31 October, 2020

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Sri Lanka Muslim Congress: A Failed Leadership Of A Hapless Community

By Salithamby Abdul Rauff  –

Salithamby Abdul Rauff

“Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) that emerged as a teardrop of politically and ethnically persecuted Muslims in the north east has become a food bundle feeding the selfish stomachs today,” my friend and fellow university student of that time wrote to the then weekly Sarinikar during a leadership crisis in the party that followed Ashraff’s death. His claim has been more relevant to the contemporary Muslim Congress. In effect, the leadership of Ashraff, founder leader of the SLMC, became active after his SLMC became a mainstream Muslim political party and a political partner of the Chandrika led UPFA government in 1994. During his 6 years of leadership until his death in 2000, leader Ashraff did lots for his community. He transformed his Muslim community politically from dependent community into independent community. Leader Ashraff also made some progress for his community in education and culture. Muslim areas, mainly in the east, also found significant development in his years. Leader Ashraff used his powerful ministerial position and his political clout maximum to do these for his people. His Muslim Congress also had a political stance for the north and east Muslims if the country’s decade old ethnic question was settled politically even though such stance received a staunch criticism from his own community too.

Mr. Hakeem who succeeded Ashraff after his death has been the leader of the party since 2000. In his more than 10-year leadership, he had received numerous political opportunities that his predecessor Ashraff had not obtained. In peace talks advanced by Ranil government with former Tamil Tigers in 2002, Leader Hakeem participated as a member of government delegation. He also struck a deal with ex LTTE leader Prabhakaran,called Prabha-Hakeem pact on behalf of Muslim community. Mr. Hakeem has also been a powerful member at cabinet of virtually every successive government after Ashraff. Unfortunately, he had never used all these politically important opportunities to address Muslims’ issues or represent their interests appropriately. Instead, he had repeatedly substantiated his ill-equipped leadership in representing his community on all these occasions. Whenever his Muslim community was being vulnerably targeted by Sinhalese and Tamil ethno-religious nationalist elements, leader Hakeem played undoubtedly an unacceptable role. He could not protect his people from attacks of these elements despite his strong political clout and presence in every government.

Hakeem

In 2001, in the south (Mawanella), when Muslims were killed and their businesses badly destroyed by some Sinhalese rioters, leader Hakeem who was a powerful minister of the time could only be a muted spectator. In 2002, while a ceasefire was in force between the Ranil government and LTTE, Muslims in the east were being killed and their bodies unacceptably burnt in contrast to their religious values. Muslims were also driven out of their land and villages. Their villages at times were given different names against their wishes. When the Tamil Tigers perpetrated these violent practices, the acknowledged human rights and ceasefire violations of LTTE, against Muslims, leader Hakeem who was a powerful minister, government peace talk delegation member and also a Praba-Hakeem pact’s signatory could do nothing to prevent them but to conveniently issue senseless statements over time. In 2003, when Muslims of the north and east expressed their legitimate political aspiration to participate as a separate party at government –LTTE peace talks to address their issues through a peaceful popular agitation in the South Eastern University of Oluvil, leader Hakeem could not deliver such separate delegation to his community.

Shortly before the August 2012 eastern provincial council elections, Muslim mosques from Dambulla to Anuradhapura were attacked and a decade-old Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura desecrated. Sinhalese mobs directed by some Buddhist monks carried out them. They barred Muslims from worshipping in these mosques and demanded their closure giving deadline too. On these occasions, leader Hakeem who was Justice Minister could not protect his people’s worship places.  Once eastern provincial council election came, leader used these mosque attacks and desecration as a ploy to plunder more Muslim votes. At his election rallies, he accused the government explicitly for the first time of not protecting Muslim worship places. At the same election platforms, leader also portrayed the then eastern provincial council formed by this government with Pillayan as a puppet administration and vowed to form an independent administration with back-born after the elections. Interestingly, Leader made this rhetoric when he was still in the cabinet of this government, which was a flagrant political drama to mislead Muslim masses. Following elections, Hakeem uncritically helped the same government form a new administration to the province extracting some provincial ministries for his party stalwarts. But, mosque attack issue of the community was kept intact for next elections as another ploy.

Today, Muslim community of the country has become a vulnerable target of a section of Buddhist community in the form of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). The BBS directed by radical  Buddhist monks with unreasonable perception and anxiety over Muslims in the country has today prevented halal food for Muslims in domestic market. Halal (permissible) is an uncompromising religious practice in every Muslim’s daily life. In other non-Muslim countries of contemporary globe, even in Asia where Muslims have been minority community or living in small number, Halal has not been a problem to them or their countries. These countries absolutely permit Muslims to have halal food as their citizens.  Local companies in these countries serve halal products in domestic markets. In Japan that has Muslim population in very small size, there has been a civil organisation Japan Halal Association (JHA) regulating halal food affair. The JHA claims the halal food delivery has increased in Japan largely for the past ten years. Cafeterias in universities, public restaurants and local manufacturers include halal food in their sales.

A cafeteria at Hongo campus of Tokyo University in Japan has newly announced to serve halal dishes to university people daily. The National Federation of University Co-operative Association of Japan reported that at least seven Japanese universities – in addition to Tokyo University- offered to serve halal dishes among their staff and students. The JHB has estimated that there are at least 200 public restaurants across the country offering halal food currently. Takayuki Ishihara, manager of the Gyumon restaurant in Tokyo offering halal food, said “I hope mutual understanding will deepen between Muslims and non Muslims by dining here.” Ryoichi Namikawa, professor of Chukyo University, emphasised in his book “the concept of halal” that an acceptable understanding on halal was essential to Japan as non Muslim country.

Muslims of the country have been denied religious freedom by halal removal. All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) has been sadly disgraced and forced to scrap its halal certificate issuance. This anti-Muslim campaign is being advanced unchecked by the BBS with, according to observers, alleged blessings of some in the corridors of power. So, the attack on Muslim halal has undoubtedly a political overtone too. The ACJU is not a political party, but a faith-based civil organisation to regulate Muslims’ religious life and affairs. It has no political say to counter this powerful politics behind halal crisis. Instead, it is an inherent obligation of Muslim Congress to deal with this political component since the party has been the mainstream political organisation with a wider popular mandate of Muslim community, and a political partner of current government. As always, in the halal issues too, the SLMC leadership has once again failed to perform its obligation. It has betrayed community’s religious life by delivering no solution to this problem. It would, therefore, be a historical blunder on part of the leadership. .

At a time when halal controversy was at its height, minister Nimal Siripala de Silva in his statement in parliament unrealistically claimed that no mosque in the country had been attacked. Leader Hakeem who blamed the government for such attacks at the time elections was shamelessly nodding to this claim with his unbreakable silence. He could not disprove Minister’s claim even though plenty of evidence over mosque attacks was unearthed. We learnt from media reports that the leader renewed his shameless silence in another the meeting with diplomats of Muslim countries in Colombo also when they asked him why he was silent as minister Silva misled the house on the issues. Unfortunately, Muslims have no political leaders or representatives in parliament to fight for their problems even though they have dozens of ministers, deputy ministers, MPs and political parties. They have to surrender to non Muslim political leaders in the country to address their problems and grievances.

In parliament, when opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe, albeit political, voiced for Muslim community condemning the ongoing anti-Muslim campaign, SLMC leadership was again silently betraying its community by not granting him at least a moral support. Non Muslims’ fight for Muslims is not a new development. This has been a global phenomenon lasting long. George Galloway, British MP and journalist, has been the occupied Palestinians’ world voice. It is David Cronin of British, journalist and civil activist, to still fight to get their former Prime Minister Tony Blair tried for his role in US-led illegal war on Iraq. Cronin has also been running his online “Citizen Campaign” as of 2010 for this. Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist and volunteer of International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was also one non Muslim to fight for Palestinian cause. This young female activist sacrificed her life for occupied Palestinians while fighting to thwart Israeli bulldozer from demolishing Palestinian homes.

The BBS’ Muslim animosity has not ceased only with halal ban. It has now expanded to Muslim attires (male hat and female hijab) and Muslim economy.  In Mannampitty of Batticaloa, a Muslim female post-master has been tried by unidentified persons to remove her hijab while on her way to office. In Kandy, the hat of a Quranic school teacher has been forcibly taken off from his head while in bus and trampled under the feet by an alleged auto driver. In Kurunagale, one Muslim woman, while travelling by bus, has been badly insulted for her hijab. Muslim business establishments are also being destroyed. As the latest development, the ACJU has been branded as terrorist supporting organisation. These developments all clearly mean that Muslims in the country are under existential threat. At this juncture, SLMC leadership does continue its betrayal of silence. As the leadership invariably convenes its politburo to decide to extract what ministries and for whom, It has not been summoned such politburo at least to debate this most critical situation against its community despite a repeated call from party ranks for an emergency politburo session. The leader claims he has 20 years of association with our president. Likewise, his deputy and party heavyweight who became a minister without leader’s knowledge after president’s recent cabinet reshuffling had professed that his spiritual might earned him such a ministerial position. Will both use this two-decade old relations and spiritual might to preserve their community? Muslim Congress leader is no longer capable of leading his community for many reasons observed above. This is the appropriate time for this hapless Muslim community to appreciate this fact.

* Salithamby Abdul Rauff pursues a PhD in social work at school of social sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia.  

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Latest comments

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    The way Sri Lankan Muslims played politics is unique. Now they do the same game with their own.

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    Excellent article very true, entire Muslim politicians have betrayed the Muslims of SriLanka except Azath Salley & Mujibur Rahman.

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      Sadly, they are not united. They demonstrated their rivalry and showed their true colours when a Hartal was organised by Mujeeb in protest against bbs attack on Fashion Bug. If they are true leaders with genuine concern for the community they should have reached a consensus whether to hold the Hartal or not.

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    I believe, the present parliament, we have the largest number of Muslim MPs. So many of them are ministers and deputies ministers. What are they doing when the Muslims are pushed to this situation. It’s apparent that they are not for the community but for themselves as there no action on their part to protect the Muslims.

    It’s time for the Muslims to send very strong message to them that their inaction to protect the lives and properties of us going to cost them dearly in the future.

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      NOT just send a message.. see that they are voted out and new blood brought in. These ” Senior” politicians have NOT uttered a word for the betterment of Muslims lately. All they have done is to say” What you say is right sir” With such humbugs we muslims cannot and will not be properly represented in Parliament. Azath Salley strengthened the Hand of MR because SF had said that Muslims are tourists and needed to be sent back to the Middle East. Little did he know Buddhism too came from India … Someone enlighten me as to how Buddhism came to SL, if otherwise…

      After Azath found out the true colors of MR, Salley quit the UPFA of which Hakeem, Fauzy ( Salley’s uncle), Alavi Moulana, Risath Bathudeen, Faizer Musthafa and the ilk shamelessly hold on to, for their own benefits and perks. Faizer Musthafa was the one behind the mediation of Fashion Bug and the BBS settlement courtesy GR. Faizer is the one who GR turns to, for legal advice and representation.

      We need more Azath Salley’s in the future for Muslim and other minorities to hold our heads high and walk tall.. I recall with pride the times I spent time with him in class together at school and even on the day when GR sent him a SMS message to Azath’s phone on the day GR presided at the opening ceremony of the BBS branch in Galle to Salley, stating that people were under the impression that GR was in support of BSS, just coz he graced the opening ceremony. We were at a dinner as classmates who got together for a re-union… and we laughed our asses off…

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    Muslims do not have leaders. They are ‘politicians’ from the Muslim community. Good for nothing scumbags. Disgrace to the community and an insult to the religion.

    This includes the ones in the government, opposition and the diplomats !

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      Can’t agree more…. All they know is to line their pockets for the benefit of their OWN family and not the fraternity…

      The present set of Muslim Politicos need to be replaced with positive thinkers for the betterment of the majority and Minority as a whole..

      If it has to start from the grass roots, so be it.. let’s plant the seeds and start watering em, so that in a couple of years we can see the fruit…

      As Muslims, we are told to plant a tree even if we know that the following day is the end of the world… so let’s band together As Sri-Lankans and try to leave SL a better place for generations to come…

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      ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.

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    The writer says “In parliament, when opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe, albeit political, voiced for Muslim community condemning the ongoing anti-Muslim campaign, SLMC leadership was again silently betraying its community by not granting him at least a moral support” and Minister Nimal Siripala lied to the Parliament on attacks on Muslims. This is when there are no terrorists to counter Sinhalese or Tamils or Muslims, as during the pre-war ending.

    Muslims Brothers, now we know which way we should go at another election, irrespective of Alavi Moulanas, Azwers, Athavullahs and Hakeems! Ranil is a gentleman on whom we can rely than Hakeem for certain.

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    Birds of a feather flock together reminds me.

    It seems the gap between muslim parliamentarians and their community are much higher. So those muslim parliamentarians seem to pay no interests in any of the grivances of the mulim community. This was contrast in the recent issues them being fully ignored by those politicians. This is the style that MR regime abuse – just targeting gullible communties they try to strengthen their powers. If Hakeem was different to MR, he could have made all efforts to change a lot – particularly as a minister of Justice for the many years he has been.
    Can anybody add any good recent statements focusing on crime investigations or any related issues made by him ? He is just a caricature to my eye. As every other ministers – they all just wait being halozinated. For what purpose they have been appointed ministers ?

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    Hakim and Ranil have to be tied on to the same “Karaththe” and sent home from the respective political parties. Oh!, not to forget Thondaman. We have to create a “thun gon karaththe” for all these three jokers.

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      “Karaththe” I don’t know how. But to a tree Merwin can do it.

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    While many opposition politicians have spoken on behalf of Azad Sally, Mr Hakeem and his party have maintained a studied silence. Being the Minister of Justice he doesnt seem to have the power to speak on anything unjust. Even when it affects his own community he is rather helpless and cuts a sorry figure.

    If he wants God to intervene, he can pray from home or go to Mecca, he doesnt have to be a minister or member of the Govt. Being a member of the governing coalition, what have they gained for the community? Zilch. Better exit than be humiliated and be called to answer by the creator for their actions as well.

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    Hakeem thinks Muslims can be fooled all the times. Next time, he will see where he and his party stand. Shameless guy! So are the other Muslim Ministers and MPs in the Coalition Government.

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    Wait & c

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    This man Hakeem should HAVE left the office long back now allowing any other capable to lead their party. President just keep him close, not to protect their powers within the coalition. Way out to a change in the country, MC together with all other parties should leave SLFP paving the way for a better future. That then can learn MR a lession, millions of lankens will then be grateful to those small parties and their leaders. It is the high time to do so, we all need a better regime giving no more time to the criminals in power.

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    Sri Lankan muslims are a special breed – each one for himself and Allah for us all. We are generally distrustful of our community leaders and our fellow Sri Lankans have a saying for us along the following lines THAMBI GE THOPPIYA HARENA HARENA ATHATA …..
    Each individual only looks for a opportunity with benefit for himself.
    How much can our women take, being spat-on and ridiculed in public; how much can a man take when his hat is seized and trampled in the dust; how much can a young man take when he is asked to drop his trousers to prove that he is not a muslim.
    Now we are cornered by the rabid racists of the BBS and Hela Urumaya and(like the Tamils)we will have to depend on the ‘undesirables’ of our community to defend our honour and our faith. They will resort to rape and pillage and our cities will burn and bombs will burst again until a new leader comes again to lead us all back to our senses.
    God help us all if that day come!

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    Hakeem a leader? Nonsense. He is now a great mis(s)leader! He seems to have lost his bearings since that alleged HARAM act of misleading Miss Kumari who committed suicide before his residence. This man will even sell his soul to Shaitan just to safeguard his Ministerial post!

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    Useless Leadership and selfish fellow, he is not a suitable person to our community, his family background is very bad, Hakeem and his father in law both are womeniser, i know personally

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    All these years we Muslims elected Muslim leaders for one reason, thats he is our man. what these our men have done to us? If the partner of the regime SLMC couldnt do anything to stop BBS on the Halal issue, why do we need them? In every country in the world you find Halal food. Its not an issue at all. None of th enone Muslims ever bother if a purticular food stuff carrying halal stamp or not. But why now? this has been carefully planed by the ruling family by carefully reqruited extemists. Gota started harassing Muslim traders much before the BBS was formed, in the form of some extorsion. He sent people from inland revenue and Intelligence Bureau to find faults and when failed to explain locked up some business owners. Thus demanded huge funds. then he started a Grease Yaka so on. Hakeem and clan so well aware of this for years yet did nothing. There are few other much worse than Hakeem namely Hisbulla, Bathiudeen, Azwer, Cader, Mustafa the front runners.
    Mr. Ranil wickramasinghe in a ralley said recently that every time he stands up talk about the Muslim issues there wasnt a single Muslim representative to give at least some moral support excpet for Mr. Sambandan. Mr Sambandan is more concern than our own reps. What a disgusting situation we are in.
    Are we going to let them fool us again and again? I would rather vote UNP or JVP than these hypocrites. UNP didnt do much to our community either but at least we can sleep peacefully.

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    Yes, it is an excellent article; undoubtedly, our dear brothers are so corrupt and perhaps have forgotten their faith. Hence, it is a waste of time analyzing their political careers. It is our creator, Allah Subhana Tha’la and to him alone, whom we all should trust.

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    Ashraff’s sole aim was to be the sole leader of Muslim Community. Of course he has done something here and there like the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka. He created broad daylight robbers, liars and what not in hisbullah, basheer segu dawood, hafeez nazeer, et el. He earned billions during his office in Chandrika’s government and became owner of Orchards and vineyards in Australia and Malaysia. The only Muslim leader the Community had was Dr Al-haj Badiuddin Mahmood who lived a modest life and died a poor man. Sir Razik Fareed, Macan Macar, Dr MCM Kaleel,and their contemporaries at least were honest in serving the community but not m h mohamed.

    Ashraff did not start the SLMC with pure intention – Ikhlaas. That is the reason why, perhaps, Allah made his end tragic and gruesome and made his party fragment into 1001 with bloody rogues like rauff hakeem, rishard badiudden and all at the helm.

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    The problem with the Muslim community, just like the Tamil community, is that they are not united to fight for and defend themselves. See how many Muslim political parties and factions are there and to make things worse they are all with the government. That is where the problem lies. Like Thondaman and Devananda all they want is perks and positions for themselves. Hakeem, Bathiuddin, Faizer and Azwer are nothing but lapdogs of the Rajapaksa regime. I will go as far as accusing them of being collaborators working with the enemies of their own people.

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      Correction – Problem with the ‘politicians’ from the Muslim community. These scumbags do not represent the Muslim community.

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        Then who elected them?

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        You see, if the people refuse to support these vultures there won’t be so many factions “representing” them in parliament. Basically the problem lies with the people. The people are allowing the politicians to behave badly and they seem to make the same mistakes again and again. Despite the Muslim politicians’ inexcusable inaction in the government supported BBS thuggery against the Muslim people I bet my bottom dollar that the people will elect them again. Sad, isn’t it?

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    This writer Salithamby Abdul Rauff says he pursues his PhD in social work in Malaysia. Writer being a Muslim doing social work there no doubt he is influenced by legalized bigotry and racism in that country and perhaps wondering how to imitate some of it here in favour of Muslims.

    Malays being 100% Muslim and are over 50% of the population they control politics of Malaysia. As such, Muslims are protected in every way in Malaysia by law. To say the least, Article 11 of Federal Constitution of Malaysia says federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among ‘Muslims’. However, there is freedom to carry on missionary work among non-Muslims. That means Malaysian Citizen is divided in to two categories. Needless to say, by design by law, Muslims are on the increase and others are set to decrease.

    In contrast, Sri Lanka treats everyone equal. For all purposes, there is only one type of “citizen of Sri Lanka” under Sri Lanka constitution. But minorities are not happy here. Muslims had setup sting operations with Saudi money to increase their lot and overwhelm us. Example is Muslim clothing chain, ‘No Limit’ employs no Sinhala boys but Muslim boys and Sinhala girls. This is a well planned trick. Aim is to get Sinhala girls married to Muslim men and breed more and more Muslims like rabbits to overwhelm Sinhala population. That is a justifiable accusation with proof by BBS. Unfortunately, unlike in Malaysia, we 75% Sinhalas are too egalitarian. There is no law here to thwart such deliberate plans of diluting the Sinhala nation. Recent population statistics show us enough proof of that. Have you ever heard a Muslim girl marry a Sinhala boy by any chance? If you have, I bet, all bearded and prez cap Muslims would have ganged up to condemn the couple or out cast them or thrown them out of the family or even to get them killed.

    Writer moans about ‘Muslim mosques from Dambulla to Anuradhapura were attacked’. I thought all Muslim mosques have four minarets. But not just number of mosques were two but those two didn’t have any minarets but covered with takaran roofs. They were mere meeting places for Muslim trades that could have re-erected outside the thousand year old sacred areas of Buddhists. If they were mosques, it shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

    Come, come, Mr. Salithamby, go stand in front of a mirror before you accuse Buddhists for destroying you mosques. Don’t tell me that you are feeling numb now because you know they were all Muslims and not Sinhalas that attacked real Muslim mosques? Talk about real Muslims (Wahhabis) ransacking real Muslim mosques in Kathankoody, Beruwela, Ukuwela and etc. To remind you just one of it, Wahhabi mob had invaded the Meditation Centre that a Sufi named Abdullah opened at Kattankudy in 1996 on December, 15th 2006 and knocked down the minarets and removed his body from the grave and burned it. They also destroyed 117 houses belong to Sufis. I can come with the full stories once again if you want.

    Anyway, now that the monks of the BBS openly challenged the likes of this writer for an open debate on all matters at their rally in Kandy, they should take it up that challenge without repeating the same foxy game of accusing monks as radicals and claiming Muslims as innocent cats that are under threat.
    Leela

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      In srilanka, Everyone is treated equal ?

      You should really be blind – my god, why leela, you should always come with this kind of inputs that are not facts ?

      If there exists equal rights to all – why Azath is arrested while BBS leader was not ?

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        Anyone can feel it it s you who has to stand infront of a mirror. If not at 67, atleast before 70, it is better to grash things as they really are.

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          If he stands in front of a mirror he would see a distorted loris on the other side. Leela is a bigtime bullshiter like dilantha withanage who cant even save his butt at an interview. leave this bbs beast alone. he is an educated racist like gooo amare, stinking of shit.

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    The Leader is a puppet of the Ruling party. and selling all the Muslim’s Rights and Muslim culture for Political benefits of their own income. Shame to say Muslim Leader’s in the Muslim population.

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