20 May, 2022

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Irrelevance Of Muslim Parties

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

There are far more important matters to think, discuss and publish about the current developments in Sri Lanka. However, since I had been a long campaigner for abolishing all ethnic political parties in the country, and particularly the SLMC and its break away ACMC among Muslims, I thought of exposing their irrelevance in the context of (a) this year’s island wide May Day rallies, and (b) a budding New Sri Lanka at the Galle Face Green.

May Day marks a day of victory to the working class, which won the right for an eight-hour working day, and the history of that struggle goes back to the 19th century. Ironically, it was in the citadel of capitalism in America that May 1st was declared holiday in 1891. In Ceylon, the first May Day event was held in 1927 led by the Labour Leader A. E. Gunasinghe, and May Day was declared public holiday by the SLFP coalition government in 1956. Since then, there had been rallies every year organized by trade unions and political parties. It is a day to mark the historic struggle of the working class.

This year’s May 1st came at a time when the entire country was engaged in a historic struggle to change a political and economic system that had bankrupted the national coffer, ruined the economy and brought misery to millions of Sri Lankans. Therefore, May Day rallies this year carried an added significance. They were not simply rallies to mark the victory and solidarity of workers and their inalienable rights, but more importantly to lend support to a national struggle spearheaded by an awakened generation of young men and women of all ethnic and religious communities, and determined to end a political and economic system that had kept communities divided and exploited that division to accumulate wealth power for a few. That division and exploitation had reached its climax during the regime of Rajapaksas. What is going on therefore is a struggle for liberation – a liberation from the tyranny of a kakistocracy.

Significantly, all May Day rallies organized this year by political parties and trade unions had deliberately avoided marching towards and assembling at the Gall Face Green – an otherwise traditional destination for mass rallies and demonstrations in the past – because that venue has now become the maternity ward for a mother with birth pains for a new Sri Lanka.

However, the main question behind the present discussion is where were the May Day rallies organized by SLMC and ACMC? Isn’t there a working class among Muslims and don’t those workers form part of the world labour movement? Surprisingly, even TNA, another minority ethnic party, did organize a rally in Kilinochchi. Why couldn’t the leaders of the two Muslim parties at least show that they are also part of the national struggle by organizing at least a token rally somewhere in a corner of the country where they claim to carry support? They couldn’t, they didn’t, and they wouldn’t, because of their interest are solely parochial and profit seeking. Their disinterestedness in workers interests, like their nonchalant attitude towards national issues, and the absence of internal party discipline expose their irrelevance to national politics.

Since the formation of these parties, contribution by their leaders and parliamentary representatives to debates on national issues such as for example, the annual budgets, economic and financial policies, environmental issues and foreign relations had been absolutely zilch. If at all they spoke it was about problems facing their own community. No one denies their duty to raise those matters in the parliament. But they fail to realize that Muslim issues cannot be solved singularly by Muslims alone. They need the national support and that support would not come from by championing religious and communal parochialism. Muslim problems are part of a larger issue arising from a divisive and exploitative political system. That system has now exhausted its vitality and has created an economic and financial catastrophe never experienced in this country before. It is this failure that has finally awakened the young generation, which has no tolerance for ethnic parties and ethno-nationalism. It has taken more than seventy years to bring about this enlightenment.

The contemporary Muslim community is not that historically maligned “business community”. It has rejected that sobriquet and its new generation of men and women, like their counterparts in other communities, are bravely breaking away from the traditional aloofness of the community and willing to share responsibilities and make necessary sacrifices in the struggle for a new Sri Lanka – a Sri Lanka that would not only be free of that accursed ethno-nationalism and religious parochialism but also would have no place for profit making political fools in the parliament. Already there are signs of that willingness in the enthusiastic and spontaneous participation of Muslim young men and women in the ever-growing aragalaya.

Given this national awakening among youngsters from all communities, ethno-nationalism is fast losing its currency, although its usual propagators are trying to breathe some life into it. Muslim political parties too have become an irrelevance and anachronism in the changing political paradigm. Gota-Go-Gama represents a unique mission to liberate the country’s economy, society and people from the ravages of an oppressive ethno-national political mechanism engineered by its demagogues. The aspirations of the aragalaya cannot be met and the country’s economy cannot be resurrected simply by playing musical chairs with ministries and reshuffling powers among them in a desperate attempt to constitute an all-party interim government. Except perhaps little over a dozen of the present 225 the rest of the parliamentary mob are total misfits to govern the country. Aragalaya therefore demands a quick opportunity for the people to choose a more capable team to clean up the mess created by a kakistocracy. In the same vein, it is time for the Muslim community to sing the requiem after burying the two embarrassing irrelevances, SLMC and ACMC, in the dung heap of history.

*Dr. Ameer Ali, Murdoch Business School, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 3
    8

    These employees are guaranteed an income as long as do their jobs. What is so special about them, except the fact that their numbers are important for the vote?

    Clearly the true heroes are the entrepreneurs, who have saved money and put their livelihoods on the line. It is they who make this employment possible. It is they who often labour far more than their staff, choosing to not pay themselves so that their business can grow. It is they who have to ward off corrupt politicians, public servants and other government menaces to survive.

    But they are in the minority because only a few can be brave like them in any society. Their numbers make them easy pickings for the smart politician.

    Labour day is just another political gimmick like SWRD’s Suwabasha. We should have an employer day instead and celebrate the true heroes of our society!

    • 6
      1

      RizMoh,
      You sound an ’employer’. But your argument is not sound.
      Had it originated in Sri Lanka, it could very well have been a gimmick. Unfortunately, it is an import.

    • 8
      2

      “Labour day is just another political gimmick like SWRD’s Suwabasha.”
      *
      Your “SWRD’s Swabasha” speaks volumes of your knowledge of history.
      Check with someone who knows some history before making such utterances.
      *
      “It is they [the entrepreneurs] who often labour far more than their staff, choosing to not pay themselves so that their business can grow.”
      Ha ha, what a selfless bunch they are!
      Nice try though! Think of a brighter idea next time.

      • 1
        1

        SJ, Do you dispute my statement? I don’t see any counter argument in your reply.

        • 1
          1

          I do, RM. I do fully.
          But your comment is not worthy of further response when you resort to falsehoods like what I pointed out.
          Check out if you care to know when Swabasha education was started and on whose initiative.

          • 0
            1

            SJ, What an irrelevant reply!

    • 4
      0

      Even in the Capitalist Economic system that is generally practised the Entrepreneur has to first find the Land, next the Labour and lastly the Capital. It is in this context that the struggle of workers in Chicago in 1838 for a Eight-Hour Working Day was finally was accepted by the Capitalist Class although it cost the lives of several workers.
      So May Day has come to live. Capitalism cannot survive without Labour.

      • 1
        1

        Mohamed Marzook UK,
        An entrepreneur does not need employees. There are many entrepreneurial activities that use machinery or technology with no employees at all. Employees are just a cost, not unlike rent.

        If labour demanding shorter hours causes legislation to come into effect then the overall economy is damaged and business will be forced to restructure. Just some thoughts off the bat:

        1. Employers can reduce salaries commensurate with lowered work hours, or more likely hold salary increments such that (with inflation) salaries eventually become a low enough expense for the company to absorb.

        2. In order to compensate for lost hours of productivity, the business could hire more at lower salary, or simply take the productivity hit reducing overall economic output.

        3. Forcibly lowered production may cause the business to become unviable. Thus the investors may choose to close the business resulting in more unemployment, or redirect investments to less labour intensive operations.

  • 5
    0

    Dear RM
    …true heroes are the entrepreneurs,….
    They are anti-heroes. They back every political party (both sides) and get their pound of flesh in return. In 2019 they backed GR and the first thing he did was cut tax and country lost Rs.1.6 Billion. They are the ones involved in every scam from garlic to sugar to rice to cooking oil.

    • 1
      1

      MyView,
      There is a difference between the minority of businesses who lie in bed with politicians, and the thousands of other businesses who go at it by themselves. I am speaking in support of the latter.

      In the case of the former you should know that it takes two to tango – in this case the government and public sector. The solution then is to deny these institutions access to the economy by limiting its powers.

      Since corruption is facilitated by government, and larger government means more corruption, it stands to reason much of Sri Lanka’s problems could be solved by reducing government function to the bare minimum.

  • 9
    0

    The present regime has used the minority as a wedge issue, to get the support of their base, and to distract them from the corruption, and crimes committed by them. If they were not racist in their policies, and discriminated the minority, there would be no need to have political parties based on race or religion. As for the Muslim party, they have been a huge disappointment, as they never seem to stand up for the Muslims, even when they were attacked by marauding mobs.

  • 8
    4

    “I had been a long campaigner for abolishing all ethnic political parties in the country, and particularly the SLMC and its break away ACMC among Muslims”
    One has to have a sense of history to understand the source of ethnically identified parties.
    They were a response to exclusion. Minority ethnic groups became virtually irrelevant in the context of marginalisation. What we had was parties pretending to address genuine concerns as the parties themselves were irrelevant in parliament except to secure a majority. (I will not go further into this.)
    Dumping Muslim identity-based parties will not place the Muslims in any better condition.
    It is easily possible without an ethnic label to propagate chauvinism, and equally so to pursue other sectarian interests.
    Rather than idly dismiss ethnic political parties as irrelevant, one should look at reality and find ways to make them relevant– or find relevant alternatives to them.
    I can assure the author of one thing: whichever way the GGH protest goes, there will be no relief for the oppressed minorities as well as classes.
    It is time that major contradictions are discussed in the open and bases of solution agreed on.
    *
    WHAT NEXT is a question that cannot be dodged for too long.

  • 6
    0

    Notes:
    1
    The author may not know what the “Labour Leader A. E. Gunasinghe” was. He was the father of communalism in mass politics. He conducted an anti-Malayali campaign in the 1930s and took stands hostile to Tamil plantation workers.
    2
    “…all May Day rallies … had deliberately avoided marching towards and assembling at the Gall Face Green – an otherwise traditional destination…– because that venue has now become the maternity ward for a mother with birth pains for a new Sri Lanka.
    I wonder when the author was last here for a May Day. The Galle Face Green was monopolized by the ruling party for May Day rallies from the time JRJ made a tamasha of May Day in 1978.
    As for the rest of the fantasy, the less said the better.

  • 2
    0

    “Their disinterestedness in workers interests, like their nonchalant attitude towards national issues, and the absence of internal party discipline expose their irrelevance to national politics.”
    “… … it is time for the Muslim community to sing the requiem after burying the two embarrassing irrelevances, SLMC and ACMC, in the dung heap of history.”
    I am not saying anything, I just want the CT readership to read those lines once again!

  • 2
    2

    Can someone name those muslim MPs who voted for or abstained when the 20th amendment was passed by the Rajapaksas? They and they only brought the current deep economic despair to our current situation. NGR is sticking on to the power as the current constitution allows him to. Are we going to see bloodshed???

  • 5
    9

    “It is this failure that has finally awakened the young generation, which has no tolerance for ethnic parties and ethno-nationalism.”

    On the Sinhalese side, young JVP terrorists supported anarchy and young Tamil terrorists supported (and still support) secession. Young people are often idealistic. They need to be educated. Rajapakse came to power because were tired of blood being shed. It is easy to shed blood again. Young people need to develop competency in mathematics (logical thinking), physics (scientific appreciation), and show appreciation for the environment. They need to reject the corporate greed that plagues the West and even caused COVID-10 to some extent, by way of environmental damage. Unfortunately, these are life experiences, not something one gains from Youtube or Internet. Sri Lanka needs strong institutions to facilitate strong leaders.

  • 2
    0

    In our ancestral home in Kandy we owned several servants who used to work in the fields. We produced coconuts, small patch of rubber in Kurunegala, black pepper, dairy, honey etc. My late Pater, brothers and I managed our estate well.

    There was no dissent from the workers. A part of their job requirement was that they be happy (at least superficially).

  • 4
    2

    Lester
    You are indeed a bloody fool.
    “young JVP terrorists supported anarchy and young Tamil terrorists supported (and still support) secession”
    Are you talikg through your anus?
    Why don’t you sit down and ask yourself, if the so called JVP terrorists and LTTE were born as such?
    Is it not due to the lapses in governance and the consquent negative conditions and injustices suffered by them, that they had to come out and fight?
    Very soon you will say that the people who want the Rajapaksas out are also trouble makers and terrorists.
    You maybe old and with one foot in the grave, but remember it has been your type that have mislead the younger generations.
    You are poor and suffering, yet you want to stupidly identify with the elite who are stealing the wealth away.
    What a pathetic spineless tragedy of a life you and your like are living.
    Good riddence to the graves you senseless bastards, be gone, give the younger generations a chance you dim witted bastards.

    • 2
      3

      If you support terrorism, that is your business. However, don’t complain about human rights when the government uses maximum force to crush you. A terrorist does not have human rights. After the Easter bombings, Muslims cooperated with the SLA to hand over the extremists in their community. That is why there were no attacks against Muslims. Some members of the Tamil community, however, chose to take up arms against the government. They got what they deserve.

  • 0
    0

    This comment has not been updated by moderator, yet. More than a day. Wonder why.

  • 2
    1

    5/5/2022 is another SAD day for the law abiding citizens of SL. The crooked MPs are supporting the government by VOTING for the government nominated person for the Deputy Speaker’s post. Who are the muslim MPs that did so?
    I think the Rajapaksas are having FILES that can be used against these MPs.
    We the PEOPLE need to set up a separate Courts and a Parliament with GENUINE UNCORRUPT citizens

  • 0
    0

    I applaud the sentiments and the significance of the description, ‘that venue has now become the maternity ward for a mother with birth pains for a new Sri Lanka’.
    Appropriately contextualised, Ameer Ali.
    Will it be a still-birth? I pray not.
    .
    I appreciate the belief conveyed by defining the protests as, ‘National awakening among youngsters from all communities, ethno-nationalism is fast losing its currency’.
    Will that belief remain a desire or keep receding as a mere mirage. I hope not.

  • 1
    0

    What is happening in the country? The Deputy Speaker is being re-elected by the majority of the members, however, he resigns the post every time! Does he not like to serve with the support given by the present Gov’t?

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