Journalist and a human rights activist, Murshideen Badurdeen is contesting the upcoming Western Provincial Council elections from the Colombo District. In an interview with Daily Mirror he said this was not his first encounter with politics. His main focus is on the Muslim Community and claims to be a voice for the voiceless. He says the main reason for him to contest from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) is because it is the only powerful Muslim Party which has won the trust of the Muslim community.
Q: Is this your first encounter with politics?
I have been in politics since the 1980s. In 1993 I contested Provincial Council elections and in 2000 I contested the Parliamentary elections. I have been with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress from the beginning. I have been involved in a lot of activities with regard to social development and human rights. I am not a newcomer to Politics.
Q: As a media personality what made you enter politics?
There are many people who enter politics. This varies from businessmen to artistes. I personally believe there is a lacuna of professionally qualified people in this field. It is money which is in power. And people who come forward also back out. It is mandatory to change this culture. I personally believe people who are professionally qualified should come forward. I think as a professionally qualified journalist and as a person who knows about people I am qualified to be in politics.
"In the UNP, there are a lot of splits. The UNP no longer supports minority rights. The SLFP is no different. There is hardly any room for minority rights. Therefore I decided to stick with the SLMC"
Q: But why did you join the SLMC instead of joining the two major parties?
It is because only through the SLMC can we fight for minority rights, especially in the case of Muslims. According to the Constitution, each party leader has executive powers. We cannot fight for minority rights with this setting. Also, in the present opposition, UNP, there are a lot of splits. The UNP no longer supports minority rights. The SLFP is no different. There is hardly any room for minority rights. Therefore I decided to stick with the SLMC.
Q: Does this mean that your main concern is the Muslim community? The Colombo District has a combination of many races. Don’t you think other communities would be neglected?
No, I am not saying that I will not voice out on behalf of people from other communities. I will definitely speak on behalf of other communities as well. But I have to concentrate on Muslims as I represent the SLMC. They are my main voters.
But with my experience I know people from other communities will also rally around me. I have been with the people as a human rights activist and a journalist. Therefore my political journey is not for one particular community, but for all.
"I will definitely speak on behalf of other communities as well. But I have to concentrate on Muslims as I represent the SLMC. They are my main voters"
Q: What is your opinion with regard to media freedom?
It is an accepted fact that media freedom is controlled by some elements. Although many shout about it nobody seems to be taking any measures in that direction. I disagree with people who organise campaigns and not do any thing about media freedom afterwards. Since there is a vacuum in respect of media freedom it is us, as journalists who have to take action.
Q: But there seems to be decline of ethics in people who enter politics. Do you think your ethics will not change?
I will maintain my ethics. As I told earlier I am not a newcomer to politics and I have maintained proper ethics. Journalists know about people and the society. I believe a good journalist will never give up his values.
Q: If you get elected, what are your plans for the Western Province?
If I get elected I will focus on Muslim education. Only a few Muslim schools come under the Central Government. The rest are under the Provincial Council. I want to pay attention to these schools. Also, I want to focus on unemployment, violence and other injustices existing in the present society. I mostly want to continue with what I have been doing for the people along with the principles of the SLMC.
Q: Are you confident that you can win this election?
Yes I hope I will win this time. I came this far, thanks to the blessings of God. I was invited by the SLMC. I know lots of people are with me. Therefore I believe I can succeed this time.