In October 1990, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) expelled the entire Muslim population of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Within a period of 48 hours the LTTE systematically chased out close to 75,000 Muslims residing in the districts of Kilinochchi Mulaitiwu, Jaffna, Mannar and parts of Vavuniya. The LTTE expulsion of Muslims from five Northern districts in October 1990 has not been adequately integrated into any mainstream historical narrative in Sri Lanka. Most commentators routinely get the date of the expulsion wrong and few give the event the status of a highly significant historical event that it warrants. Northern Muslim civil society leadership has worked hard to highlight the issue and have had to face numerous obstacles including the disinterest of the larger civil society community in Sri Lanka.
The Law & Society Trust in partnership with three Northern Muslim organizations and an advisory group of prominent Muslim civil society actors are conducting a truth seeking initiative in the form of a Citizens’ Commission. The objective of the exercise is to produce authoritative documentation of the expulsion and its consequences that is sanctioned by the community, and to list the community’s grievances through a document endorsed by a Commission consisting of eminent civil society actors. The Commission’s broadly defined terms of reference will look at a) the history of the expulsion, b) the experience of two decades of displacement, and c) expectations, and experiences of resettlement. Northern Muslim Community has long anticipated the establishment of an Official Government Commission of Inquiry. The Citizens’ Commission has been established in the context of the absence of such an official commission.