In Conversation with M.S. Abdul Wasith
Pottuvil in the Aftermath of Easter Sunday
“Political leaders and religious scholars must work together to achieve desired goals and gain the confidence of Sri Lankans,” say M.S. Abdul Wasith, Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman of Pottuvil in the Eastern Province. Here is The Catamaran’s exclusive interview with him recently.
Mr. Wasith is the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman of Pottuvil in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka where people of all ethnicities dwell, with nearly 80% of the population being Muslim. Here is The Catamaran’s exclusive interview with him recently.
THE CATAMARAN: What is the main occupation of these people?
This village is home to over ten thousand families and a population of more than 50 thousand. Agriculture, fisheries, livestock and especially tourism are the livelihoods of the people of this area.
THE CATAMARAN: What is the state of tourism after the Easter Sunday incident?
Arugambay in Pottuvil is regarded as a globally renowned surfing hotspot. It is customary to host international surfing competitions here annually. Despite preparations for the competition in July, we were unable to host the event due to the Easter Sunday incident. We had to postpone the event to end September.
There are over 200 registered hotels in Arugambay. There was no income for two months following the Easter Sunday attacks, which resulted in no revenue for the Pradeshiya Sabha. However, we have witnessed an increase in tourist arrivals over the past few weeks. Currently, those who are dependent on the tourism industry are slowly recovering from the economic crisis. As the country’s situation is in better shape now, we hope the arrivals will continue to increase to also raise our foreign exchange earnings. Yet, there are many underlying issues which affect the industry.
THE CATAMARAN: What are those underlying issues?
There is no water supply to Pottuvil in the same way as other parts of the country. We only have water supply for 30 minutes each day which causes severe problems for the tourism and agricultural industries in the area.
What’s more, a zonal education office should be established to improve education in Pottuvil. The hospital also serves as a transfer point for patients to Akkaraipattu and Ampara. The Pottuvil hospital should be upgraded to a base hospital so it can look after the medical needs of the people in the area.
THE CATAMARAN: What activities are being carried out by your Pradeshiya Saba to maintain harmony in this area?
During the three decades of war and the 2004 tsunami and the April 21 attacks this year, all three communities in Pottuvil live in harmony and solidarity. Although ours in only a Pradeshiya Sabha form of political authority, we did not encounter problems in our area after Easter Sunday. We also have very cordial relationships with the security forces in our area.
THE CATAMARAN: If the people of all ethnicities are to coexist in this country with peace, what kind of changes would you expect Muslims to make?
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country. Muslims make up only 9% of the total population. Sri Lankan Muslims must be led by one leadership and there must be unity among them. They also must understand the feelings of other ethnic communities and overcome their doubts to live in peace. The recent resignation of Muslim MPs from their ministerial positions is a good example to the nation. Political leaders and religious scholars will have to work together to achieve desired goals and gain the confidence of all Sri Lankans.