Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) National List candidate, President’s Counsel Mohamed Ali Sabry was heavily criticized during the 2019 Presidential Election for a controversial speech he made targeting the Muslim community. But today, he believes that there’s a definite shift in the mindset of the Muslim community and that they should place their trust in mainstream parties. If he wins, his priorities are to ensure a secure nation, revive the economy and uphold the rule of law. Excerpts :
- President Rajapaksa put the country back on track
- The Muslim community should place their trust in mainstream parties
- 19A won’t be totally repealed
- There has to be zero tolerance on child abuse
"We can’t do wonders within a short period. Those who did campaigns during the Presidential Election made a ghost out of President Rajapaksa and instilled a fear psychosis on the Muslim community. But after eight months we can see how the country has fallen in track, how the President handled the pandemic"
Q You requested the Muslim community to vote for President Rajapaksa. This rhetoric is still being criticized. Your comments on that?
People distorted something I never said. I wanted Muslims to believe in President Rajapaksa because he’s a strong leader. He put the country back on track. Now there’s a definite shift in voting because I wanted Muslims to move away from voting for regional and ethnic parties. They should place their trust in mainstream parties instead.
Q One of the Election Commissioners have criticized the government for moving away from democracy. He claims that the government made a deceased person as the chief suspect of Wasim Thajudeen’s case despite many other suspects, who were involved and now the case is closed. What do you have to say about that?
The Elections Commission is an independent body. It is none of their business to comment on Thajudeen’s murder.
The previous government had five years to bring perpetrators to justice. It’s sad to see people making use of innocent people and politicizing such matters.
Q The SLPP is working on repealing the 19th Amendment. Won’t this threaten Right to Information, weaken the power of the judiciary and pose a threat to the country’s democracy?
It won’t be repealed. There are positives as well as negatives. When the entire country elects a President he should be able to run the country. But now nobody knows if the Prime Minister or the President is in control. We saw this during the past five years as well. Even the architects of the 19th Amendment M. A Sumanthiran and Jayampathy Wickramaratne concede that it was haphazardly done and it was a failure. So even if it’s amended it will not pose a threat to the Judiciary or press freedom.
"The country is safe now. So I feel there’s a definite shift in the mindsets of people. But I represent the Muslim community and therefore don’t know much about the Tamil community"
Q Opposition parties are alleging that the government was hiding information about the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Your comments?
These are false claims. There has been total transparency and we can’t be more transparent than this. The Ministry of Health has been giving out updates and Sri Lanka has been praised by WHO and several other world leaders for controlling the pandemic. Hospitals are open and everything is under control. Most Sri Lankans don’t like to appreciate one another.
Q There has been a spike in child abuse cases. Several candidates in SLPP too have been accused of being connected to child abuse cases. Won’t this affect the credibility of the Party?
Of course. This has been a long-standing problem but there has been a spike during the past few days. There has to be zero tolerance on child abuse and we need to bring about a mechanism to eliminate it. The Party is working on it. The President is tough on eliminating crimes, underworld and drugs. Irrespective of the party these people should be punished. We need to make this country a safe place for women and children who are most vulnerable to abuse.
Q The government restricted imports and printed money to sustain the economy during the pandemic outbreak. What are the plans to revive the economy?
It’s a tough call. All sorts of avenues where we used to get our foreign currency are temporarily halted. Remittances have gone down and there needs to be a balance of payment. It’s a difficult situation. Some of these measures have been taken temporarily because we have to defend the Sri Lankan rupee. Apart from that, a large number of loans need to be serviced. Depending on the progress we will look at exports. The avenues of foreign exchange such as tourism will be revived soon. Those who were directly involved in these businesses have indeed been severely affected but these measures were necessary.
"Priorities would be to ensure a secure nation for all people. Reviving the economy is a must and the country’s rule of law need to be upheld"
Q During the Presidential Election the SLPP didn’t get many votes in the North and East. So, how does it plan to solve the ethnic issue in the country?
We can’t do wonders within a short period. Those who did campaigns during the Presidential Election made a ghost out of President Rajapaksa and instilled a fear psychosis on the Muslim community. But after eight months we can see how the country has fallen in track, how the President handled the pandemic. The country is safe now. So I feel there’s a definite shift in the mindsets of people. But I represent the Muslim community and therefore don’t know much about the Tamil community.
Q If you win, what are your priorities?
Priorities would be to ensure a secure nation for all people. Reviving the economy is a must and the country’s rule of law need to be upheld.