By Latheef Farook –
Will the burning issues of the island’s Muslim community be addressed under a United National Front for Good Governance, UNFGG, government led by United National Party?
This has become the main common concern especially of the civil society of the Muslim community island wide. This is especially so in the context of the presence of Sri Lankan Muslim Congress, SLMC, and its splinter groups in the UNFGG.
They express the fear that the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, SLMC, and its splinter groups which have entered into agreements with the UNP, will accept ministerial portfolios in the event of a UNFGG victory in the forthcoming August 17 parliamentary elections and abandon the community as they had repeatedly done in the past.
This has been SLMC’s and their splinter groups’ track record. Therefore Muslims are keen to prevent the SLMC and its splinter groups hijacking the community in the forthcoming August 17 parliamentary election for positions and personal benefits.
As rightly pointed out by the leader of Tamil National Alliance, TNA, leader Mr. R. Sampanthan in his Sunday 19 July 2015 interview with Virakesari”, The SLMC failed to forge Tamil – Muslim unity and let down the Muslim community on several occasions although the Muslims, living scattered all over the island, need to live in harmony with Tamils in the north and east and the Sinhalese in the rest of the country.
For example, to cite few incidents of their callous irresponsibility towards the community, the SLMC contested the last Eastern Provincial Council elections criticizing the United People Freedom Alliance, UPFA, and won many seats. However to the shock of Muslims who voted for the SLMC within 48 hours after the elections the SLMC joined the very same UPFA government which they criticized. This brought shame to the disappointed and disgusted community which trusted the SLMC.
Added to this the SLMC voted for the 18th amendment to the constitution which provided unlimited terms for president to remain in office and led to subsequent political chaos in the country which demanded the need for 19th Amendment to the constitution to undo the damage.
Though the SLMC leadership later admitted the mistake of voting for 18th Amendment to the constitution they voted, for reasons better known to them, knowing very well the serious consequences on the community and the country as a whole.
On top of all the SLMC continued to be constituent member of UPFA government despite its patronage to Sinhala extremist elements who unleashed wave of violence against the island’s Muslims targeting their mosques, religious schools, economy, business establishments and cultural life threatening, in fact, the very existence of the community.
They remain with the UPFA government even after the Sinhala racists’ well planned and executed pogrom on Aluthgama, Beruwala and Dhargha Town Muslims costing Muslim lives and billions of rupees of loss to Muslim owned property .As a result the community as a whole lost its respect and confidence on SLMC .
It was under such atmosphere that the island’s Muslim community voted en bloc for President Maitrhripala Sirisena in the 8 January 2015 presidential elections and rejected former President Mahinda Rajapaka. They did so on their own and not on the advice of SLMC or anyone.
In fact realizing the mood of the community and the country the SLMC and its splinter groups abandoned the UPFA and crossed over to President Maithripala Sirisena camp in the eleventh hour only to have been rewarded with ministerial portfolios.
The community was deeply disappointed that the SLMC was rewarded ministerial portfolios while the community’s issues were ignored. Even after joining President Maithripala Sirisena’s government they failed to raise any issue of the community.
However it is worthy to note that the Tamils supported President Maithripala Sirisena but the TNA did not accept any ministerial portfolio. Yet they raised several issues of Tamils and got them at least partially addressed.
The situation is such that parliamentarian Prof Rajiv Wijesinghe often claimed that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe had told him that SLMC leadership asked for money to join the Maithripala Sirisena camp. Up to date this was not denied.
Thus the SLMC has become shameful liability on the community which cannot afford to continue this sad state of affairs.
This is the reason why Muslims in general fear that now that the SLMC and its splinter groups have entered into an agreement with the UNP and, in the event of a UNP led UNFGG victory, they would accept ministerial positions and abandon the community as they had done in the past.
The SLMC has lost its credibility even in its birth place Kalmunai where people accuse SLMC of tricking them and pitting them against the other communities. One resident of Kalmunai told me that “people are fed up here. They do not want confrontational politics. They want to live in harmony with Tamils and Sinhalese. This can happen only if they abandoned communal and racist politics.
Some even went to the extent of stating that there was no development in Kalmunai ever since former Minister A.R.M.Mansoor was defeated by SLMC almost quarter century ago by means of lies and deception.
He said Mansoor gave jobs to thousands in the government sector, solved fishermen’s and farmers’ problems, built hospitals, schools, roads, promoted agriculture and developed irrigation with the support government of the day.Kalmunai is one of the most densely populated areas in the country. Yet after 25 years of SLMC’s politics there is no drainage system posing great health hazard in the event of heavy flood.
The SLMC has caused tremendous damage to the image of the community due to its corrupt and irresponsible behavior far away from Islamic principles on the basis of which, it claimed, that it was founded. Highlighting this sad state of affairs in an article in the Daily Mirror of Wednesday 22 July 2015 under the title “Talk of an enigma! “ HERE’s another election” result columnist Gomin Dayasiri had this state;
“The SLMC has been functional in varying cabinets without a trace of loyalty to any that installed them. It has lingered on enjoying benefits only to swivel around and bind with the benefactor’s opponents on the eve of the election seeking more benefits. It reminds one of a local ditty to describe the characteristics of a Moor’s hat. Indeed the SLMC, identified as the carrier of the Muslim cause, stands disgraced as being selfishly opportunistic. How can trust and confidence be placed in a community, where its leaders are unprincipled rolling stones shifting sides to gain benefits? Are they helping the cause of the Muslims or their own cause by periodic change of stance? – “
Over the years today the SLMC ‘s selfish and short sighted politics has isolated the Muslims, especially those living in the predominantly Sinhalese areas, and had caused tremendous damage to Muslims who now feel ignored and orphaned.
Muslims feel that this state of affairs cannot continue anymore and thus demand an end to racist politics to reestablish their harmonious ties with the majority community. This is the reason why Muslims, especially the educated lot and the civil society is keen that Muslims abandon the SLMC in the forthcoming elections and join national political parties.
The seriousness of the situation is such that an aggressive social media campaign has been undertaken by many urging Muslims not to vote for the SLMC in the forthcoming August 17 general elections.
One such social media statement by Dr Dr Ruvaiz Haniffa had this so state under the headline” DO NOT VOTE FOR SLMC CANDIDATES COMING ON UNP NOMINATION LISTS”
Dear Madam /Sir
The UNP as indicated in the news item below is once again about to commit the same political mistake of outsourcing the UNP Muslim Vote to the SLMC.
It will only be a matter of time before these UNP/SLMC MPs elected on the UNP VOTE, cross over to whichever party which wins the majority at the August elections. By this, the UNP will lose in terms of numbers in Parliament.
More importantly, by giving nominations to SLMC persons, the UNP is not grooming the next generation of Muslim leaders for itself. This concept has been lost on the UNP leadership for the last 2 decades.
Hence, if the UNP nominates SLMC candidates on the UNP List this August, what choices do we have as UNP Muslims voters?
If the UNP does not believe in its own Muslim candidates should we as voters believe in the UNP as a National Party to deal with our political aspirations?
We should be voting only for the party and casting our preferences only to UNP CANDIDATES MUSLIMS OR NON MUSLIM.
WE MUST NOT CAST PREFERENCE VOTES TO SLMC CANDIDATES CONTESTING ON UNP LISTS.