Muslims cry foul at tsunami reconstruction

Associated Press

Colombo, February 18:

About 1,000 Muslims blocked traffic today to protest plans by the Buddhist-dominated government to reconstruct tsunami-hit eastern Sri Lanka, saying the effort could wipe out their villages and force them to relocate.

Muslim students and teachers blocked vehicles by sitting down on the main road in Oluvil town following the Friday prayers, demonstrating against the government’s proposal to prohibit construction 100 metres from the sea. M Jasith, an organiser of the protest, said the plan could wipe out Muslim villages on the coast and force them to relocate to other areas, harming their culture and livelihood.

“The government has not consulted the people before planning resettlement and reconstruction. We want to pressure them to respect our thinking,” Jasith said. The government says it wants to create a safety zone to protect people from future tsunamis. Organisers said about 1,000 Muslims participated in the protest in Oluvil, about 200 km east of capital Colombo. Jasith also alleged that the government had not allocated sufficient funds to repair roads and bridges on the east coast, which was among the areas hardest hit by the December 26 disaster.