Can the Muslims of the North, North Eastern, and Eastern regions
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
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.
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
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.
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”
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.