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Can the Muslims of the North, North Eastern, and Eastern regions suffer?

It was shocking to see Rauf Hakeem, on the TV screen and the press media making a statement that the victory of General (retired) Sarath Fonseka, was a forgone assurance as a result of the Muslim votes in the North Eastern and Eastern Province and outside that of the of NE & E. It was further frustrating to hear a leader of the “political representative brokerage party of the Muslims of Sri Lanka,” stating that the UNP also has a strong Muslims vote base and thus together it is a foregone conclusion that the UNF candidate will be the victor.

Let it be known that, foregone are the days of the UNP being patronized as a political entity that the Muslims can trust. The Muslims have lost hope in the UNP since the advent of the late Hon. M.H.M. Ashraff’s political vision of a United Muslim political entity. It was formed at a meeting held at Kattankudy in 1981 by a small study group of local Eastern Province political leaders that was the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

Through 1980/1986 it became a fully fledged political party. Ashraff was a key mobilizer of support organizing Town Hall meetings and question and answer sessions with the Muslim youth, where he began to get people to think critically and question their representation by Muslim leaders under the majority National Parties. The late M.H.M. Ashraff became a charismatic personality who began to espouse the political aspirations of the Eastern Muslims.

Time has come now to question the representation of the Muslims by their own LEADERS who have begun to trade the ordinary Muslim’s votes for their own benefits and gains, without finding a resolution to the day-to-day political issues of our people, who have a vote bank of nearly 820,000 nationally and around 300,000 in the North, North Eastern and Eastern regions. This is a region where we have been deprived of our legitimate rights as a result of the ethnic wars, since 1983.

Muslim votes

What Rauf Hakeem has been telling in the TV interview recently that the victory of General (retired) Sarath Fonseka, was a foregone assurance as a result of the Muslim votes in the North Eastern and Eastern Province and outside that of the NE & E is nonsense.

To political professionals, academics and analysts, these are mere “political jargon” from the discipline of political science studies. To the ordinary voters of their camp (in the case of the Muslims - Pamaramakkal), it is an inspiration to influence their voting patterns. To the coalition or Alliance leaders, it is a satisfying statement for the moment. To the candidate, it is a spirit of support which can turn out to be a political mirage.

Yet the Muslim voters of the North, North Eastern and Eastern Provinces have been lead to many a “political mirages” in the past by our so-called “Leader”, notwithstanding the fact that it was a different breed of Muslim political “Leadership” that Muslims community experienced under representative leadership of the late Badurdin Mahumud, the late A.C.S.

Hameed and the brilliant and proactive leadership of the late M.H.M. Ashraff in recent time. At a time when the political scenario is taking great changes in the absence of the armed representative of the Tamil community, the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the voice of the Tamil community have to depend on the TNA, and leaders such as Ministers Douglas Devananda, Arumugam Thondaman, P. Chandrasekaran, Chief Minister Chandrakanthan, Anandasankari and Siddharthan...ere approaches have been pragmatic, in the present political scenario.

For the Muslims to espouse our cause, the absence of a brilliant and proactive leadership of the like of the late M.H.M. Ashraff is felt more by the Muslim community in the present political playground of Provincial Elections, the Presidential Election and general election to come next year.

The voices of those who are “realistic” in their thinking have been silenced by manipulated application of the “party constitutions” blessings such oppression as a “democratic process”. The Pamaramakkal - the ordinary Muslim farmer, the villager, the voting teenager, the women, the worker and the (poraaligal - soldiers of democracy) are NOT competent to understand the intricacies of these party constitutions and due process. To then honesty, trust and party loyalty by raising their hands at party conventions to resolutions already slated, without deliberation and discussion, has given the opportunity for selfish leaders to trade the strength of our votes for their personal gains.

This is what Rauf Hakeem said to the media in September 2008.

“I am disturbed by the strong anti-minority sentiments expressed by Army Commander Sarath Fonseka during his interview and his assertion that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese,” SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem said in a statement.

“The nature of the attack on the minorities in the interview borders on racism. His request for minorities not to make demands is totally uncalled for and only goes to create a fear psychosis among the minorities at this crticial juncture of the conflict.”

“Even in the armed forces and the police one gets Muslims and Tamils holding even top positions and serving the country with a strong sense of commitment. These comments are an insult to Muslims and Tamils who have shed blood and sweat to gain independence for this country and helped to develop Sri Lanka.”

Economy and culture

“Even the ordinary Muslim and Tamil in this country have their own contributions to society. They have added a lot to the vibrancy of the Sri Lankan economy and culture. It is a crime to say that they do not deserve equal treatment as Sinhalese.”

If that be so, what is Rauf Hakeem telling the media now and on the political platforms?

The SLMC leader is only just trying to deceive the Muslim voters and mislead them. Recent political events have proved that the deceptive politics of Rauf Hakeem has been detrimental to the Muslim community. Did not the failure of this Muslim leadership with such political vision failed us of the Chief Minister post of the Eastern Province. It also failed us of a Muslim Deputy Mayor of Jaffna.

When the Muslims have a vote bank of nearly 820,000 votes nationally and around 230,000 votes in the Eastern Province, the “short sightedness” of a political resolution, the absence of “political cuemanship”, and being arrogant to face “political reality” will throw us to the dustbin of political garbage as a community not worth being considered for political interaction or representative presence, in the affairs of governance, administration and development (progress), after the presidential elections.

Times have changed and the “Voice of the Muslims” is no more in the wilderness of the communities concentrated in the East and scattered in the South of the Nation.

The learned and the educated - the professionals and the academics - the “pamarakkal” and the rightful Muslim citizens, men, women and the youth have begun to think beyond party politics. They have begun to reject supporting political groups formed by selfish, self-serving, deceptive political leaders. These so-called politicians and community representatives had only one thing in common - to get and enjoy the best perks offered by the would be powers, fatten their purses, lead a comfortable life with government subsidies as politicians and travel about in the most expensive duty free vehicles that the automobile companies can import for them every time they are elected.

Political interaction

Added to this, “their hangers-on” get the best public sector posts of Chairman, Deputy Chairman, Board Directors, Diplomatic postings, Representative trips abroad and government housing with servants paid by public money and security provided by the state, even when there is no threat to their lives, for the sake of “status symbol” living.

Once they are mesmerized with these worldly things, they begin to talk “Political Jargon” without facing the “political reality” that will throw the Muslims to the dustbin of political garbage as a community not worth being considered for political interaction or representative presence, in the affairs of governance, administration and development (progress), after the presidential elections.

The parties of the UNF and the JVP have proved beyond doubt the “deceptive politics” they have played with the Muslims. The Muslim community in Sri Lankan has no room for these “deceptive politicians” anymore.

If the “Muslim Factor” is a political issue that needs to be debated or deliberated, we are prepared to kick start a Political Debate on issues concerning the minorities and the Muslim Factor/Issues over the next 21 days for a reasonable resolution.

There was no need for the SLMC if the Muslim issues were to be resolve by any other party Alliances. The Muslims, especially that of the North, North Eastern and Eastern regions are not the property of any politician who deceptively tries to manipulate the votes of the “pamaramakal’ to vote a presidential candidate of his choice by going public on the TV, press or on political platforms to guarantee the Muslim votes to any presidential candidate.

The Muslim electorate is a voice of its own and the political vision of the late M.H.M. Ashraff should be the guiding beacon for all Muslims in the Presidential Election.

This debate has to start and the Muslims should decide themselves who they will vote. Voting the incumbent President will be the best political strategy for the Muslims. We will then not suffer because of the realistic default of our leaders, Insha Allah.

The writer is a longstanding political and peace activist who has been a Senior Party Member and District Organizer of the SLFP and later the SLMC in the Trincomalee District for many years, till recently as May 2000. After a successful public and private sector career, he is now domiciled in Canada.

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