Multi-Religious Settlement Proposal Met with Controversy

January 24, 2005

Source: The Independent

On January 24, 2005 The Independent reported, "The town is meant to offer a blueprint for the new Sri Lanka; a shining example of how the one million people left homeless by the tsunami will live out the rest of their days. But the beleaguered Muslims of the southern coastal town of Hambantota are furious at what their government has in store for them... According to the plans, [the new town of] 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...[which] 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] 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...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.'"