Sunday, 13 March 2011

The “Independence” of the SLMC Since the NE PC Election

by S.M.M.Bazeer
“They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”

Benjamin Franklin


(May 03, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Muslim Congress contested in the NE PC elections immediately after their registration as a political party. Although Ashroff claimed that the Muslims had been made slaves to the Tamils by signing the Indo-Lanka Accord he made it a reality by contesting and officiating in the NE Provincial Council. Had the SLMC not contested in the NE Provincial council elections in 1987, the Indo-Lanka pact would have lost its credibility. Hence, the Indian government had to push the SLMC to contest in the elections to kick start their Indo-Lanka Accord to be politically viable.

Since the SLFP opposed the Indo Lanka agreement, it did not contest in the PC elections and the SLMC had to face the UNP and the Tamil parties in the fray. The SLMC leadership embarked on anti-UNP propaganda with religious fatwa that “voting for UNP is Haram” (Haram means forbidden in Arabic but the word has religious connotation). The SLMC’ hierarchy unanimously decided to support Sirimavo Bandaranayake in the presidential election in 1988 and engaged in a dialogue with Sirimavo Bandaranayaka. During the Presidential elections the SLFP put forward a proposal that individual units would be established for the Tamil, the Muslims and the Sinhalese in the North and the East. This working programme was accepted by the SLMC and the Tamil Congress in principle and this was the only election manifesto that recognized the political rights of the Muslims of the North and the East. Just few days before the Presidential election the SLMC leadership deserted her abruptly and declared that the SLMC would remain neutral and would not support either party. During the 8th SLMC annual conference in Colombo, Ashroff declared arbitrarily that the SLMC would neither support Srimavo Bandaranayke (SLFP- presidential candidate) nor Ranasingha Premadasa, (UNP-Presidential candidate). The u-turn of his arbitrary decision confused the central committee members and the SLMC supporters nationwide as they were already geared up by the SLMC to vote for Srimavo Bandaranayaka. However, only few dared to question the leader’s decision. The SLMC stalwarts explained that the decision was made by the leader’s intuition for the betterment of the Muslim community. Only few knew the reason behind the change to a “neutral” status whilst many were left baffled.

Nevertheless, Ashroff and Segu Issadeen had numerous clandestine meetings with the UNP presidential candidate R.Premadasa whilst having a dialogue with Srimavo Bandaranyake. Although the SLMC declared to be neutral in the Presidential elections, a secret message was conveyed to all the SLMC regional branches and the SLMC parliamentary candidates for the 1989 February elections and Central Committee members to canvass for the victory of Premadasa. However, Ashroff could not hold the secrecy of his change of policy as he publicly disclosed unwittingly that Premadasa had phoned him to say “Ashroff I would do anything for you as you made me victorious, without your support I would have not been the President. Upon hearing it, the people who gathered there shouted “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is Great) as if they had heard a religious sermon from a messiah. Ashroff also later claimed that Premadasa agreed to reduce the cut out point from 12/12 percent to 5 percent, thus more Muslim MP’s could be returned to parliament under the Proportional representation. This scenario has changed a lot now but people like Hakeem have been consistently symbolizing Ashroff as a holy man. Ashroff’s poems also created controversy in mainstream Islam which is against hero worship. The SLMC embarked on their propaganda against both the main national parties in the 1989 February Parliamentary Elections. However Ashroff considered the UNP, a party against the interest of the Muslims and he had a leaning towards the SLFP, despite his cut throat pull out of support for Sirimavo Bandaranayake in her presidential elections. During the parliamentary elections he declared that “Any true Muslim’s vote should not be cast to the elephant symbol of the UNP” (True Muslim has religious connotation that those who follow Allah’s Command and adopt the lifestyle of the Prophet are called in Arabic- “ Al- Muminun” vide Quran: Surat 49 Al-Hujurat which describes in detail as to who is a true Muslim)


EXCHANGE OR SELL OUT OF TREE SYMBOL

In the present eastern PC elections Hakeem may say conversely that those who do not vote for the elephant symbol of the UNP will not be true Muslims (Al-Muminun). In particular his recent performance of “Umra” followed by his resignation may portray him not only a leader who “sacrificed” his post of MP but also a devout Muslim with religious conviction. This religious duty has become a matter of party business for SLMC leaders who have been politically successful in convincing not only the local Muslims but also Sri Lankan Muslims living miles away. There are Muslims who justify and relate every move of the SLMC to a religious anecdote and sanctify the SLMC politicians. The writer noted the comments of a strong SLMC member regarding Hakeem’s Umra pilgrimage and his participation in the provincial council elections “May God Almighty Allah bless Hon. Rauf Hakeem, his team and the SLMC to victory in the same way the Holy Prophet Moses was blessed with safety and guided to VICTORY, against to challenges of the “would be new PHAROAH – the Pilliyan and the TMVP in the North Eastern and Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, Insha Allah.

When Mr. Ashroff had his last dispute with Chandrika Kumararanatunga, the former President, he flew to Mecca to perform UMRA and wrote a long letter from there and faxed it to Asitha Perera, a Sinhalese SLMC MP to convey his concerns to the former President... The senior members of the SLMC claimed that the letter Ashroff wrote to Chandrika was of literary value. He preferred Asitha Perera to all other top Muslim leaders of the SLMC, and he also acknowledged this in an election meeting in Kalmunai in 2000 that Asitha Perera was the most trustworthy person so far as he was concerned. Asjtha Perera joined the SLMC from the Liberal Party of Chanaka Amaratunga. However Asitha set a precedent by resigning his M.P post to strengthen the party. His last speech in parliament revealed his liberal mind “I am now resigning in order to make way to strengthen the party" He also urged the PA and the opposition party to agree to a common policy in all vital sectors such as health and transport as well as in the efforts to resolve the ethnic problem.

When the author had casually met an old Sufi man in the Batticaloa District in 1989, he was happy to argue with the writer that the Muslims had a symbol of a “Tree” as it reminded him of Sidrat al-Muntaha a tree which is described in the Quran( See An-Najm (53:14-18, ). The author was shocked how the tree symbol transcends holiness in the mire of politics of the SLMC. “

NE PC and aftermath
Some twenty years ago, when Rauff Hakeem was not even a member of the SLMC the founder members of the SLMC took risk of their lives to contest the NE PC elections. The Muslims were left at the mercy of the LTTE by the Premadasa’s UNP government in order to keep his honeymoon with the LTTE and this was the case when the LTTE killed Muslims in Valaicchhenai ,Muthur and Thopur during the time of Ranil’s premiership, who was only concerned about the CFA (Cease Fire Agreement) rather than the lives of the Muslims and others.

On the 30th of January 1990, the SLMC alleged that more than 70 of their members were abducted by the LTTE. The Premadasa’s government representatives had talks with LTTE and secured the release of 50 Muslims who were in the LTTE custody. On that miserable day, Kalmunai police barracks were surrounded by the LTTE cadres and this followed by a killing of a NE PC member Mohamed Yoonus Lebbe Mohamed Mansoor, (SLMC). Mr. Y.L.M. Mansoor was shot by the LTTE at his house and he bled profusely. He was taken by the LTTE to the Base Hospital Kalmunai and subsequently his corpse was removed by the LTTE to an unknown place. On the same fateful day the LTTE also killed five Muslim patients in a private hospital and abducted 10 people, including a doctor. Some of those killed by the LTTE had demonstrated earlier that day against the LTTE’s atrocities. The Tigers banned all the SLMC activities in the North and East and the SLMC stalwarts moved out of the East for security reasons and made the south their second homes.

CHANGING CAMPS – A SLMC PHENOMENON – (FROM NE PC TO EPC)

Some of the SLMC NE provincial council members are still actively involved in politics. Unfortunately most of them who founded the party and put their lives at risk to contest in the first NE PC elections and 1989 Parliamentary elections have now set up camp with the opposition. Segu issadeen was one of the prominent members of the SLMC and the first chairman of the SLMC. He defected from the SLMC and formed his own party but later joined the UNP to become a MP. He also ultimately joined the PA (UPFA) government and has become a deputy minister. He held the post of the leader of the opposition in the first NE PC. Hasan Ali, the current General Secretary of the SLMC was also a NE provincial council member and he is contesting now in the EPC elections. The late Mohideen Abdul Cader was also a SLMC NE PC member, later joined the UNP and rejoined the SLMC to become a MP. He also stood with Athaullah when there was a “coup d'etat” and finally joined up with Hakeem’s group and died in 2001. S. Nijamudeen who left for Australia in 1992 and returned to Sri Lanka to actively involve in politics and is currently a deputy minister in the UPFA. He is a nominated MP to the parliament by the UNP on their agreement with the SLMC. One NE PC elected member and one provincial councilor of the SLMC were brutally killed by the militant Tamil organizations. M.Y.M.Mansoor,a provincial councilor and an elected representative of the NEPC, Ali Uthuman were killed by the LTTE and the ENDLF respectively.
 
(Sri Lanka Guardian May 2008)

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