If Ven. Gnanasara Thera boasted about priests in the island uniting in the face of meeting the challenge of extremists, he only has to look just a little far ahead to see another group working in similar solidarity. The Muslim politicians in Sri Lanka have come together in a move to protect their race and for this purpose they have tendered their resignations as state and Cabinet ministers.
Muslims are largely traders and are a well-to-do community in the island. But after the ‘April 21 massacre’ their businesses have been hit badly because the majority Sinhalese customers shun doing business with them. This blow to them is a victory for some, but unhealthy to the country in the long-run.
The two Governors and Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, who resigned following the pressure exerted on them due to a fast by Ven.Rathana Thera, helps two things. One is that the investigations against the trio can be carried out to figure out whether they aided Muslim extremists in the country. The other is that it relieves tension in the society thereby protecting the lives of innocent Muslims.
Rauff Hakeem, one of the key individuals among this group of Muslims and the Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, has said that he wishes the investigations to be carried out by the CID and not by the parliament Select Committee appointed for the task.
President Sirisena has assured the Muslim community that those arrested would be freed soon if existing charges against them that can’t be proved
These Muslims coming together also means that two minority parties-the SLMC and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC)- would ‘auction’ their votes given that many elections are to be held in the coming two years. The key person among those who resigned from their portfolios is Bathiudeen who heads the Ministries Industry & Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons and Co-operative Development and Vocational Training & Skills Development. This is one reasons why the Government didn’t want to support a proposed No Confidence Motion (NCM) against him. However the proposed NCM will now not be moved against Bathiudeen because he has now resigned from his ministerial portfolios.
The problem with Sinhalese parliamentarians is that they don’t think far and aren’t united. The Muslim parliamentarians coming together can form a formidable combination. In fact this is what the late lawmaker and one of the founders of the SLMC
MHM Ashraff underscored time and again. He was disgusted with Muslim politicians being lured in by the UNP and SLFP for incentives. Ashraff wanted a Muslim identity in Sri Lanka politics and created the SLMC in 1981.
Ashraff saw Muslim politics from a wide angle. His eyes went far and wide to all nooks and corners of the island. But his roaming eyes stopped in the East where he saw enough potential for a base to be built for the Muslims. In the East he saw a lot of strength for this minority community because here the Muslims comprised 35% of the population at that time. The figure could be more at present.
- Ashraff saw Muslim politics from a wide angle
- Already Sirisena has appointed a Muslim as the Governor of the Western Province
This is the province which Bathiudeen represents and that’s why he is so important for any political party wishing to form a government.
The Muslim minority will always prefer a major political party which accepts their culture and entertains their problems. The news that’s circulating that President Maithripala Sirisena is likely to forge ahead with the United National Front after reconciling differences with the ‘Green Party’ will have the effect of sweet music on the Muslims. This is because Sirisena is far from being a hard-liner and is considered as a politician who entertains the minorities. Already Sirisena has appointed a Muslim A.J.M Muzammil as the Governor of the Western Province. Also the minority Muslim political parties would find it easy to work with a UNP led Government because the ‘greens’ are considered to be more liberal compared to the ‘blues’ in Sri Lankan politics. For the record President Sirisena has affirmed during a recent National Ifthar ceremony held for Islam devotees at President’s House that “As long as we regard each other with hatred and suspicion there is no hope for peace in the country’.
The Muslim parliamentarians coming together can form a formidable combination. In fact this is what the late lawmaker and one of the founders of the SLMC. MHM Ashraff underscored time and again
The bottom line to all this is that the Muslims in general are pissed off with the Government authorities. They believe that they are a harassed community and the regime has done little or nothing about it. There is so much hate speech being posted on social media against Sri Lankan Muslims. Wearing the Burqa has been banned and apart from that as many as 559 Muslims are in custody for allegedly being involved in or aiding terrorist activities. President Sirisena has assured the Muslim community that those arrested would be freed soon if existing charges against them that can’t be proved.
When compared to the Sinhala voters, the Muslim voters have something to lean on during a crisis like this; the brotherhood that Islam promotes among its devotees.
A crisis like this gels a community and the Muslims are fully aware of it. Ven.Gnanasara expressed this same sentiment during the drama when Ven.Rathana Thera staged the fast. But before even a day was up after the Thera gave up on the fast Ven.Gnanasara has accused Rathana Thera of taking prevailing issues into his hands. The firebrand monk, associated with the Bodu Bala Sena, has also blamed Rathana Thera claiming that the fast had swept main issues ailing the country under the carpet. This shows how frail unity can be whenever it is formed among whatever sections of the Sinhalese community.
The Muslim politicians don’t fear Ven.Gnanasara’s gab. If there is anything that they fear it is the law of the land.