The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) recently passed a resolution demanding a separate administrative district for Muslims in the Ampara District claiming that the Muslim majority in the Ampara District face certain difficulties having administrative capital in Ampara and having to deal with most of the administrative activities in Sinhala.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, many political parties including some Tamil political parties took a complete different stand on the matter and opposed the view of the SLMC.
‘We Are Totally Against’ Udhaya Gammanpila
– Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) MP
The JHU vehemently opposes such a move based on our principles. We believe that establishing a separate administrative district for Muslims in the country would only legalise racism. Our districts should only be divided on geographical and social characters of the area, but not on the ethnicity of the people who live there.
If we do that there will be Muslim districts, Tamil districts and Sinhala districts – and then when people move from one area to another it will change the demographic pattern and people would oppose that. It is against the Sri Lankan constitution.
According to the Constitution, the right for people to move anywhere in the island and to resident anywhere is established as a fundamental right. Therefore, if there is a Muslim, Tamil or Sinhala district that means people from other ethnic groups do not have the liberty to move into other areas which limits their freedom of mobility.
Equally language right is also accepted in the Constitution. In my ministry all our communications are printed trilingual. For Muslims, if their mother tongue is Tamil they can request communication in their language. That is the standard practice.
There is no need for a separate administrative division for that purpose. There are Sinhalese in the North but in Vavuniya Sinhalese cannot demand a separate Sinhala district. There are also minority Sinhalese in Trincomalee and Batticaloa but they cannot have a separate administrative district.
We should not forget the fact. There are areas where Muslim minority is majority in Colombo but can we carve out a separate district in Colombo for Muslims? If that’s the case then there will be separate district for each ethnic group all over the island. We are totally against the proposal.
This Is An Attempt To Get Votes By Selling Racism’
Mahinda Yapa Abeywadena – UPFA Minister
It is really unfortunate that some people are trying to raise racial issues and constantly try to pave way for racism in the country. This is an attempt to get votes by selling ideas of racism. We are against Tamil, Muslim, Sinhalese or any kind of extremism or racism in the country. The language is not the issue in these areas. In that case, Tamils in these areas have more grievances.
The Tamils in Ampara District have been complaining about Muslims taking over their lands. For these issues we should not divide the administrative divisions. Administrative divisions should be determined in a way in which power is devolved equally to all the administrative divisions in the district. When it comes to the devolution of power, the whole country has the same issue.
If all the powers are vested with one district, there will be lot of injustices for the minority in that province. One issue right now is also about vesting power with the provinces.
There is Pradeshiya Sabha in Kalmunai. When we visited it one complaint we received was that the Tamils in the area are not being given any facilities. They are requesting for a separate Tamil Pradeshiya Sabha.
We cannot do that. All the offices in the country have the responsibility to work for people regardless of their ethnicity. We cannot make such division which will create further separation between the ethnic groups. This is a political agenda of some people.
‘We Cannot Agree’-Suresh Premachandran
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP
Therefore we cannot agree with their proposal. Unless these issues are being addressed, we cannot take a position regarding this matter and right now we do not want to further comment on their proposal.
‘Slmc Is Now Acting To Benefit Few Muslim Politicians’
Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa – United National Party (UNP) MP
In the parliament I clarified my stand as to why I opposed the proposal for a separate administrative division for Muslims. Similar ideas were advocated by some Tamil leaders like A. Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran in 1975 and as a result there were conflicts and ethnic issues that led to a three decade war. Hakeem is now doing the same thing. In the North we can understand the situation. Even before the independence during British, the North had their own political parties and was developing their own political culture. But the Muslim community is different from the Tamil community.
They are all over the country and very happily and peacefully living with the other communities. It is a silly argument to say that they need to carve out a separate administration district claiming that the administration is done in Sinhala. If language is the issue they must tell the relevant government officers to bridge the language barrier. Hakeem is a powerful minister in the Government and they can get the relevant correspondents, but it does not mean that they can get a separate district.
UNP has been always talking in favour of the SLMC. If it is not for the UNP, the SLMC would not have had any representation in the parliament. But the SLMC is now acting for the benefit of few Muslim politicians. The SLMC is in fact responsible for the current state of the country for letting the government enjoy 2/3 majority which has created many issues in the country. This is not an era where people should be divided.
‘This Proposal Does Not Represent The Majority But Only Hakeem’
Anura Kumara Dissanayake – JVP MP
We do not in any means encourage administrative or political divisions based on any race or ethnicity. We want to have Sinhala, Muslims, Tamil, Burgher or any ethnic group in this country to come under one administrative system.
Administrative and political decisions should be made together. Some individuals are attempting to create separate communal base administrative structure for different ethnic groups. The only reason why the SLMC is making such demands is to win the hearts of the Muslims as the SLMC has become very helpless and a less favourite party among Muslims.
During recent past the SLMC has been silent about all the issues faced by the Muslim community under different circumstances. Therefore, the Muslims have stopped being followers of the SLMC. In order to win their trust and to get their support back they have issued a narrow racist proposal.
This proposal does not help building peace among the communities – it does not protect the rights of the Muslims or provide protection and security to Muslims. It is only a move to instill doubts and hatred among the communities. The SLMC at present is looking for a division among the communities. For the people who live in these areas, if they have a language issue when it comes to administration that is a different issue. For that the solution would be to appoint officers who can communicate in their language.
If Hakeem is asking for that we agree, but we are against carving out a separate administrative district for Muslims. This proposal does not represent the majority of the Muslims but only Hakeem and few in the SLMC who are making an attempt to protect their political careers.