Driving Muslims towards political racism

5e300d1cadc55bb763c51ff15982dbbd_MThe Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMK) have decided to contest the Uva Provincial Council Elections under one banner. They are fielding their candidates to the Badulla District under the Democratic Unity Alliance (DUA).Minister Rishad Bathiudeen (a former SLMC member) who leads the ACMC left the SLMC because of a conflict with the party and the leadership, but has now joined hands with Minister Rauff Hakeem. They claim that they have joined together for the betterment of the Muslim community and to raise one voice.

This is a very interesting stand taken by both Ministers who have been serving under this Government, one since 2005 and the other since 2010. After strengthening the hands of the President for over five years, these two ministers now come before the Muslim community and say, “We are now together and have come forward to serve you better”. It is common knowledge that the UPFA Government has failed to enforce the law and order to deal with violence against minorities and religious-hate speeches, especially against Evangelical Christians and Muslims. No matter which political party these two ministers are from, they are part of the UPFA Government and therefore responsibility also lies with them to ensure the enforcement of law and order in the country. Despite the government’s inability to enforce  law and order, these ministers are still holding Cabinet portfolios. So for argument’s sake, what message do these two ministers want to carry to the Uva Province? Can they assure the Muslim or any other Community that their government is dedicated to implement the rule of law in the country? They cannot because their past record has proven this. So, what is the objective of these two ministers joining hands?

The message is very clear. The government is well aware that they will not be able to get the majority of Muslim votes if they fielded their party candidates under the UPFA. But if they (coalition partners) contest separately there is a chance of gaining some Muslim votes. So this will enable them (the SLMC and ACMC) to set their political future and as well as to hold on to their ministerial portfolios.

For these two ministers this approach may be beneficial to their political agendas. However, the damage is to the Muslim community and the country as a whole. Both the SLMC and ACMC may give different reasons for contesting separately. But their target vote base is very clear, i.e. Muslim votes. Being ministers of this government they are asking all Muslims in the Badulla District to rally around them. This is purely driving Muslims towards political racism and nothing else.

Over the last three years or so, the Sri Lankan Muslim community has come under tremendous pressure, whilst exercising their religious rights and beliefs. Religious rights enjoyed by the Muslim community no doubt falls within the Sri Lankan constitution’s purview as such ‘fundamental’ rights are established and granted by it. No matter what other some are in other communities (extremist groups) have to say about Sri Lankan Muslims, one thing is certain, that there are no Muslim extremist groups in Sri Lanka attempting to systematically destroy Buddhism in this country, nor are they fighting for an Islamic state here.  There is no concrete evidence that Muslims in SL trying to propagate Islam amongst non-Muslims nor do they try to covert them to Islam.

So at the moment what the Muslim community in Sri Lanka requires is an environment to exercise their religious rights which is enshrined in the Constitution. They expect authorities to enforce the law and order against those who violate their religious rights no matter which group the transgressors come from.
 Apart from the insecurity in exercising their religious rights to a certain extent, the Muslim community in Sri Lanka does not have a unique problem of their own. If at all  such problems fall in line with those of the language, or fall in line with the woes faced by other communities in general. These include educational facilities, unemployment, housing and the high cost of living which are common to all Sri Lankans. Whether Sri Lankan Governments past or present have taken a systemic approach of discrimination, when solving problems faced by all communities, is a separate topic to debate. But even if such a discriminatory approach exists, that too can only be eradicated through a sound constitutional and political administrative system and not by election pledges put forwarded by political parties during election campaign.

Since the end of the war in 2009, it is not clear whether the UPFA Government has a plan for the establishment of such constitutional and political administrative system to eradicate or minimize discrimination against communities while solving common issues. The absence of such a process has led Ministers to work on their own to serve their community and which has in turn resulted in communal disputes. The recent ‘Willpattu’ fiasco is quite good example of a community having to face the music of this freelance problem solving by ministers.

The writer does not rule out having political parties based on race or ethnicity. But at the same time such parties cannot ignore social responsibilities cast on them as human being and Sri Lankans and so on. Being silent to all injustices that took place in this ‘motherland’, but when CPC member Azzath Salley was arrested, the Justice Minister said the arrest was illegal and against the law. What is the message delivered here? Raising voice on selective basis especially on ethnicity basis is unacceptable.

 There are 14 parliamentarians who are from Muslim minority parties. When Casino Bill was brought to the Parliament in 2010 and 2014 all of these parliamentarians either voted for the Bill or abstained. So, clearly they have clearly forgotten their social responsibilities.It is interesting to observe what ministers Hakeem and Rishad have to say in their Uva Election Campaign. It is obvious that the UPFA Government has failed to build harmony among the different communities since 2009. So, these two ministers who have failed their constituents abysmally by not warning the government of the impact of its failure in resolving communal disharmony they have come forward as ministers, pleading for Muslim votes. They need to show and highlight in their rallies, all injustices that have taken place against Muslims. On the other hand, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and National Freedom Front (NFF) continue to campaign against unidentified Muslim extremism and international conspiracy. ‘Racism’ is the strength of the UPFA Government, be it Sinhala or Muslim.

As a nation it is a very unfortunate situation where at this juncture even Muslims are being driven towards political racism. Sadly, it is by government partners (the SLMC and ACMC), but surely the UPFA has no regrets about it because the government is well aware that they are unable to obtain a considerable amount of Muslim votes. But for sure they know that they can get politicians elected by Muslims to their side.

There is the saying about the British colonial policy of ‘Divide and Rule’. The reasonable question that arises is whether this is the same strategy of the UPFA.
Whatever their concerns maybe, Muslims of Sri Lanka need to be cautious about political racism. Focus needs to be on the establishment of the rule of law in the country since you cannot eradicate a racist movement by using another racist movement.

So what is required from the SLMC and the ACMC is to work towards the establishment of social justice. If that is ensured, the rights of Muslims will be automatically established. It is not healthy for a country just emerging the ravages of almost 30 years of conflict, to gain political advantages out of communal incidents which are merely the result of inaction of the government whose partners these two parties are. – See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/lens/item/32796-driving-muslims-towards-political-racism.html#sthash.uiD3ZwDQ.dpuf

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