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The fall out of the Ashraff betrayal

28 January 2016 08:40 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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At the inaugural meeting of the first  Muslim political party on November 26, 1986 Ashraff  requested his  community not to form a second Muslim party

After almost five months after the Parliamentary elections the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has not resolved the problem it faced in nominating members to the two national list slots it had been allotted. Citing various grounds, many members from various areas, especially in the East are still making demands from the SLMC leadership that they be given a seat, 

The SLMC contested at the general elections held on August 17, last year under the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG), a coalition formed on the eve of that election with the United National Party (UNP) being the prime party. The UNFGG that entered the fray under the UNP symbol, ‘elephant’ emerged as the largest single party bagging 106 seats including 13 from its national list, and allotted two seats from the national list to the SLMC.

However, the SLMC leadership was unable to take a final decision on the nomination of two persons for those two seats before the prescribed deadline as there were so many aspirants for the seats. Some argued that the national list seats should be allotted district wise and accordingly at least one from their district should be nominated while some others preferred the seats to be offered on an electoral basis so that one of their men would be chosen. 

The National Front for Good Governance (NFGG), a party formed on the eve of the Northern Provincial Council elections in 2013 and contested at the general election in coalition with the SLMC wanted one seat for its contribution at the election. An interesting argument floated with a view to justify the claim by the Muslims of the Northern Province was that the criterion should be the eligibility to present to the UNHRC the plight of Muslims who were driven away by the LTTE from the North.

The SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem was so pressurised that he had no option but to nominate two of his confidants, his elder brother Dr. A.R.A.Hafees and attorney-at-law M.H.M.Salman who were expected to resign later and give way for two other persons nominated by the party leader permanently.  

Dr. Hafees who was the press secretary to the City Planning and Water Supply Minister and party leader Hakeem resigned from Parliament last week,citing personal reasons, apparently without a prior arrangement by the party to nominate someone in his place. Later former deputy minister M.S.Thawfeek was appointed to fill that vacancy. The sudden resignation by Dr. Hafees raised many eyebrows on one hand while reports of heartbreaks of some aspirants for the two seats were being circulated through the media after the appointment of Thawfeek. 

The problem with the other national list slot seems to be still unresolved. A similar situation has arisen within the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) that too contested under the UNP and was offered one slot from the national list to which M.H.M.Navavi from Puttalam was appointed. This led to the party General Secretary Y.L.S.Hameed publicly criticising the party leader. However, Minister Rishard Bathiutheen sacked the former. Now the matter is before court.
Harsh decisions for personal political mileage have been so common in Muslim politics in Sri Lanka that the community now has around ten political parties, though some are “tri-shaw parties”. An interesting but ludicrous fact is that the leaders of almost all these parties vow in public forums to continue the struggle for the rights of the community that was carried out by the founder leader of the SLMC, the late M.H.M.Ashraff who at the inaugural meeting of the first Muslim political party in the country on November 26, 1986 requested his community not to form a second Muslim party. 

In spite of many blaming Ashraff for forming a communal political party, the SLMC was not formed with a view to gain narrow political ends. The circumstances compelled its formation as the Tamil armed groups; especially the LTTE had started to brutalise the Muslims in the East while the government of the day as well as the main Opposition had let them down. For instance, a few months before the formation of the SLMC, the LTTE had burnt down more than 500 houses in Kalmunai and adjacent areas and no-one had spoken against this heinous crime in Parliament. 

At the same time, the UNP government of President J.R.Jayawardene had given permission to open an Israeli Interest Section within the US embassy in Colombo to the utter dismay of the Muslims. When the members of the UNP raised the issue at the party working committee the response was said to have been that anyone who is not agreeable to the government’s decision can get out. 

A boy was shot dead during one of many demonstrations held in the East against the Israeli Interest Section.The frustration of the community at last manifested in the formation of the SLMC which  later became the voice of the Muslims. Referring to the beginning of “Muslim politics” in the country, the veteran journalist,  the late Mervyn de Silva while testifying before the “Mossad Commission” appointed by former President R.Premadasa said that the government had unnecessarily activated a politically passive community.

Ashraff was defied by another easterner, M.I.M.Mohideen within three months when a second Muslim party, the Muslim United Liberation Front (MULF) was formed. Interestingly, Colombo Muslims like M.H.Mohamed and A.H.M.Azwarthen called the SLMC a communal party, but not the MULF. However, the MULF faded away later and Mohideen joined the SLMC.

After the untimely demise of Ashraff in a helicopter crash on September 16, 2000, Muslim political parties were formed even at the drop of a hat. Ashraff’s family and close associates rejuvenated the National Unity Alliance (NUA) formed by Ashraff himself, under the leadership of Ashraff’s widow Feirial, after Hakeem took over the SLMC. Parties were formed for want of cabinet portfolios in retaliation for not offering national list slots and due to various other clashes with the SLMC leadership. Winning the rights of the community while upholding national unity, the Afraff motto in politics, had been put on the back burner and using the community for personal gains has been the undeclared present day motto of many former disciples of the SLMC founder. 

One may argue that this situation is common to all political parties in the country. True, but the leaders of the SLMC and all its breakaway groups had accepted the SLMC constitution, the only constitution in the country that is based on a divine scripture.
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  • idroos2002 Friday, 29 January 2016 05:35 PM

    MIlk and wine was offered wise people always select milk .Unfortunately undue self interest -wine - seems to be the justification .


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