Muslim Congress Aligning with UPFA to Form Eastern Province Administration Strikes Serious blow to Tamil-Muslim Reconciliation
By Latheef Farook
In the east of the island the destiny of Tamils and Muslims remains intertwined and, inevitably, they share both adversity and prosperity. Thus it goes without saying that it is always in the interest of the two communities for their political parties to work together. Under such circumstance the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, SLMC, entering into an agreement with the United Peoples Freedom Alliance, UPFA, to form the Eastern Provincial Council Administration with a controversial Muslim as Chief Minister, without Tamil participation, is a serious blow to Tamil-Muslim Unity which is bound to have serious consequences.
For centuries Tamils and Muslims in the east lived together in peace and harmony .This harmony was virtually destroyed during the LTTE war to the detriment of the two communities. The main contributory factors were LTTE atrocities and the SLMC’s opportunistic politics.
Numerous issues causing enmity and bitterness between the two communities cropped up during the war.
Since the military defeat of LTTE in May 2009 there arose the need to settle these issues to rebuild confidence and pave the way for better understanding.
In the midst racist elements in the previous government, known for their hostility towards minorities, were manipulating to separate the two communities to facilitate the implementation of their agendas in the east.
This situation continued until 8 January 2015 when former Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena was elected as the executive President of the country. This historic victory was possible only because of the Tamil and Muslim support demonstrating the great importance of unity between the two communities.
Under such circumstance the pressing need is for Tamil National Alliance,TNA, and the SLMC to work out an arrangement to form the eastern provincial council administration and jointly explore the possibility of sorting out issues which obstruct reconciliation between the two communities.
Unfortunately there cropped up the question of who form the government in the east and who would be the chief minister.
Yet it was a positive sign that TNA and SLMC began discussing various issues. There were reports that once TNA even offered chief minister position to a Muslim. Recently these discussions continued, perhaps three times, but ended up fruitless.
It was under this tense political climate comes the SLMC-UPFA administration in theEastern Provincial Council with a Muslim Chief Minister. This is a setback to Tamil -Muslim reconciliation which should be the top priority.
Muslims throughout the country were shocked that the SLMC failed to work out an agreement with TNA, but joined hands with UPFA.
The SLMC-UPFA honeymoon in the east comes at a time when the mainstream media has opened up the floodgates of disclosures on UPFA regime’s crime, corruption, injustice, family rule, collapse of law and order and the like shocking the country.
On top of all the unprecedented atrocities committed against the Muslims remains fresh in their minds .They feared an Aluthgama-Beruwala-Dharga Town type carnage against Muslims all over the island in the event of UPFA government returning to power.
SLMC was a constituent member of the UPFA government during which these atrocities were committed. Today the SLMC is a coalition partner of President Maithripala Sirisena’s government while working together with UPFA in the East.
Once again the SLMC had demonstrated with its agreement with UPFA its lack of concern for the interest of the community, reconciliation between Tamils and Muslims and its willingness to join hands even with devils for positions and perks.
This is not something new as this has been its history from its very inception.
For example the first ever elections for the Eastern Province under the Indo-Lanka Accord was fought on bitter and destructive communal lines. Tamil militants and the SLMC openly and shamelessly asked their respective community voters in their election campaigns “whether they were “to vote for a Tamil or a Muslim”.
This was the lowest depth to which the SLMC and the Tamil militants descended to, not caring for the dangerous outcome which devastated the two communities later.
In the 1988 presidential elections, the SLMC agreed to support the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, but at the eleventh hour this agreement was abandoned and supported the UNP candidates, causing deep disappointment within the SLFP circles.
This decision considerably dented the credibility and the integrity of the Muslim Congress.
One should not forget that this policy, as expected, won the wrath of the SLFP towards the Muslim community that had nothing to do with this decision. Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike and her Sri Lankan Freedom Party had every reason to question the policies of the SLMC that, by then, had emerged as a one-man show.
Furious Muslims in Colombo and other areas blamed the SLMC for harming their relations with the majority Sinhalese community. There were speculations that Ashraff was bought over by the UNP.
Six years later, during the 1994 elections the SLMC tied up with the SLFP-led Peoples’ Alliance [PA], under the leadership of then Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga.
Around this time the SLMC had built up an image as a political party joining the winning side to suit its leader’s personal agenda. There were many who openly criticized the SLMC, stating that the community’s interest would have been better served if the SLMC has not come to the political scene and allowed the Muslims to be in different political parties and work together with the other communities.
This has been the pattern of SLMC politics to date.
The SLMC accepted ministerial portfolios under President Maithripla Sirisena’s government .However they failed to raise burning issues of the community which the SLMC seems to have abandoned.
The situation is such that while the SLMC was busy with its wheeler dealer politics here in Colombo last week the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna,JVP, demonstrated opposite the Russian embassy at Bauddhaloka Mawatha in Colombo accusing previous defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapajksa of killing a Muslim whose land was forcibly acquired for the construction of the Russian embassy.
This is the politics of SLMC.
Isn’t it time that the Muslims who fear Allah and genuinely follow Islam and believe in self respect consider boycotting the SLMC and assert community’s rights and dignity.
Of course Muslims sent a clear message to SLMC during the Uva Provincial council elections.
The deteriorating situation made columnist M Fauzer, in an article in the Muslim weekly “MEELPARVAI”, to emphasize the need for civil society of the two communities to become active participants, instead of being mere spectators, to take the initiatives to guide the two communities towards reconciliation.
He also demanded to make public the details of TNA- and SLMC meetings, civil society from the two sides to come forward with concrete measures and the two political parties to respect the civil society representatives and allow them to participate in these efforts.
This is essential as the affected parties are not the Tamil-Muslim political parties but the people as the fate of the two communities cannot be placed solely left in the hands of the two political parties.