tamil-dominated north and east get a fair share of funds. Critics say the deal raises the rebels’ legitimacy in the international community, boosting their separatist agenda and undermining the country’s sovereignty. The Marxists pulled their lawmakers out of Kumaratunga’s ruling coalition over the issue, reducing her majority coalition to a minority. The government could collapse if other parties side with the Marxists in a no-confidence vote.