Testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing Easter Sunday bombings, former Eastern Governor M L A M Hizbullah says although his name is linked with NTJ terrorist mastermind, Zaharan’s support was wholly extended to Sirisena and not the faction he supported in 2015.
Hizbullah admits he met Zaharan but claims it was only once – soon after he received nominations for 2015 General elections. He also added that all Muslim politicians from the area including Sri Lanka Muslim Congress politicos met Zaharan and signed a pledge for a clean political campaign that adhered to Islamic practises.
“He was not a terrorist then – only a religious preacher,” Hizbullah told the PSC but admits in no unclear terms that the preachings were extremist.
Hizbullah says Zaharan had about 2000-3000 followers at the time and therefore, he too signed the pact ‘because of the votes’.
According to the testimony by the former Governor , Zaharan had drafted a list of rules to follow when holding political rallies to which imposed a prohibition on airing any entertainment material including songs at the meetings as well as the segregation of males and females who attend the rallies.
“Despite my signing the pledge, he worked against me because I violated a rule and played songs at some of my rallies… In fact, he wholly supported President Sirisena during the Presidential poll in 2015 while my support was to Mahinda Rajapaksa,” he added.
PSC members also inquired the former Governor regarding his recent comments where he had allegedly told a gathering that although Sinhalese maybe the majority in Sri Lanka, the Muslims are the global majority.
Hizbullah says the media aired and published his comments out of context.
“I didn’t make the speech in a public meeting…There was a discussion in the mosque and when I went there, everyone was scared. So I just told them…I said nothing to worry, we have the global majority, so you don’t want to worry about that…The media took it out of context! Even after I told in Parliament – three times I have told – that this is a Sinhala Buddhist country,” Hizbullah noted.
Among other claims made by the ex-Governor is that Arabic language addition to the public signposts and boards in the East was to attract Middle Eastern tourists and the addition of date trees was simply a choice made in consideration of the extreme heat in the area.