Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river. ~Nikita Khrushchev
I instinctively remembered this first line of a song, being frequently sung by the little daughter of one of my Muslim friends, when I heard Deputy Minister Faizer Mustapha speaking his heart out at a recent press interview. He made ‘a tongue in the cheek’ statement at a press Conference, thus:’
‘ …If the government has ties with the BBS I don’t think I would be doing justice to my community. But I know that I could support anyone if I work according to my conscience, but if I know that the government is working directly or indirectly with the BBS then I cannot continue in politics…’
What a statement from a good Muslim Minister, feeling for his community ! Does he expect a signed written letter or a direct whisper from BBS to such effect, when the whole world knows that the MR government, with Gotabaya’s patronage has been regularly pulling the puppet strings of and throwing the lifeline to BBS. In fact, Gnanasara confirmed at their recent press conference in more unambiguous terms to vote for the only Man with the moustache MR, who ‘liberated the country’, while all others who contested against MR were branded as part of a foreign conspiracy, little realising that Gnanasara himself supported Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 elections at Press conferences. Thus, when Gnanasara later claimed that he did not ask the people to vote for MR, people obviously did not believe him, as he was wearing Emperor’s clothes. His much publicized BBS meeting on 05th December at the HydePark, promoted through their social networking sites, calling Sinhala Buddhists to attend it in great numbers, fell into pieces. Ever since that meeting ,. Gnanasara has gone into hiding and was heard to do some ‘Adhishtana Poojas’ to keep himself busy.
Thus, even after the allegiance of BBS to the government was made crystal clear thus by Gnanasara himself after MR announced his candidature, and the Sinhala Buddhist people also gave an indication by way of relatively very poor show-up at their Hyde Park meeting, about BBS true intentions, what more does Minister Mustapha need ? He is contradicting himself when he says that he is working according to his conscience, but at the same time claiming ignorance of government’s links with the BBS. He should realize his blind spot and not try to dupe and hoodwink the Muslim masses. I am sure they will not believe him, as he is but one of the shamed flock of so –called ‘ Muslim’ Ministers who have lost their appeal and credibility among the Muslim electorate. Minister Mustapha can /should show his gratitude to MR for having accorded him the PC title, above many others who are much more entitled to it; but he should not make the Muslim community a conduit to further his aims.
Mustapha’s hypocritical utterances is but just an example of political hypocrisy in general which we see in this breed with no exception. Just as much as Sinhala Buddhist politicians will go to lengths to sacrifice their Buddhist principles to further their nests, and Tamil politicos will sacrifice theirs, so will Muslim Politicians too, if there are in the government in power, not hesitate to make their community a scrape-goat if the need arises. We saw how Hakeem and Rishard Bathiudeen both tried to out-beat each other to gain community admiration, after the Aluthgama episode in June 2014. Hakeem said that he, as the Justice Minister, was ashamed to be part of this government when he saw the government even manipulating with the forensic records and his SLMC even walked out of the Parliament as a token sign of protest. Bathiudeen too, had an altercation with MR at a cabinet meeting.
However, when the opportunity has now arisen to show their disapproval in real terms , about the shoddy way in which their community was/ is being treated, and to ‘shake the mountain’ as stated by MP Hunais Farook in a recent press interview, these so-called representatives of the Muslim community, have either decided to stay on with the MR government who sponsored the hate attackers or dilly-dallying and thinking high and low whether to or not to! Whether they have fallen for a carrot (more perks) and scared of the stick (threat of exposing their files), it is downright betrayal of their community for petty gains. It is very clear to all of us that these characters are mere serfs in the service of MR.
Just as we Sinhala Buddhists are wary of and fed up with the so-called pseudo patriotic stance of the BBS, Muslims too have become annoyed with these political opportunists, for using them as a ladder to climb on. To compare them with historic heavyweights among Muslim leadership namely Sir Razik Fareed, Badiudeen Mahmud or even Ashraff (despite my dislike for his brand of communal politics) will be an insult to say the least.
Fareed’s political achievements for the community included gaining concessions for Muslims like leave for Friday prayers and institutionalizing schools with a majority of Muslim students as Muslim schools with special calendars, syllabi and uniforms. Fareed’s actions also greatly contributed to the institutionalization of a particular Muslim identity. On the other hand, Badiuddin Mahmud had a specific strategy to overcome the complacency of the Muslim community, who did not seem then, to be thinking beyond their private business affairs. He was to stir the conscience and the minds of the community to look at education as a future option for progressive development. Being a nationalist he, along with Sir Fareed encouraged Muslims to learn the Sinhala language. This proved to be invaluable to the Muslims both in terms of developing a common language in the country as well as for purpose of employment and business.
History will admire Ashraff for what he believed in (vision) and pursued. His political outlook was much wider. Although the interests of his own community were paramount for him, he was also extremely sympathetic to the Tamil problems and grievances and how he tried to help realise the legitimate aspirations of Tamils, as well. Despite his occasional clashes with Tamil politicians in later years in the interests of his community, Ashraff had an empathy with Tamil and Tamils as well as he understood Tamil grievances and appreciated their aspirations, unlike many of the current crop of East based Muslim politicians. Ashraff was a person who felt that the fundamental problem in Sri Lanka was Sinhala majoritarianism, and he tried to bring an understanding among minority communities in order to combat it. In his later years, he correctly realized that it was important to be change his communal stance. His greatest virtue was therefore his change from a “sectarian” leader to a “national” one, and formed the National Unity Alliance (NUA). Today, the SLMC, together with its many breakaway factions are struggling to assert their claim to articulate Muslim political needs and represent their interests. Instead, these characters are using their community to further their own ends, and in the process have lost their influence among the community they seek to lead.
Therefore, just as the Sinhala Buddhists are waking up to the reality that BBS is a hoax and an extension of the Gota’s arm of influence, it is time that the Muslim community too, speak up against their so-called leaders and expose them for what are and reject their false pretensions as their champions. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and we should rise above communal politics and vote for a decisive change the Common Candidate has the necessary credibility to usher in an era of peaceful co-existence, and we should use our vote wisely, without falling into the traps laid by these so-called community political leaders to continue to prop up a repressive regime which has lost its War victory appeal among the electorate and the credibility to achieve actual peace and harmony for our motherland, which should be more than just absence of War. Hakeems, Rishards, Mustaphas and the likes, should be told they have become irrelevant in today’s socio-political context, and that Muslims can do without champions like them! MR’s utter silence when Muslims were under attack and his attempts to show off as a Muslim-friendly Head of State, smacks of highest levels of political hypocrisy, which the Muslims will be able to note and distinguish.