21 May, 2022


Unity Of Minority Politicians In The National Government

By Aboobacker Rameez

Dr. Aboobacker Rameez

Dr. Aboobacker Rameez

The country marks another historical milestone with the selection of Mr R. Sampanthan, a Tamil MP by ethnicity, as the opposition leader of the Parliament. It was Mr Amirthaligam MP who occupied the post of opposition leader of the Parliament in 1977. Scholars posit that this new turn of event symbolizes a healthy dimension of democracy and is a sign of peace and reconciliation restoring in the country, following the silent revolution that took place in January 8, 2015.

Debates on the opposition leader

This selection stirred a stiff resistance among the hardcore Sinhalese in and out of the Parliament saying that this could lead to a division of the country and the Tamils would take an upper hand in all the affairs. However, this superficial argument can be debunked under several dimensions:

1) Mr Sampanthan, by being the opposition leader, cannot do anything silly to compromise the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, given that the national government(some people dub it as a coalition government) has been formed,

2) it is naïve to argue that Sampanthan should not have been selected as the opposition leader, thanks to his ascribed ethnicity; it is indeed notable that this is not the first time that a Tamil MP has been selected as the opposition leader,

3) all those who excoriate and vent their anger and frustration on the selection of Sampanthan turned a blind eye when the powerful Eastern LTTE Leader, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, popularly known as Karuna, was made as the Vice President of SLFP, a MP and subsequently as the powerful minister in the Mahinda government, and

4) while Karuna engaged in a fierce battle, for the sole purpose of attaining the Tamil Ealam, with the government forces before being drawn in with Mahinda government, Sampanthan entered into the democratic realm of the Parliament and fought for the legitimate concerns of Tamil speaking people over the years.

tna slmcAll these reasons negate the thesis advanced by certain elements with vested interests that the selection of Sampanthan as the opposition leader is inimical to the country. However, there is a great deal of responsibility upon the shoulder of Mr Sampanthan, who undertakes the task of the opposition leader in the Parliament. He should do justice to the position he holds; he should reflect, not only the legitimate concerns of the Tamil speaking community in the Parliament, but all the citizens, regardless of the ethnic and religious differences, of the country. It is intriguing that the maiden speech delivered by Mr Sampanthan, as the opposition leader, highlighted the fact that he would represent all the communities in the Parliament, particularly the concerns of the Sinhala community, and thus, he registered his strong reservation over the jumbo-cabinet numbering to almost 100 to be formed under the national government.

As Jayadeva Uyangoda aptly noted in one of his recent articles, the new government would undertake three gigantic, but achievable tasks: 1) expedite the appointments of members to the constitutional councils formulated under the 19th amendment to the constitution, 2) engage in the process of electoral reforms, and 3) endeavor to provide regional autonomy to the minorities (Uyangoda, 2015). It is significant to note that the role of politicians representing the minority communities- Tamils and Muslims, is paramount in the context of the new government engaging in the tasks outlined above.

Unity between Tamil and Muslim Politicians

As noted above, there is a greater role for the minority party politicians to play, especially in the process of electoral reforms and regional autonomy. It is heartening that both Muslims and Tamils have more than 20 members in the present Parliament, with a few of them occupying the post as cabinet, state and deputy ministers. However, such a scenario would be changed if the electoral reforms were to be implemented. Although the possibility of Tamil representation in the proposed 20th amendment on electoral reforms being diluted is very marginal, Muslims are at the receiving end. The Muslim politicians representing various political parties should bury their differences under the carpet in order to ensure their representation in the Parliament is safeguarded. They, if united, can exert a great deal of pressure, with an alliance of Tamil politicians, to the government headed by the UNP for a fair share in the electoral reforms and ensure that Single as well as Multi-Member Constituencies for minorities across the country is enacted in the proposed 20th amendment. It would be a historical blunder, if the Muslim politicians failed to forge alliance and exerted their pressure upon the major political parties at this juncture.

Autonomy within autonomy

The current trajectory of the national government underlines that it could endeavor to find a long lasting solution to the protracted ethnic issue; it would be in a process of providing regional autonomy to the Tamil speaking people. The question, here, arises whether the Tamil polity would recognize the Muslims as a nation or ethnic group to share the autonomy with them. In fact, it would be inevitable for the Tamil polity to recognize Muslim community, particularly those living in the North and East and share the autonomy within autonomy, to bridge the gap between the communities and for the durable relationship in the region. The history has shown that the moderates in both camps – Tamils and Muslims, have indicated rooms for rapprochement. They would, I am optimistic, find ways and means to iron out their differences and go for a solution acceptable to the both communities, if they were to be given autonomy by the government.

*Dr. Aboobacker Rameez is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at South Eastern University of Sri Lanka(SEUSL), and he could be reached at aramees2001@gmail.com.

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Tamils scarified so much than any others for their desire for autonomy. It is alway resonable if some one enjoys something that resulted from own efforts and sacrifice.

    • 0

      Mr Siva
      If they still deire autonomy those living outside the area designated for autonomy should move into that area. Otherwise it cannot be understood as any desire for autonomy but just raw desire to occupy whole of Sri Lanka.

      A referendum should be held among all Tamil speaking people IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR RELIGION OR DATE OF ARRIVAL whether they are prepared to move into the designated autonomos area.


    • 0

      Fake reconciliation and fake corruption investigations, that is the name of Ranil-Sirisena game, while the corrupt political culture of deal making flourishes while the people are kept ignorant and stupid!

      Sri Lanka voters have exchange one bunch of uneducated moda crooks for another and the important point and Hirunika pointed out is that the wining and dining, song and dance beside the Diyawanna Oya continues with TEA PARTIES and booze cruises by night for the politicians of the UNP and SLFP to kiss and make up..

      Meanwhile, in the name of reconciliation the tax payer is funding the biggest cabinet of 90 plus clowns continues with the biggest party in the Diayawenna parliament of corrupt and uneducated morons.

      Miracle of Modyas indeed!

    • 1

      If it was a sacrifice, then you can’t complain about it can you?

    • 2

      Correct Siva. We indigenous Tamils have a very ancient history and land in the island. That the Muslims in the island do not have. Also we have sacrificed so much for our identity land language and rights. The Muslims never did but are trying to use this Tamil sacrifice to their benefit.
      The author should realise like all other Sri Lankan Muslims that being a Muslim is not an ethnic identity but a religious identity and we Tamils Hindus and Christians acknowledge and want to respect that. Just like our religious identities. However their ethnic identity is Tamil. The vast overwhelming majority of them do not have even a drop of Arab or Moorish blood in them but are descended from converted Dravidian immigrant Indian Tamils from Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Even the few who have some Arab and other western Asian blood in them, are also of predominantly Tamil origin, either indigenous or Indian . Even the Arab blood in them is very insignificant compared to the more than 95% Tamil blood. A little bit of Arab does not make you Arab or Moorish. Just because a few hundred Arabs came to the island and South India over the centuries and converted thousands of local Dravidians in what is modern day Tamil Nadu and then Tamil Kerala to Islam and married into a few of the local women does not make them Arabs. They are Tamils. Just because European conquerors and missionaries converted millions of Sri Lankan and Indians to Christianity and married into a few of them to create a small insignificant number of half/quarter caste Burghers or Anglo Indians does not make the millions full blooded Indian and Sri Lankan Christians Europeans.
      How can the Sri Lankan Muslims claim an Arab descent when the parent population that they originated from in Tamil Nadu claim a Dravidian Tamil descent, with just a dash of Arab. Their claim is ridiculous. This is like the Sinhalese and Tamil Christians in the island claiming a European heritage by showing the twenty or thirty thousand strong part European Burghers as proof of their European heritage.
      The Muslim elite politicians down south are just trying to this, for their own selfish power hungry political ends. Have brain washed the Tamil Muslims masses who make up more than 95% of the Muslim population in the island and do not have any drop of Arab/Moorish blood in them, to hate their ancient rich tolerant Dravidian almost 1000 year old Tamil Sufi Islamic heritage and tradition but become pale imitations or an extremist intolerant Salafist Wahhabi Saudi Islamic tradition from the desert that is extremely alien to them. TO discard their Tamil Muslims names customs and dress and dress like some Arab Islamic fundamentalist. This it self is a form of genocide to brainwash a people to deny their real heritage and hate it and worship another alien culture and heritage and claim it as theirs. Even the Arabs do not acknowledge them as people of Arab descent or heritage but have correctly classified the Sri Lankan Muslims as descendants of South Asian/South Indian Hindu converts.
      Yes we Tamils respect your religious identity as Muslims but will never acknowledge or respect your false claim to Arab/Moorish heritage identity or ethnicity.
      You are Tamil by ethnicity and Muslim by religion. This is what we acknowledge and respect. Not a false Moorish ethnicity. We will never acknowledge that as we correctly know that is a lie, deliberately created to divide the island’s Tamil population by the British and the Sinhalese and aided and abetted by corrupt selfish power hungry southern Muslim elite and politicians. The denying their real Tamil ethnic identity by the island’s Muslims is one of the root causes that this problem is lingering. This author and the other brainwashed Muslims should first acknowledge this.
      The Iberian peninsula was ruled by the Moorish Muslims from North Africa for centuries.( Moors are not Arabs but from Morocco in North Africa) Because of this the Portuguese mistakenly used to identify and call every Muslim they met during their conquests and travels from Africa to Asia as Moors. These Tamil Sri Lankan Muslims originally from India had used this mistaken Identity to their advantage. The Portuguese mistakenly called the Sri Lankan Tamils as Malabars and the Sinhalese as Siamese. Does this means we are that?

      • 1

        Thanks Paul for this detail explanation. I need some references to validate this point of case. Most foreign social science scholars do not understand this reality and use them as a different ethnic group. I understand this denial of their identity may be due to their Ontological insecurity in the context of civil war between Tamils and
        Sinhala people.
        Great if someone can clarify the followings.
        I understand that Muslim factor was one of the reasons for the failures of the peace talk between GoSL and the LTTE in the past. My fundermental question here: Why they (including Muslim scholars) only talk about their Autonmy when Tamils create a context for power sharing? They were a part of government all the time but never talks this during their alliances and want to show they are less problematic group in Sri Lanka.
        How can we mobilize Tamils in the eastern Sri Lanka to oppose the Muslim political and economic domination of the district. In modern days busineses are responsible for their society’s wellbeing while earning profit. But Muslims earn from Tamils ( Tamils as their customers) using illegal marketing techniques but do nothing for the problems of Tamils. All of their social works are aimed to Muslims only. In the other hand, Politicians influencing bureaucratics to allocate funds to the development of Muslims areas giving large amount of black money to government bureaucratic.

        • 2

          The claim that the Moors were the progeny of the original Arab settlers, might hold good for a few families but not for the entire bulk of the community. This is evidenced by the fact that, the Moors’s Islamic Cultural Home, Colombo were unsuccessful in digging up the genealogical history of Muslim families with Arab descent, in any great numbers. I.L.M. Abdul Azeez (of the organization) seemed to have accepted the idea, when he observed that:
          “It may be safely argued that, the number of original settlers was not even more than a hundred.”
          The Portuguese named the Muslims in India and Sri Lanka after the Muslim Moors they met in Iberia. Moreover, the term ‘Moor’ referred to only their religion and was no reflection on their origin.
          The concept of Arab descent was thus, invented just to keep the community away from the Tamils and this ‘separate identity’ intended to check the latter’s demand for the separate state Tamil Eelam and to flare up hostilities between the two groups in the broader Tamil-Sinhalese conflict.
          This view is dominantly held by the Sinhalese favoring section of the Moors as well as the Sri Lankan government which lists the Moors as a separate ethnic community.[5] However, a study on genetic variation indicates, an only below average genetic relationship between Arabs and the Moors and these is no significant genetic difference between the So called Sri Lankan Moors the Sinhalese and the Tamils of the island and they all are very closely related to the population in South India.
          The Moors practice several customs and beliefs, which they closely share with the Tamil people of other faiths. Tamil customs such as wearing the Thaali or eating Patchoru were widely prevalent among the Moors. Most of these practices feed to the view that Moors were Tamil converts to Islam from other faiths. Typical Sri Lankan Muslims homes especially in the Tamil areas and in Puttalam district are very similar to the traditional Tamil homes in south India. Until recently they took typical Tamil Muslim caste names in Marrikar, Lebbe. Rawther Pitchhai. They arrived to fled to the island from South India by wooden boats named in Tamil Marrakalam( Literally in Tamil means the wooden vessel) The Sinhalese still call them Marrakall minissu( People from the wooden boats)
          In every part of the Indian subcontinent, the Muslims claim South Asian descent except for the Tamil-speaking Muslims of Sri Lanka. The Tamil-speaking Muslims in India identify themselves as Tamils. The former President of India Abdul Kalam, a nuclear scientist, unequivocally calls himself a Tamil. AR Rahman, the Grammy award-winning musician states considers himself a Tamil. Other leaders of Indian subcontinent have similarly embraced their South Asian ancestry. In India, many Muslims identify themselves as Kannadigas, Gujaratis, Kashmiris, Tamils and Malayalees. MA Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, said he was a Gujarati. ZA Bhutto always said that he was a Sindi. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman stated that he was a Bengali. The vast majority of Bangladeshi say they are Bengalis. The largest ethnic group in Pakistan are the Punjabis. There is even a small Tamil Muslim community in Karachi.
          The Sri Lankan Muslims or Moors are 99% descended from these Indian Tamil Muslims. SO their ancestors are Tamils and call themselves Tamils but their descendants and close relatives have become Arabs. Strange evolution,
          Sri Lankan Muslims have prostrated themselves in front of the communal Sinhalese politicians. Sir Razik Fareed voted for Sinhala to be made the sole official language in 1944 and 1956. In 1948-9, Dr. MCM Kaleel and Dr. TB Jayah, who were both in the Cabinet, supported the disenfranchisement of the Indian community. In August 1983, Dr Kaleel, then President of All Ceylon Muslim League, justified the massacre as a legitimate response to the Tamil demand for separate state. He objected to the walkout in the Indian Parliament by the Indian Muslim League, who were protesting against the anti-Tamil pogrom. Dr. Kaleel was blind to the fact that many Muslims were killed in the 1983 as they were mistaken for Tamils.

          The Sri Lankan Muslim are neither fish nor fowl. The Arabs have rejected them. The Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus are aghast at their specious claims.
          Hence, it is high time that the Sri Lankan Muslims embrace their Tamil ethnicity. Tamil is the oldest spoken language in the Indian subcontinent. Islamic Tamil literature has a thousand year heritage. Tamil is the most secular language in this region. There is a vast body of Tamil literature that embraces Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism and Islam. Ramanathan was an apostle of peace and unity. Following him will bring unity to this island and end the misgivings of this complexed minority.
          Strange around 70% of them live in the Sinhalese south and only around 30% amongst the Tamils. However noticed never dare to ask or demand for Muslim homelands rights in the Sinhalese areas, Only demand this in the Tamil areas, where they came and settled as refugees from India a few centuries ago. Just like the Syrians and Iraqis are doing now in the west. So why only in the Tamil areas? The reason is these backstabbers feel that the Tamils are weak and powerless so they can steal their land with the help of the Sinhalese. If they dared ask for anything in the Sinhalese areas, that will be the end of the, They will meet the full wrath of the Sinhalese Sri Lankan government the armed forces and people. They feel the Tamils are weak do strike and grab as much as possible from them.

          Tamil is the mother tongue of over 99% of the Sri Lankan Muslims. The Islamic sermons are overwhelmingly delivered in Tamil even in the Sinhalese majority districts of Kandy, Matara and Galle. Gujarati Muslims in Sri Lanka like myself cannot follow the Islamic sermons in that inpenetrable Dravidian language.

          The Sri Lankan Muslim claim of Arab ancestry is not corroborated by the Arabs themselves. They treat the Sri Lankan Muslims as lowly converts speaking a strange tongue. Many Tamil-speaking Muslims from Sri Lanka have gone to the Middle-East looking for a homecoming. But, the homecoming was not forthcoming, as the cruelty inflicted on Rizana Nafeek shows
          sician states considers himself a Tamil.

          • 1

            Great! You have enlightened most of the things I will find some references!

          • 1

            Paul, you make a valid point.

            But at the end of the day we are what we think we are. The Muslims of Sri Lanka notwithstanding their Tamil origin have for whatever reason regard themselves as a distinct non Tamil people. Its like many Sinhalese who had recently migrated from the South India and Tamil Nadu in particular determined to call themselves Sinhalese-Colvin R de silva and his fellow Salagama caste.

            Just some food for thought!

  • 5

    The deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Tharman Shanmugratnam, is of Ceylon Tamil descent and Singapore’s GDP per capital is 40.000$. Singapore is an EDUCATED and cosmopolitan county with strong multiculturalism policies because the leaders of the country are educated and seek to educate the people.

    Sri Lanka is a backward Sinhala nationalist country where the MAJORITY of the political leaders like the SInhala masses are uneducated. The politicians are also racist and corrupt and they distract the foolish voters from their corruption by using Sinhala nationalism. Look at WImal Weerawansa – he is highly corrupt and uneducated like Mahinda Jarapassa but considered a leader among the foolish and ignorant Sinhala Buddhist masses..

    So, why can’t a Sri Lanka tamil be a leader of the opposition member? The fact of the Matter is that until the there is a Tamil who is President in Sri Lanka this country will remain a Miracle of Modayas.

  • 0

    PM is bent on doing away withprovincial councils and give power to districts.

  • 1

    I am sure the Muslims politicians will come share the harvest!! If there is any!!

  • 2

    The fact that Tamil is the mother tongue of an overwhelming number of Muslims in Sri Lanka is a clear indication that they are Tamils who had come to Sri Lanka from the Tamil speaking areas of South India. Besides many of the customary rites and practices of these Muslims are also akin to the customs of the Tamils of South India. None can deny the fact that when the Federal Party was formed in the early 1950s some of the founder Members of that party were Muslims from the Eastern Province and they were later Members of Parliament from the Federal Party, examples are Abdul Majeed, Mohamed Ali and Mustapha who represented the Muslims of the Eastern Province in the Parliament initially from the Federal Party. They were very eloquent speakers in Tamil for the cause of the Tamils at that time. One cannot deny that at the initial stages some of the key members of the LTTE were Muslims from the Eastern Province. Unfortunately, by design or otherwise the unity that existed between the Muslims and the Tamils in the Eastern and the Northern Provinces was destroyed. For political expediency these Muslims joined one or the other group of the political parties of the majority community just like the some Tamils of the Northern and Eastern Province joining such parties. But such political gymnastics cannot dispute the fact that the Tamils and Muslims are one community though they are followers of different religions. If otherwise, the Christians among the Tamils should also be considered to be different kind of Tamils and fall into the category of Muslims who are also converts from Hinduism. It would therefore be expedient for the Tamils and the Muslims, for their own mutual benefit, to consider themselves as one race due to the language that unites they and ignore the other considerations. Let us hope that sanity will prevail.

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