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 Post subject: Saddam Hussein, Sri Lanka
 Post Posted: Wed May 24, 2006 1:51 am 
Saddam Hussein, Sri Lanka

Source: chinadaily/ Wikipedia / BBC /

Saddam Hussein is the name of a village in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. A 2-kilometre stretch of road connects the Eravur town in Sri Lanka's Batticaloa district to the "Saddam Hussein Village". It is named after Saddam Hussein, former president of Iraq. Saddam became involved after floods hit the area in 1978 and the local authorities approached the Iraqi embassy for help. The former president was said to have readily obliged and sponsored construction of the entire village with some 100 houses, including a school and a mosque.

Residents of the village that owes much of its development to Saddam Hussein, are trying to keep their links with the deposed Iraqi leader under wraps. But despite the fall of his regime, the villagers say they remain indebted to Saddam for all that he has done for them.

After the capture of Saddam by United States military forces, the villagers of Saddam Hussein Village were critical of the U.S. policy in Iraq. Among the comments recorded by the BBC were:
- that the arrest was "unacceptable".
- that it was one more example of U.S. high-handedness and dictatorship.
- that the U.S. was evading the issue of the missing weapons of mass destruction.
- that they were receiving a number of reports about the murder of innocent people and harassment of women in Iraq.

At the entrance, residents had once proudly displayed a signboard with his name on it. But after the change of regime in Iraq, they removed it and kept it hidden.

The sprawling village is perhaps one of the best planned ones in the country, with a proper layout, broad roads and houses with boundary walls. And in the centre is the Madina mosque, a gift from Saddam himself.

The families living in the village were so grateful, they hung his picture in their living room walls and even named their children after him. His pictures may have since been taken down, but many villlagers still hold him in high regard.

"I don't know why America has to attack Iraq. Saddam Hussein is a very nice man. We respect him and hope he has a long life. We owe what we have today to him," said a student named after the former Iraqi president.

Until 1990, the Iraqi government continued to send funds to upkeep the Madina mosque. It also paid scholarships to students who were enrolled in the madrasah (religious school). But all these aid stopped after the Gulf War.

The village youths say they are angry with the US government for waging war against Iraq. "We're very upset. It's time for us to reciprocate Saddam Hussein's generosity but cannot do much to help him. We're ready to go to Iraq and fight for him, but we don't have money to travel," said student Naushad Ahmed.

Despite reports of Saddam's ruthlessness against dissidents in his home country when in power, the people of the village remain indebted to the man. He built it up for them when they were in need of it.

The news of his arrest was too much for many to take. "None of us want to believe it," said Abu Haniffa, the president of the Traders' Association.

Saddam Hussein was extremely popular in Sri Lanka. This was not only because of the aid received but also because of the role played by Iraq in the pre-1990 period in keeping tea prices high—Iraq was the largest purchaser of Sri Lankan tea.

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hussein has been elevated to the status of a hero in Sri Lanka, particularly after his capture. More than 20 Sri Lankan lawyers planned to defend the former Iraqi President at his trial. Lawyer N Sri Kantha said that it was "a fight for justice and against big power hegemonism in a uni-polar world," adding "We would not have minded if Saddam was replaced by the Iraqi people themselves in an election. But we cannot accept an outside power invading the country, overthrowing its leader and then saying that he will be sentenced to death, even before a trial."

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