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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Sri Lanka's plan to integrate communities angers Muslims

The Independent: "According to the plans, Siribopura will be multi-ethnic, mixing Muslim, Tamil and Singhalese communities in three-storey blocks of flats. It will also contain a 'multi-ethnic religious centre', the first of its kind to be built in Sri Lanka. Gamini Jayaratne - a local Singhalese with four children - lost his brother and sister in the tsunami. He believes that putting people of different cultures in the same place could be disastrous. 'There will be serious social and culture differences which can't be overcome,' he said. 'At the moment we all live in harmony, but separately. In addition the new settlement is right in the middle of a Singhalese-dominated area. You can't suddenly move 10,000 Muslim people there.' The 'multi-religious centre' planned for the new town is equally contentious. Remarkably, Hambantota's mosque survived. But the government is now planning to demolish it. 'This is where we've always worshipped,' said one local who has lived in the now destroyed village for 44 years. 'We don't want that to change. The mosque is still there so we want to live near by. It forms the centre of our community.' Mohammed Khalid, 55, a local fisherman living in a tent near the beach, said: 'The idea of Siribopura is absolutely ridiculous. Everything about it is wrong. It's going to turn into a slum within a year. 'We really don't want to go but what choice do we have? What's annoyed us the most is not once have we been asked how or where we want to live.' A local government planning officer, Nisam Shyiam, was just as sceptical. 'People don't want to live on top of each other. We're used to having our own homes with gardens. You just have to look at Colombo to see the social consequences of living in flats."

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