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‘Patriotism Is The Last Refuge Of The Scoundrel’ – Rauf Hakeem

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

Rauf Hakeem

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has become the focus of attention over the recent dispute over a Muslim mosque located within the Dambulla sacred area and the onus is on party leader and Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem to ensure a peaceful settlement of the issue.
Meeting The Sunday Leader at his office located at the premises of the Carnival ice cream parlor in Colpetty, Hakeem took some time out of his busy schedule to respond to queries on the latest situation with regard to the Dambulla mosque issue and his role in an ultra nationalist government.
Since the dispute over the Dambulla mosque commenced a few weeks back, Hakeem and the SLMC have taken the firm stance that the mosque should not be relocated and that there was no necessity for an alternate land in the event the government tries to forcibly relocate it.
However, Hakeem denied media reports that the SLMC would quit the government over the mosque issue saying it would impress upon the government to address the issue in a just manner to all communities.
Following a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week, the SLMC leader ensured that the President would address the issue without allowing the matter to get out of hand.
When asked if there has been any finality over the mosque dispute reached with the President, Hakeem told The Sunday Leader that there is no finality in the issue.
However, he noted that the indication is that the status quo would remain since emotions have been aroused and any attempt to forcibly relocate will only aggravate the situation.
In a pensive mood, he observed that the government needs to reflect on this issue and resolve it without hastily resorting to any unilateral decisions.
“I indicated to the President that it is best we discuss this issue, to which he replied he needed time to study the issue a little more.”
The President had told Hakeem that he needed to talk to others including the Prime Minister before initiating a dialogue with the Muslim ministers.
A thoughtful Hakeem then said that as a mature politician and head of government, the President is in a very unenviable position.
“It is a challenging situation, which I’m sure he would handle pragmatically.”
The SLMC leader explained that the majority in the government is disturbed by the manner in which the whole Dambulla mosque issue was brought to focus. He noted that the government members are conscious of the consequences of the issue.  “On our part too, we feel we have spoken enough and need not be stirring the pot any further. Best to keep quiet now so that saner counsel will prevail upon this situation,” he said.

Difficulties in a nationalist govt.
Being a leader of minority political party in a government that thrives on nationalism and pushing such sentiments is not an easy task. The SLMC’s position in the government is therefore unenviable. Nevertheless, a resolute Hakeem when questioned about this issue responded calmly that one should speak at the right time. He explained that all minor political parties in a coalition would feel somewhat intimidated by the very size of the government and it’s quite natural.  “You need to be patient, pragmatic and where necessary speak your mind without allowing the worry of your leverage inhibit you when it comes to the right issues,” he said.

Nationalism vs. reconciliation
The UPFA government is currently under pressure locally and internationally to expedite the reconciliation process in post war Sri Lanka.
However, patriotism and nationalism being pushed by the government seem to be a stumbling block in this path to reconciliation and the Dambulla incident is witnessed as a fall out of nationalist extremism.
When inquired if the nationalism would hamper the country’s path towards reconciliation, Hakeem reminded of the saying; “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
“At time you feel like that some xenophobic forces trying to take cover under the label of nationalism or patriotism and disturb the path to reconciliation. We must have the courage of our conviction to speak our mind out when thuggery, intimidation and harassment is implied to achieve their objectives,” he said.
He made a point that in a multi ethnic country like Sri Lanka there’s enough space for everyone to prosper, provided every one agrees to resolve differences by way of discussions rather than through demonstrations and public shows of defiance.
Hakeem also warned that resorting violence could have its own repercussions as well.
He explained that the danger in resorting to violence on one side is that there is a tendency on the other side to resort to violence as well.
“Such tendencies need to be restricted by the mature intervention by the top not to allow racial hatred to dictate the agenda,” he said.

Being heard
Given Hakeem’s maturity and sentiments of bringing reconciliation to post war Sri Lanka, the question that remains is whether his voice and opinions are being heard in the government.
When asked if he felt he was being heard in the government, Hakeem is confident that his voice is heard at the right times.
Referring to the Dambulla mosque issue, the SLMC leader said the message has sunk in.
“We must also realise the limits of combative language and allow things to de-escalate,” he said.
He noted that members of the government were aware of the consequences of issues like the recent incident in Dambulla could have on the country.
“There is realisation that this issue has a tendency to polarise communities and therefore the best option would be to allow things to settle down for a while,” Hakeem observed.

“Time is a great healer!”
Confidence in reconciliation be that as it may, the main challenge before the government of which Hakeem is a member of is to bring about reconciliation.
Even three years after the end of the war, reconciliation still seems distant.
Hakeem however seems quite confident that the current administration headed by President Rajapaksa could bring about reconciliation.
He pointed out that the issue is that the country has not had a leader with such an overwhelming mandate particularly from the South, who has the capacity to market a reasonable compromise.
He observed that both Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and J. R. Jayewardana had squandered such opportunities since they hibernated for a long time.
“History tells us that economic prosperity is possible only when there is a strong climate of law and order where rule of law prevails.”
The SLMC Leader noted that in the post conflict situation, this government can exploit the prevailing conditions to maximise investment opportunities and with a massive development drive could take the country forward if a genuine attempt is made to resolve the contentious issues that remain particularly that of a political settlement.
Hakeem is currently engaged in an endeavor to get the TNA back to the negotiating table with the government in order to persuade the party to participate in the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to formulate the final political solution to the national question.
“I’m now making an attempt to talk to the TNA and the government to try and break this deadlock and create a win-win situation where the TNA could be persuaded to engage the government and to participate in the parliamentary select committee process,” he said.
He believes that the inhibitions on both sides could be overcome with some simple confidence building assurances.
Nevertheless, he says that it is too early to comment on any possibility of a success, since he has just begun to listen to TNA’s side of the story.
“I’m confident that their misgivings could be resolved by having a broader framework agreed upon. The trajectory of the talks thereafter will have to be managed by the stakeholders through consensus and where that is not possible, at least by reaching a majority consensus,” Hakeem said.
It was with a never give up attitude that he observed that the only option available when negotiations break down is more negotiations and nothing else.
Reaching the end of the discussion, Hakeem said on a positive note that he is reasonably confident that the current impasse on the path to reconciliation could be brought to an end.

15 Comments for “‘Patriotism Is The Last Refuge Of The Scoundrel’ – Rauf Hakeem”

  1. Francis

    They will not stop until they destroy Buddhism completely. Muslims are more dangerous than tamils

  2. Psycho

    Opportunist

  3. Dinuk

    The Mosque case should be taken to courts for settlement. Right thinking Muslims should file a case against the monk and his mob since the evidence is available on video – and there will be a conviction in this case.
    The law should take its course. The monk should be brought to trial for trespass, incitement to racial hatred, destruction of property and his impunity ended . The impunity that the religious establishment like the political-military establisment that disappears people has at this time must be challenged.

    Hakeem is doing the Muslim community and ALL the right thinking people of Lanka a disservice by merely referring this case to Rajapakse whose ultra nationalist regime is to blame for encouraging rampaging un-buddhist monks.

  4. das

    wise words from the opportunistic political leapfrog!!

  5. Priya Alwis

    Now Sinhalese have to jump in the ocean by giving Sri Lanka to tamils and Muslims

  6. Thaha Muzammil

    The phrase “dispute over a Muslim mosque located within the Dambulla sacred area ” in the intro is misleading. Minister Janaka Bandara has clearly stated that the mosque is situated outside sacred area.

  7. Meena M.

    Will Hakeem be firm for the Muslims he represents, or just scratch Mahinda’s back? The Muslim ministers and leaders have to stand up for equality and freedom of all religions. It seems the Rajapaksa government is now standing up for thuggery and racism by their quiet.

  8. I Hussein

    ‘Patriotism Is The Last Refuge Of The Scoundrel’ Very true in Mahinda Rajapakse’s case.

  9. Ajith

    Muslims are now building mosques in Anuradhapura. few yards from Sri Maha Bodhi.

  10. Ravi Ratnayake

    Mr.Hakeem,
    We can trust an enemy (Example, Prabkaran) becasue he oppose us openly, but betrayers are more dangerous than enemies because they kill us while staying together with us. Some communitieswho came to this country as traders and married Srilankan women have a history of changing the hat according to circumstances.

  11. Rauf Hakeem is the “Justice Minister”. Why was the matter not resolved in a court of law without need for politics?

    When the Buddhist monks came to destroy the mosque the police stood by, showing that there is no Rule of law but “Jungle Buddhist monk law”. The same thing happened in all the anti Tamil riots.

    Can SL ever deliver unbiased justice without impeccable racism? Never.

  12. pragmatist

    “History tells us that economic prosperity is possible only when there is a strong climate of law and order where rule of law prevails”
    Does this statement imply that such a climate of law and order exists in Sri Lanka now?
    I wonder how many of us would truly believe it – given we have eyes and ears?
    Mr Hakeem and others should enlighten the emperor about his nudity rather than help him continue to parade down the street in denial.

  13. m. r. nawaz

    Dear sir,

    in the sri lanka’s would not yet freedom for the minority and majority populations island wiled.bribery allegation and raisisim with the political constitutional rights.in short briefly say that it is the community of sri lanka wouldn’t be developed culturally good manners of relation with due respect of other religious communities. further more please send me information in this regards if there is any corrections.

    Thank you,

    you’re sincerely,

    M .Nawaz

  14. Quo Vadis

    Well said, Mr. Hakeem, “Patriotism” is the refuge of scoundrels, but racism is the refuge of filthy opportunists. Why did SLMC and JHU object to bill banning political parties based on race and religion? Remember the price the Sinhala people paid (and are still paying) for SWRD Banda’s racism. Remember the price the Tamils paid for embarking on the “Eelamist” movement. A mature, capable and educated politician like you should should drop communal politics (not drop your unique Identity as a Sri Lankan Moor) and ensure a prosperous Sri Lanka with dignity for all its people. Sri Lankan Muslims have contributed immensely to the well-being of the country.

  15. Kiri Gamarala

    So according to Hakeem all persons who love, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion (patriots) are worthless persons (scoundrels). What else can be expected from a person without devotion to his own country?

    I am sure he will deny that he never implied even in his dreams that there is no law and order in the country because if he admits then it is explicit that he is also responsible for the situation.

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