By Ameer Ali –
It appears, according to a news report that the leaders of SLMC, ACMC and DPF during a meeting with President Sirisena to discuss constitutional reforms have “reneged on their promise to back the ongoing efforts to abolish the executive presidency”. Unless these leaders prove the report wrong, their turncoat behaviour tantamount to a betrayal of historic proportion as far as the Muslim community is concerned. Muslim politicians, with rare exceptions, are best known for their opportunistic behaviour. Yet, this act overtakes all previous ones in notoriety. One does not know what personal gains have been promised by the president to these guys. As far as the future of the community is concerned executive presidency will spell disaster when it falls into the hands of a madman or madwoman as warned by Dr. N. M. Perera, one of the brilliant and farsighted political thinkers the country ever produced.
Do these parvenus, masquerading as leaders of Muslims, know why the executive presidency with proportional representation was introduced in the first place by JR, who, after elevating himself to that position, became the ‘midwife’ of not a revolution, as leftists used to predict, but an ethnic pogrom, which plunged the country into a civil war? The country is still reeling under the economic and human disasters ensued from this foolish war. JR disliked two outcomes in particular of the previous Westminster model. Firstly, a virtual stranglehold that left parties like L.S.S.P and C.P had in the parliament because of their balancing power, and secondly, a decisive voting strength Muslims commanded in about thirty-two electorates, according to a study by Professor A. J. Wilson. Through the executive presidency he wanted get rid of the power of leftists and with them any voice of sanity in the parliament, and with proportional representation he wanted to electorally disenfranchise the Muslims. JR was so audacious with his newly acquired constitutional power that in one instance, even asked the Muslim MPs in his government to resign and get out if they did not support his decision to invite Israel to open its embassy in Colombo.
Soon after the JR constitution was introduced, when progressive forces within the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority began agitating to tear up that constitution, Muslims, instead of joining that movement, took a suicidal path under Ashraf and formed an ethnic party of their own. The tragic consequences of this move, which has worsened inter-ethnic relations between Muslims and Tamils on the one hand and Muslims and Sinhalese on the other, is now public knowledge. How corrupt, nepotistic and dictatorial that the executive presidency of Mahinda Rajapakse operated between 2009 and 2015 in particular, and how economically ruinous and politically scandalous that it became under Sirisena is now history. This is hard evidence strengthening the case for its abolition altogether.
At last, with JVP taking a lead, supported by TNA and other progressive elements in other parties there is a fresh move to abolish this presidential system. This should be a relief to the Muslim community and even to upcountry Tamils. SLMC and ACMC having declared earlier that they would support that move has now become turncoats. DPF has also joined these turncoats. What made these opportunists to cross fence? Obviously, President Sirisena, dreaming that he would be the joint SLPP-SLFP candidate at the next Presidential Election, must have promised something personally very attractive for the leaders of these two rumps of a political party to change minds. When Gotabaya Rajapaksa topples Sirisena as the preferred JO nominee and gets elected as the new executive president it will be too late for these opportunists to change their minds again. I am sure they will be too eager to fall on GR’s feet begging for positions and perks. Why are they mortgaging the community for personal gains?
This demonstrates further how acephalous Muslim politics has become. All but one of the Muslim parliamentarians who are now claiming to be members of SLMC and ACMC entered parliament through the UNP door. They knew then that their rumps would have been wiped out by Muslim voters had they dared to contest under their respective party labels. As ministers they, their families and cronies have done extremely well in terms of amassing economic and financial fortunes, while poverty, unemployment and homelessness keep majority of Muslims excruciatingly depressed. Nepotism and avarice rule SLMC and ACMC.
Even earlier generations of Muslim politicians behaved blatantly opportunistic when it came to party affiliation. At least they did it to win more favours to their community under any regime that ruled the nation. Very few of them were as flagrantly corrupt as the bulk of the current crop of Muslim politicians. Can any of these new bunch list out what they have achieved so far to improve the living conditions of the Muslim community? Any improvement thus achieved is not because of these politicians but in spite of them. It is better for the community to be represented by a patriotic, caring and enlightened Sinhalese or Tamil than by unscrupulous and self-seeking Muslim parliamentarians. It is time the community looks for a new generation of patriotic and farsighted Muslim leadership.