21 September, 2020

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The 20A: Why Minorities, Especially Muslims, Oppose?

By Latheef Farook

Latheef Farook

Latheef Farook

Muslims living scattered all over the island, with special concentration in the east but often in small pockets in the predominantly Sinhalese areas, fear that their representations in the parliament will be reduced considerably under the proposed 20th amendment to the constitution on electoral reforms.

Thus they oppose the draft amendment in its present form gazetted on June 12.

One should not forget that it was repeated constitutional changes depriving the minorities of their legitimate rights contributed a great deal to the subsequent ethnic war which turned the country into one of the worst killings fields in Asia. Thus constitutional changes need to be studied carefully and should ensure that all communities are provided equal representation.

This is the reason many question why rush this amendment if the next parliamentary election is to be held under the existing system.

Speaking out on behalf of minority communities even Ven Sobitha Thero had said that “details of mechanism in the 20A  is not very clear yet, but from the number game it is very clear the minority representation in the parliament is going to be decreased substantially. This is not healthy for minority community in the country and also other small political parties like JVP who make the difference and raise the voice in the parliament against any social injustice.

Muslim Hakeem Anura TamilYou may call Sri Lanka in whatever name you want (multi ethnic, multi religious). But the fact that you need to accept is Sri Lanka is a country where majority are Buddhists. By saying so minority community shall not be offended. But rights of the minority shall be secured and safeguarded. So there shall be fair representation from minority community in the parliament, at least to the percentage of each ethnic population in the country.

We shall not make our remarks on 20A by looking at present behavior of our Muslim parities and Muslim politicians. Whether they are performing their duties up to the expectation may be questionable. But that is a different topic to talk about. Here we shall work for future interest of the community. Thus concluded Ven Sobitha Thero.

A commentator wrote in the Sunday Observer on 21 June 2015 that although the Bill is a significant milestone to eliminate election-related corruption and frauds, they oppose it in its current form because the minorities’ chances of getting elected to Parliament, Provincial Councils and other local government bodies will be reduced considerably.

Columnist Asoka Obeysekera stating that small parties are not protected in the new bill which failed to adhere to international best practice suggested that solution in the way of a dual vote mixed electoral system which preserves the essence of PR whilst guaranteeing constituency representation.

In fact Muslim fear emanates from the way the community was treated since independence, by successive United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party governments. These governments with their eyes firmly fixed on the elections, not the interest of the country, continued to woo the majority as the most effective vote caching strategy seldom realizing how they alienated the minorities.

It appears that this trend continues unabated even today under the existing complicated and complex political scenario.

For example from early 20th century, especially since independence, governments sought to strip the minorities of their existing rights and privileges.

They passed the Citizenship Act No 18 of 1948, Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Act No 03 of 1949 followed by the Parliamentary Elections (Amendments) Act.

Within two years this deprived large number of Indian Tamil residents in Sri Lanka of their citizenship rights and franchise. The irony is that it was Tamil and Muslim votes that deprived the estate Tamils of their citizenship. According to some, the Citizenship Acts were partly aimed at Indian Muslims who had come to dominate many local businesses.

What is surprising is that these Citizenship Acts were passed under the auspices of the then Prime Minister, DS Senanayake and his United National Party [UNP], a party that had committed itself to national unity but opened floodgates of discrimination against Tamils and Muslims to the delight of chauvinists from the majority community.

The overnight disenfranchisement of the Indian Tamil population changed the ethnic structure of the electoral balance providing a clear advantage to the UNP in the general elections of 1952. These Acts made Muslims too voiceless second class citizens – a servile community. What could the Muslims living scattered all over the island do?

In 1972 late Prime Minister Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike’s government introduced the new Republican Constitution .This abolished the Senate, paved the way for a more authoritarian government, subjected the judiciary to political control and declared Buddhism as the state religion while other religions were given the freedom of worship.

The new constitution removed Section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution safeguarding the rights of minorities and replaced it with a clause on Fundamental Rights. It also removed the right of minority community members to appeal against any injustice perpetrated against them and put the government in a position to use the state machinery and the administration to harass and intimidate political opponents.

The 1972 Constitution also empowered the government to acquire land, movable and immovable property in pursuance of its stated objective of socialist development. This included the take-over of factories, shops and all sorts of buildings as well as vehicles under the guise of their being required for public purposes.

This deterred political opponents from working against the government. Not only Muslim businessmen and others who supported the UNP but also those who antagonized the SLFP politicians and roused their anger and jealousy, suffered a great deal. Every Muslim lived in fear of his property, business or land being taken over by the government on one pretext or another.

This constitution united the Tamil community as Tamil political parties, Federal Party and Tamil Congress, formed the Tamil National Alliance and what happened subsequently is known to everyone

July 1977 JR Jayewardene led United National government, exploiting its huge majority in the parliament, introduced yet another new constitution in 1978 blending some of the functional aspects of the previous constitutions including some features of the French Gaullist and American Presidential systems. This constitution which repealed the previous 1972 constitution and brought in the presidential system of government also made the judiciary subservient to it and provided absolute powers to the President with no accountability besides declaring Buddhism as the state religion.

In short this constitution reduced the island’s minority communities to the position of nonentities. Power was concentrated in the President of the Republic to such an extent that President Jayewardene proudly declared that he had the power to do anything under the sun except making a man a woman and vice versa.

The new constitution provided for the election, once in six years, of a president who for all practical purposes functioned as the democratically elected dictator-something unheard of in any Third World country. Thus began the process of devaluation of democratic institutions and values resulting in the erosion of democracy-a trend which continued unabated leading to current chaotic state of affairs.

Discussing the plight of Muslims under the 1978 Constitution, late District Judge MAM Hussain who was also a member of the then delimitation commission had this to say: “The Jayewardene Constitution of 1978 is at one with its predecessors in regard to the abolition of safeguards to minorities and it too refrained from re-enacting the provisions of Section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution, reinstating the principle of appointment and resurrecting the Senate. More damaging are its provisions with regard to demarcation of electoral districts. There was no provision instructing the Delimitation Commission to pay attention to the existence of minorities in the country while demarcating electoral districts.

“The provisions of the Soulbury Constitution with regard to minority representation that have been reiterated in slightly different language in the 1972 Republican constitution are conspicuous by their absence in the Jayewardene Constitution. As the future general elections will be held in terms of the electoral districts carved out by the Delimitation Commission appointed under the Jayewardene Constitution, it is imperative that the Muslim community, being a minority in this country, did understand the implications of omitting the provisions in question.

“The Delimitation Commission appointed under the Jayewardene Constitution was constrained by law that brought into being to disregard all considerations of minority representation in the divisions of provisions into electoral districts. This law seems to be directed at the Muslim community rather than at any other in this country as it has become clear now. The concept of proportional representation presupposes the existence of party system in the politics in the country and in this respect the Proportional Representation introduced by the Jayewardene Constitution into the machinery of elections in the country has caught the Muslim community napping and sealed their political fate .”

It was in these contexts comes the unusual rush to pass the 20th amendment to the constitution to introduce new electoral reforms.

Now the question is why rushing this amendment? Why not discuss this further and ensure adequate representations to minorities?

In fact none of our modern Constitutions emanated from the hearts of the People, who in terms of Article 3 of the Constitution are the acknowledged Sovereigns of this Country.

The major proposal in the 20th Amendment will be in the electoral system and the creation of a hybrid system with first past the post and proportionate representation characteristics.

This proposal would give rise to great complexity to the electoral process, and its merits, if any, have to be weighed against the unnecessary complications and delays it could give rise to. The hybrid system appears to be a compromise, and is symptomatic of an inability to choose what is best for the country.

Such major changes should be carefully considered in consultation with the main stakeholder – The Sovereign Voter. Has this been done? There is no doubt that if this bill is rushed through, it will not only not be in the best interests of the Country but also will go against the principle of the Sovereignty of the People.

Another change proposed in the 20th Amendment is the replacement of the cut out point of one-twentieth (5 per cent) of the total votes polled as specified in Art 99(6) of the existing Constitution as amended by the Fifteenth Amendment with a lower cut out point of three per cent. (Draft Section 99B(2). How will this work in the context of the first past the post system, where its significance can be negligible? It will only have a bearing in regard to the balance.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    4

    Okay its the 5% cut off point you are opposed to. But that is the mark in all respected systems. We have to accept. This is one of the reason why smaller extremist parties manage to enter our parliament since 1989. It can be worse in the future. So let’s get back to the normal cut off mark and be inclusive.

    • 0
      4

      Dear Mr Latheef Farook,

      You are taking a cue from Racist Tamil propaganda to sell your brand of Racism.

      It is the magnanimity of the Sinhalese that saved your imminent extinction from Sri Lanka when you were hunted and hounded by the Portuguese. It is solely due to that magnanimity that you have a dominant presence in the East where Muslims were settled en mass by a Sinhala Kandyan King on Sinhalese Land.

      It is that magnanimity which you repaid by desecrating the PREMIER State pageant of the Kandyan Kingdom, the street procession of the the Buddha’s Tooth Relic, held in the highest esteem and venerated by 70% of Lanka’s population the symbol of State legitimacy, by stoning, hooting and jeering showing absolute disdain and disregard towards the millions of Buddhists, the overwhelming majority of this country. You spat on the face of a population more than 10 times that of yours precipitating the first religious riots in 1915.

      Masjid-Ul-Abrar Jumma Mosque built around 920 AD is the FIRST Mosque in Lanka. What made them locate it in Sinhala majority area instead of a Muslim majority area?

      Why do the Sinhalese elect Muslims to represent them?

      Why does govts since independence appoint Muslims as Ministers to Key Ministries such as Education, Health, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Ports, Labour etc?

      Why does govts appoint Muslims as Governors to Sinhalese majority Provinces?

      Why does the Sinhalese MPs of Parliament elect Muslims as the Speaker?

      Why would govts hell bent on depriving minorities create a situation where a Muslim can become a Head of State?

      Are you aware that Sri Lanka has had a Muslim acting President and Head of State holding office under the 1977 Constitution?

      Mr Latheef you are a deplorable, cunning racist who under the guise of discussing the proposed electoral reforms of 20A (which you have not done) is pursuing your agenda of communalism to win a few seats for whatever party that you represent.

      Please explain why Indians should be represented in Lanka’s Parliament?

      Please explain how the subordinated position that Buddhism occupies under the present Constitution has become a “State Religion” in your eyes.

      A State Religion exists in Islamic States and in countries such as UK. Please draw parallels with those countries and explain your position.

      Kind Regards,
      OTC

  • 4
    1

    The basic premise on which Mr Latheef Farook has based his argument in the article is that the vast majority of Muslim Voters believe that Muslims are the most appropriate Parliamentary Representatives for the Muslim Community and therefore that the 20th Amendment should include ethnic quotas. It is the absence of such quotas in the proposed Amendment that, according to Mr Farook, has created opposition among the Muslims.

    Unfortunately, the behavior of Muslim Voters since 2012 at various Provincial Council Elections shows very clearly that they have rejected the Muslim Political Parties in favour of the National Parties – and this too at a time when the anti-Muslim agitations were at it’s peak. For example, at the 2014 Uva Provincial Council Elections, only an estimated 1 out of 8 Muslim Voters cast their votes for the Muslim Parties which had decided to join forces and contest under one umbrella Party for maximum results. Moreover, the response of the Muslim Parliamentarians to the tragic incidents at Aluthgama in June 2014 did not contribute in any way either towards supporting the above premise.

    The claim that Muslims vote along communal lines is a canard perpetuated by self-serving politicians.
    The claim that Muslim Political Parties ‘represent’ the Muslim Community is a fallacy of the highest order.

    The provision of ethnic quotas in the 20th Amendment will only facilitate the entry of Muslim Candidates to Parliament through legislation rather than by popular vote.

    • 3
      1

      Latheef Farook –

      “The claim that Muslims vote along communal lines is a canard perpetuated by self-serving politicians. The claim that Muslim Political Parties ‘represent’ the Muslim Community is a fallacy of the highest order. “

      The data supports the above assertion.

      In the US they have two parties. Then about 1/3 of the voters are independent. The independent voters decide who will be elected and not elected.The two parties are then forced to take a middle path, instead if extreme positions.

      Most small parties take extreme positions. Their extreme positions need to be buffered by the others.

      Most important is that once a candidate is elected, that sear seat belongs to the party and the candidate. If the candidate leaves, he loses his seat, and the party gets to appoint a new person.

      Furthermore, there should be primaries, to flush our candidates, by the people before they are nominated by the party like in the US.

      • 0
        0

        Uptodate I was thinking that Amarasiri fellow is a intelligent chap. By going through this comment, it looks contaray.
        Suddenly he takes up example from USA. I think he couldn’t find another similar scenario from the whole of decocratic wolrd.
        You know Amare, in this western countries voter turn-out in an election depends on the day to day climate as well. If there is a rain, snow, or blizard the turn-out trickles down drastically.

        How can you claim ‘Most small parties take extreme positions.’?

        All small parties have a genuine concern for the people they represent. Besides in a good democrasy all kind of marginalized people should be represented.

        Therefore please do not come for hasty decisions so soon.

        • 1
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          Yoosuf,

          “How can you claim ‘Most small parties take extreme positions.’?”.

          The problem is that the the large parties neglect the concerns and rights of the small communities and parties, based on the will of the majority. Who founded LTTE and the Civil War? Sinhala Buddhists.

          Take Sri Lanka for Example.

          1. JHU, Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinism, Racism and Supremacy, important factors, to the exclusion of there factors and other citizen’s rights.

          2. Tamil Parties, Tamil Nationalism (Chauvinism? Racism? and Supremacy,) important factors, to the exclusion of other factors and other citizen’s rights.

          3. JVP, Socialism Supreme, important factors, to the exclusion of other factors and other citizens rights.

          4. SLMC formed in 1980s, because the major parties UNP and SLFP, took the Muslims for granted, marginalized them and were willing to sell out for LTTE

          Many examples.

          Even Hitler started as a small party, could not get more than 30% of the votes, and forcefully took over power.

          In the US, the Jews comprise 2% of the population, but control the two major parties, by “buying out” the congressmen and the senators.

          In Sri Lanka, the Sangha does the same thing. In Iblis, Shaitan, Satan inspired and following Saudi Arabia,the Wahhabi Clerics are doing the same. Do they follow Islam? No!. There are no Kings and Princes in Islam. Thre are no Kings in Socialism. Read Thomas Pain’e writings, Common Sense and The Age of Reason. Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted to be king, Medamulana King Dutugamunu.

          MaRa Mara Chatu Mara Amana MaRa

          So what do they, Saudis follow? Iblism, Satanism, Satanism? What is the Result? Wahhabis and their clines ISIS, ISI, BOko Haram, Taliban, Deobandi etc.

          Scholar from al-Azhar: Wahhabism is a Satanic Faith, the Horn of the Devil that Muhammad Predicted

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufxTUFapy1w

          Published on Jun 2, 2013

          Yusri Rushdi al-Sayyid Jabr al-Husni, a Sunni Muslim religious scholar from the world’s oldest and most prestigious Islamic school, the Honorable al-Azhar, has stated that Wahhabis who are also known by other names such as Salafis, Najdis, and Horners, are in fact the Horn of the Devil, a term used by the prophet Muhammad in reference to a satanic faith that shall come out of Najd (Saudi Arabia).

          Do the Sinhala Buddhists Follow Buddhism? No. They kind of follow a version of Mara, Mara-ism, the modern incarnation is MaRa, Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Sangha appointed themselves as the 3rd Gem of the Triple Gem. Did Buddha apprice that? No.

  • 6
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    muslim parties oppose 20A because they are racists and only think about themselves

    • 4
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      baludeen aka Balu-mal

      “muslim parties oppose 20A because they are racists and only think about themselves”

      JVP and other parties oppose 20A because they are racists and only think about themselves?

      It is a question of Representation.

      The problem is that the the major parties represent major vested interests, whether capitalists or the Sinhala “Buddhists”.

      • 1
        1

        amaraya, who cares about these jeppo begars?
        are you a jeppa holding a tin on the road asking for few coins?

        • 0
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          baludeen aka Balu-mal

          “amaraya, who cares about these jeppo begars?”

          Yes, because they are Paradeshis, Paras like the others in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho.

  • 2
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 6
    1

    Latheef Farook, in spite of this being a prominent Buddhist country, the Muslims have not fared too badly. They have their own Marriage and Divorce Laws, the latter going against the trend of fairness in the case of custody of children and sharing of assets. They have their own burial grounds. A blind eye turned on their ritual slaughter of animals and more. The Muslims worst enemies are their own leaders. The fundings they receive to look after the Muslim communities from abroad are wasted in building more mosques and more madrassars which they do not need. What they need most are schools that follow the State curriculum, better housing and employment for their young.

    • 1
      0

      Sylvia Haik

      “They have their own Marriage and Divorce Laws, the latter going against the trend of fairness in the case of custody of children and sharing of assets.”

      “The Muslims worst enemies are their own leaders. The fundings they receive to look after the Muslim communities from abroad are wasted in building more mosques and more madrassars which they do not need. “

      Well summarised. However, you missed on the confusion created among the Muslims who follow Iblis, Shaitan, Satanic Following Wahhabis and their multiple clones such as ISIS Salafis, Taliban etc.

      Until they fix that, they will be severally disadvantaged, and the Wahhabi and other Mullahs will prevail in the status Quo.

  • 0
    0

    w

    In the UK religious freedom is a human right, but leaving your family’s religion can still mean isolation and loneliness.

    Sara has been speaking to Newsbeat about what it was like when she told her parents two years ago that she no longer wanted to be a Muslim.

    “You feel like you’re betraying everyone. Because no one leaves Islam,” she says.

    She says they kicked her out at 17 and she’s not lived with them since.

    In some countries, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, leaving Islam – or “apostasy” carries the death penalty.

    “Most people I talk to feel like they’re the only ex-Muslim in the world,” says Sara

  • 1
    2

    I have always stood for the NON-HYBRID FPP.

    This system will clean up all the ills in our electoral system.
    President Premadasa did two great blunders.
    Blunder no 1.Asking Policemen to surrender to the LTTE[Karuna] in 1990.
    Blunder No 2: Giving in to the SLMC[Asraff] on the cut-off point paving the way for more Muslim MPP to enter Parliament!

    It must be remembered that Muslims do not decide the political fortunes of this country!

  • 1
    1

    Be careful. don’t dare convert or change. Apostasy laws in our Saudi financiers can lead to execution. That is how tolerant and accepting their laws are. Imagine if Buddhists or Hindus had such laws beheading peoole for conversion. Really what is sad is BBS minority of thugs in robes is making it easy for jihadi radicals to spread their hate filled Philosophy and blackmail the Government to demand far more than 10% of the seats and over 30%of ministerships more than Tamil people.
    The story of Um Haleema says a lot about that dangerous brand of radical in tolerant violence filled Mohammedanism .that is what the BBS thugs will end up inviting to Sri Lanka.
    Um Haleema was just 16 years old when she was kidnapped. Her first few months in captivity, at the hands of militant group Boko Haram, were enough to break anyone’s spirit — let alone that of a teenage girl so far from home.

    She was captured trying to escape, along with three of her friends, as Boko Haram burned and ransacked her village.

    During her captivity, Um Haleema was forced to watch men, women and children slaughtered. She was forced into marriage. Forced to wait on a “husband” she hated. But while she watched, she says she was also waiting — for a chance to break free. And after six long months, it finally came.

    “I had planned my escape from the beginning,” she says. “There was a time my husband spent two weeks away, so I attempted to escape but guards returned me and beat me.”

    Eventually, her captors’ vigilance began to slip and she managed to escape. In her fear, all she remembers is walking for what felt like days until she finally reached safety.

  • 0
    0

    If 20 A is not passed with 151 mps, referendum/apex court correction etc all there, unending problems! Assume the present pro rata is sacrosanct, so, think implementing letter and spirit instead of pasting posters and tearing down; displaying candidate profile to the voters be done by the election commission. How to integrate all 9 provinces through national list electronic voting machines etc can be mooted. It is difficult to satisfy all parties otherwise consensus would have been reached by now. SLMC CWC jVP JHU all joined alliances but went alone in provincial and local councils. After the elections do lately realized if they would have gone with an alliance they would have fared well. Eg., Uva provincial council election results where Harin got more muslim vote than combined muslim parties!

  • 1
    0

    All small parties and minority groups, whichever the race, community or religion, they belong to are discussing and debating the issue of ‘adequate parliamentary representation’ which affects them. The TNA, the JVP and other small parties are making such efforts. It is in such circumstances that Latheef Farook, who has always written on the rights of every citizen in the country, in this instance has expressed his views that concerns the Muslims. There are not many Muslim journalists who take such initiatives and, in the circumstances, Latheef Farook’s concerns should not be twisted of being shown as he is a Muslim racist, or working for a party of his choice or with other hidden agenda. Also, the Muslims community as a whole too has right to ensure its rights, particularly having taken the risk to support Maithripala’s candidacy, and to a large extent contributing to his victory, in the expectation of the restoration of democracy in the country against the former President whose continuation would have been to the detriment of all the people and the country. Let the Muslim voice too be heard and many more should join Latheef Farook in his effort.

  • 2
    0

    Latheef Farook

    Muslims living scattered all over the island, with special concentration in the east but often in small pockets in the predominantly Sinhalese areas, fear that their representations in the parliament will be reduced considerably under the proposed 20th amendment to the constitution on electoral reforms.

    Thus they oppose the draft amendment in its present form gazetted on June 12.

    One should not forget that it was repeated constitutional changes depriving the minorities of their legitimate rights contributed a great deal to the subsequent ethnic war which turned the country into one of the worst killings fields in Asia. Thus constitutional changes need to be studied carefully and should ensure that all communities are provided equal representation.

    *** The above might be a problem for the Muslims and I sympathise wit you.
    But as a Tamil confined to North & East 13 comes before 20.
    For me 13th Amendment will solve the problem but that is only a Starting Point.

  • 0
    0

    We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Every time we do that we make a mess of it; that is due to our culture of impunity Practical thing to do is to copy a system which exists in a peaceful democracy like Australia or New Zealand; get rid of the National List; make an effort to have more women in parliament by law and have a charter of rights and freedom and make the rule of law apply fearlessly, applied to all and sundry
    This is the way to fairness and prosperity. Not religious bikering.

  • 0
    0

    National list is corrupt when party leaders sell the first slot for a price but if people elect mps on the national list that will be the first step to racial amity!

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