20 October, 2017

Divisive Politics And Muslims

By Hilmy Ahamed

Hilmy Ahamed

Hilmy Ahamed

The reduction of the cut-off point from 12.5 to 5 percent by President Ranasinghe Premadasa to appease M H M Ashraff, and retain the support of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) could be termed as the seeds that were planted to create racial politics. The reduction in the cut off point in each electoral district, to qualify for a seat in parliament paved the way for minority and small parties to get elected on their own, mostly along the communal divide. This led to the creation of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and number of minority political alliances. This also led the re-entry of the Janatha Vimukuthi Peramuna’s foray in to the democratic mainstream with hopes of wider representation.

Traditionally, the Muslims have been part and parcel of mainstream politics through the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) with very small groups supporting the left movements. M H M Ashraff’s creation of the Muslim congress with co-founder Ahammed Lebbe of Kattankuddy in 1981 was the beginning of a separate political identity for the Muslims in this country. M H M Ashraf directed the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress to a new vision and mission after he assumed formal leadership of the SLMC in 1986. The merits of this has been questioned by many including M H M Ashraff himself who later wanted to distance his party from communal politics by forming the National Unity Alliance (NUA) with several non-Muslims in his leadership council. The yet to be resolved mysterious helicopter crash in September 2000 closed SLMC’s departure away from communal politics with the assumption of leadership by Hakeem, after a complicated process of negotiations with Ashraff’s widow, Ferial Ashraff. A L M Athaulla’s challenge to take over the leadership of the SLMC failed.

Hakeem and MaithripalaVarious charges of corruption and wheeler-dealings have been leveled against the SLMC from the time of M H M Ashraff. The party has fragmented in to several offshoots with numerous regional heavyweights holding on to their vote bases. A.L.M. Athaulla, who was one of the first to defect from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and formed the National Congress created his own power base in the Ampara district when Rauf Hakeem donned the crown of the SLMC, upon the demise of Ashraff. A number of others followed Attaulla and have created their own territories by building fortresses around their people. The tree symbol retained by Rauf Hakeem remains the rallying emblem for the SLMC in the Eastern province. Hakeem, a non-Easterner has survived in the SLMC leadership because of the electoral successes in the Eastern Province under the tree symbol. The SLMC’s foray in to the districts of Colombo, Kalutara, Kandy etc. that alienated a sizeable Muslim population away from mainstream political parties has been the cause of much pain amongst the majority of Muslims in these areas. The disastrous failure of Rauff and Rishard’s alliance in the just concluded Uva provincial elections should be evaluated by Muslim politicians and refrain from entering dangerous territories causing communal discord amongst the different ethnic groups. They should stick to their communal politics if needed, to the areas they dominate. The fragmentation of Muslim votes by these parties in non-Muslim areas has deprived the community of their representation in parliament and local bodies.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress has been able to “have the cake and eat it” since Asharff took possession of the “remote control” of governments. However, their indecision with regard to the Presidential election 2015 for weeks created much discussion and debate amongst all Sri Lankans. Some, argue that SLMC was expected to be the first amongst the Muslims to “cut” their deal and join the winning side, but Rishard Bathiudeen’s bold decision to ditch his perks and privileges with his long term mentor and defect has stunned not just the SLMC, but the entire Muslim community. The just announced SLMC’s commitment of support to the common candidate, Maithripala Sirisena and the common opposition may be too little too late. Could this pose a threat to the existence of the SLMC is yet to be seen. If there is a Sirisena win, Rishard could probably take the leadership of Muslim politics in the North and East. Prudence should be exercised to restrict their ethnic politics to the Muslim dominated areas of the North and East.

It is important for the Muslim community to evaluate their political journey during the last two decades. The number of representations may have increased manifold, but the quality of representation has been deteriorating. Horse-trading has been the norm in Sri Lankan politics and the Muslim peoples representatives are no exception. The passage of the 18th amendment to the constitution with the support of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress would probably go down in history, as the worst form of betrayal of the peoples will by their political representatives. The defection by Maithripala Sirisena and the hundreds of other crossovers would probably bring a new meaning to the price to be paid for political survival. The billions, that are being spent in this campaign bears testimony to the win at any cost attitude.

A constitutional reforms process will certainly be needed, irrespective of who wins the Presidential Elections of 2015. Even though the winner takes it all in a First Past The Post (FPTP) system that may not be seen as fair, going back to the FPTP is imperative with adequate safeguards for the disadvantaged groups to have fair representation, not just for minority communities, but also for all vulnerable groups who would otherwise be not represented in parliament.

Failure to prioritize this would encourage the vulnerable and ethnic groups to band together in loose knit alliances to maintain their political influence and create communal discord amongst communities. The Muslim community too may take the walk towards forming a Muslim National Alliance (MNA), which could further alienate them from the majority community and provide additional ammunition to extremist Buddhist groups to whip-up hate. This trend could certainly destabilize the country further and political wheeler-dealings would become the norm.

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Latest comments

  • 11
    1

    ‘The reduction of the cut-off point from 12.5 to 5 percent by President Ranasinghe Premadasa to appease M H M Ashraff, and retain the support of the SLMC could be termed as the seeds that were planted to create racial politics’

    As far as the Muslims are concerned the seeds that created racial politics was the creation of the SLMC in 1981. Up till then the Muslim vote was divided between the UNP and SLFP.

    • 5
      2

      Taraki

      “As far as the Muslims are concerned the seeds that created racial politics was the creation of the SLMC in 1981.”

      Get the facts and actual figures. SLMC was the result of marginalization of Muslims and not being treated as equal citizens..like the Tamils, which the Muslims realized much later..especially in the North and East.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lankan_parliamentary_election,_1994

      This was a direct result of the Tamil Racial Politics, and even then. After expelling the Muslims from the North and parts of the East by the racist LTTE, still in 1994, only 1.8% of the Muslims out of 9%, voted for SLMC. So, 75% of the Muslims voted for the the other National parties.

      On the other hand well over 80% of the Tamils Voted for Tamils Only Parties.

      • 3
        0

        True they were not treated equally. Muslim children were allowed to study in the English medium while Sinhala and Tamil children were not. This was was one of Badudin Mahmud’s deals with Mrs Bandaranaike.

        • 0
          0

          Taraki

          “True they were not treated equally. Muslim children were allowed to study in the English medium while Sinhala and Tamil children were not.”

          So the Muslim Children when they grew up they were NOT employed by the state either in the South or North.

          This is Discrimination.

          Today, perhaps less than 1% of the Mus;ims are employed in the state Sector, our of a population of 9%, whereas 95% of the state sector employs Sinhala who comprise 75% of the Population,

          • 0
            1

            …..while the tutories are crammed with desperate Tamil and Sinhala children paying through the nose to learn English

    • 2
      0

      If Premadasa didn’t change the cut off point from 5% to the current 12.5 % the Muslim representation would have been non relevant and the Muslim votes would have been such a waste ,without the chage SLMC would have only got Three seats

      creation of the SLMC was the worse curse for the muslims , Ashraf created this communal politics for his personal gain, once he got what he wanted ,he wanted to be even bigger spot by creating NUA and gain some Sinhala votes

      First elections Under the PR system Ashraf was the only Muslim elected from the muslim majority Ampara district and four Sinhala and one Tamil candidates were elected , whereas there was three Muslim,one Tamil ,one Sinhala was the representation under the first past the post system

      Even today the Muslim representation has not increased in the only muslim majority district in Sri Lanka

      Only reason the Muslim overall representation has marginally increased is due to the normal increase of total MP count from 168 under FPTP to 229 under PR , for muslims the most increase has been under the national list category due to wheeling and dealing which has further eroded the quality of representation in Parliment ( even among other among major parties gone to a lowest level in history although the purpose of national list was to bring in qualified people )

      Coming back to creation of SLMC , Ashraf uncle ?ML Karriapper contested Kalmunai from 1948 until 1970 in each election and lost each one coming last place or near last , so Ashraf wanted to break that voodoo on his part of the family by using Islam and the Quran to get the Muslim vote and for money he used Fairline Buhardeen’s cash and sold out the only national list MP post to him , a guy who had nothing to do with Muslim leadership at all , such was his politics , now Rauf Hakeem has taken that wheeling and dealing to the next level of dirty politics and given the muslims the bad name

      Even at this late stage its best for all Muslim communal parties to dissolve and join the main stream parties and build a non communal sociarty

      UNP and SLFP are not Sinhala parties , it’s the Muslim’s who left them because SLMC created that passion by using the religion and the Quran

  • 3
    1

    Taraki

    “Up till then the Muslim vote was divided between the UNP and SLFP.”

    Are you sure about the voting pasterns of Muslims of which you know next to nothing.

    • 1
      0

      Native, ‘divided between’ does not mean ‘divided equally between’.

      This may come as a surprise to you who know next to nothing.

  • 3
    1

    I do not think today Muslim votes are divided, Any More….

  • 5
    0

    It was announced that Hakeem finally made up his mind, and decided to support the Common Candidate.
    The Rajapaksa’s must be steaming mad. It now seems like this race is between the Rajapaksa’s and all others.
    Faizer Mustafa might be the only minority reluctant to stop kissing the feet of the king.

  • 2
    0

    creation of the SLMC was the worse curse for the muslims , Ashraf created this communal politics for his personal gain, once he got what he wanted ,he wanted to be even bigger spot by creating NUA and gain some Sinhala votes

    First elections Under the PR system Ashraf was the only Muslim elected from the muslim majority Ampara district and four Sinhala and one Tamil candidates were elected , whereas there was three Muslim,one Tamil ,one Sinhala was the representation under the first past the post system

    Even today the Muslim representation has not increased in the only muslim majority district in Sri Lanka

    Only reason the Muslim overall representation has marginally increased is due to the normal increase of total MP count from 168 under FPTP to 229 under PR , for muslims the most increase has been under the national list category due to wheeling and dealing which has further eroded the quality of representation in Parliment ( even among other among major parties gone to a lowest level in history although the purpose of national list was to bring in qualified people )

    Coming back to creation of SLMC , Ashraf uncle ?ML Karriapper contested Kalmunai from 1948 until 1970 in each election and lost each one coming last place or near last , so Ashraf wanted to break that voodoo on his part of the family by using Islam and the Quran to get the Muslim vote and for money he used Fairline Buhardeen’s cash and sold out the only national list MP post to him , a guy who had nothing to do with Muslim leadership at all , such was his politics , now Rauf Hakeem has taken that wheeling and dealing to the next level of dirty politics and given the muslims the bad name

    Even at this late stage its best for all Muslim communal parties to dissolve and join the main stream parties and build a non communal sociarty

    UNP and SLFP are not Sinhala parties , it’s the Muslim’s who left them because SLMC created that passion by using the religion and the Quran

  • 2
    0

    H Ahamed

    Your first sentence about 1/8 and 1/20 is absolutely wrong. It was JR’s illogical contrivance for only one or two major parties to share the seats. If I remember right Amirthalingam & TULF opposed it.R P corrected it.

  • 0
    0

    [Edited out]

  • 2
    2

    The Sinhalese must watch out for the opportunists among the Moslems who have one long term aim in mind – the establishment of ISSL (Islamic State of Sri Lanka).

    Fanatics will pose as friends and even liberals until the demographic bomb starts exploding with the aging Sinhalese giving way to buck Moslem fanatics who have the worst racist, Islamic agendas imaginable. That will start happening around 2020 and by 2050 the Moslem majority Lanka will be an Islamic State.

    India should wake up immediately and do something about it. If Narendra Modi cannot help Lanka in this process no one else can do it.

    India should not leave out any options – if the Lankan leaders,, whether Rajapaksa or Sirisena, do not follow sensible politics, then India must intervene.

      • 2
        0

        Taraki & Jay Chambers

        ” It has already started in Sri Lanka in a small way….. “

        Your Sinhala/Buddhist paranoia knows no bounds.

        The Sinhala/Buddhist threat to this island is more realistic than the perceived threat of ISIS. scare mongering is usually followed by war mongering and bloodshed.

        Now you have found another excuse to start another war against the hapless people of this island.

        You need to change your script writer who has churned out trash for sach, nuisance, wathie, trishu, saroj, mechanic and few others.

  • 2
    0

    Has CC Sira finally broken up Srilanka in to 3 Pieces …

    Opportunist SLMC Hakeem wants the East as a Muslim Homeland to go along with the TNA Tamil Homeland.

    Ranil has signed the secret pact with Sira on behalf of the TNA.

    Did Sira sign the pact directly with the SLMC Hakeem to give him the East?..

    These are the only two issues which the great majority of the inhabitants have to think about, when they head to the polls in 8 days,

    And decide whether they want to live as one Nation in one country, without handing their Govt ID cards to Muslim Police or Tamil Police or JVP Police to travel , work or live in different parts of the Island.

    Don’t take assurances from the partners of the Holy Opposition that everything will be all right after they share the spoils.

    All one has to look at their past form to determine whether they have done any
    good for the country and the great majority.

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