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SLMC Facing A Split Amidst Eastern Polls

  • LLRC Action Plan comes under fire
  • Indian concerns rise on the economic front

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) is facing a split following party Chairman Basheer Segu Dawood’s decision to resign from his deputy ministerial portfolio in the government.
Dawood handed in his resignation on Thursday saying he needed to focus on the party’s election campaign in the East and that it would not be proper to be affiliated to the government when the SLMC was contesting the election separately.

Basheer Segu Dawood, Manmohan Singh, R. Sampanthan and Rauf Hakeem

The SLMC Chairman noted that he could not campaign for his party while being a member of the government. Dawood’s resignation last week comes following a dispute over allegations that he had supported the candidacy of a Muslim candidate contesting under the governing UPFA in the East.
Dawood had supported UPFA candidate Ali Zahir Moulana giving way to controversy that he was supporting a UPFA candidate when his party, the SLMC was contesting separately.
In his explanation to the party Dawood had said that there was a misunderstanding over the issue and that he had only asked the UPFA supporters to vote for Moulana and not the SLMC. However, following this dispute, Dawood decided to resign from the government and campaign fully for his party.
Nevertheless, Dawood’s statement that he could not fully campaign for his party while being a member of the government has now placed focus on party leader, Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem.
The onus is now on Hakeem to either follow his colleague or to continue being part of the government posing a conflict of interest.
The SLMC, which is heavily campaigning in the East, is unable to discuss this issue at length. Hakeem last week was in Trincomalee while party Secretary, M. T. Hassan Ali was in Ampara.
SLMC sources said that once the election is concluded, there were many issues that needed to be discussed and resolved for the smooth functioning of the party.
The rifts in the SLMC commenced after the 2010 general election when a group of party MPs started to pressure the party leadership to defect to the government from the joint opposition.
The next rift was in deciding the party’s stance at the Eastern Provincial Council election.
The SLMC decision to contest separately was made the day before nominations concluded on July 19.
The party’s High Command following lengthy deliberations initially decided to contest in alliance with the governing UPFA based on several agreements. The High Command believed that the party needed to gain an advantage by contesting with the UPFA when the TNA had also expressed its interest to contest in alliance with the SLMC.
SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem held several discussions with President Rajapaksa and Ministers Basil Rajapaksa and Susil Premajayantha.
Nevertheless, the final straw that prompted the SLMC to decide to contest separately was over one seat in the Trincomalee District. The SLMC requested six seats in the Ampara District, three in the Batticaloa District and three in the Trincomalee District.
The UPFA had agreed to grant five seats in the Ampara District, two in Batticaloa and three in Trincomalee.
The SLMC then agreed to the UPFA offer and it was decided to sign an electoral agreement between the two parties.
However, the whole scenario changed with Minister A. L. M. Athaullah asking for one seat each in the Trincomalee and Ampara Districts. The UPFA was left with no option but to give Athaullah a seat from the SLMC’s Trincomalee allocation.
An emergency meeting was convened between Ministers Hakeem, Basil Rajapaksa, Premajayantha, Rishard Bathiudeen and Athaullah to resolve the issue. Hakeem had refused to accept Basil’s proposal to increase the seat allocation for the SLMC in the Ampara District by one totalling it to six seats while allocating two seats each in the Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts.
The matter was finally taken before the President. Hakeem who by then had been under immense pressure from his party members had refused to accept the government’s latest proposal.
The SLMC hierarchy was also divided over the decision to contest with the government. A group of SLMCers including party Secretary M. T. Hassan Ali and several others had said the party needed to contest separately under the ‘tree’ symbol or even consider contesting in alliance with the TNA.
However, once it was agreed to contest with the UPFA, Hassan Ali had requested that an electoral agreement be signed with the governing party.
The SLMC finally decided to contest separately and the President had agreed.

Communalism in the East?

With the SLMC, TNA, UNP and the UPFA vying to show their strengths with the minorities, the Eastern Province is now a hive of activity.
One of the main concerns now is that the parties trying to win the Council have dampened the path to reconciliation with the battle to get a Chief Minister appointed based on ethnicity.
The Muslims are looking at a Muslim chief minister while the Tamils are looking at getting a Tamil appointed to the main seat in the province.
The government on the other hand is focused on winning the Eastern Provincial Council in order to use the mandate to boast to the world that the people in the East have endorsed its policies.
“The government wants to somehow win the East and show to the world that the people are with them, which is not the case,” a TNA parliamentarian said.
He noted that the main focus of the TNA is to call on the people in the East not to endorse the government’s path. “There is now a clash between ethnicities in the East,” the TNA MP said.
The SLMC meanwhile denied any communalism in the East.
“It is those who speak of communalism in the East that are engaged in communal activities,” a senior SLMC member said.
They point out that Sri Lanka will never be able to reach the level of liberalism seen in neighboring India.
Being a country steeped in tradition and culture, Indians have managed to overcome their differences in the interests of their country.
The common sentiment is that India has a Sikh Premier and an Italian as the Congress Party leader and has also had a Muslim as a President, while Sri Lanka is still engaged in extremist ideologies.
Nevertheless, while all are busy with the provincial hustings the reconciliation process and finding a political solution to the ethnic issue are now at a visible standstill.

Govt. pushes PSC

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government continues to wriggle out of the stalemate in the reconciliation process by digging its heels in, determined not to budge an inch from its stance.
The government maintains that it is only the proposed parliamentary select committee (PSC) that can find a political solution to the ethnic issue and nothing else.
Genuine efforts in trying to get all parties to the negotiating table eludes the government that is looking at palming off blame on anyone when taken to task on the delay in finding a political solution.
Every foreign representative who visits Sri Lanka has been treated to the government’s stoic answer – a solution can only be found through the PSC. Following that is the government’s request from the international community to request the TNA to join the PSC.
The government last week blamed non cooperation on the part of the TNA for the delay in finding a political solution to the ethnic issue.
Leader of the House, Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva told Parliament last week that had the PSC commenced work when the government initially mooted the proposal, the Committee would have by now prepared the proposals to be finalized.
“At least now the TNA should name members to the Committee if they are serious about finding a solution,” De Silva said.
The TNA is also determined to hold on to its stance saying the party will participate in the PSC only after reaching a consensus with the government on the basis for the political solution. The TNA claims that the government through the years has shown it is not sincere in its efforts to find a political solution.
On the other hand, a senior government minister said that the TNA was not keen on finding a political solution to the ethnic issues since the party’s survival depends on the continuance of the ethnic issue.
“In Sinhala there’s a comment ‘hingannage thuvale’ (the beggar’s wound). They (TNA) do not want it solved because it would have an impact on their survival,” the Minister said.
He added that the TNA without participating in the reconciliation process was asking the international community to intervene in finding a political solution and implement the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations.

Action Plan criticized

The LLRC recommendations were last week taken to task in Parliament.
TNA Leader R. Sampanthan moved an adjournment motion in the House to debate the LLRC Action Plan of the government.
The government that is facing a test before the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on its commitment to implementing the LLRC recommendations released the LLRC Action Plan stating that most recommendations have been implemented.
Sampanthan told the House that the Action Plan was not formulated after due consultation with Parliament.
He had added that the democratically elected representatives of the affected people were also not consulted when preparing the Action Plan.
Sampanthan had also called on Parliament to keep a close and continuous watch on the country’s human rights situation.
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe meanwhile requested the government to present to Parliament the report sent to the UNHRC for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights scheduled for this November.

UNHRC official in Colombo

The Rajapaksa government also last week said that representatives of UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay would arrive in the country to lay the groundwork for her visit to the island.
External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris said the UNHRC officials’ visit would be before Pillay’s visit.
An official from the External Affairs Ministry said that communications received by the Ministry from the UNHRC have indicated that about two technical officials were expected to visit the country. “Dates for the visit have not yet been fixed and they are likely to visit next month,” the official said.
Minister Peiris meanwhile informed Parliament that the government would make available all resources to the UNHRC officials to carry out their work.
“He can go wheresoever he wants and assess the situation himself,” he had said.
The government had invited Pillay to visit Sri Lanka several years ago but she had wanted to visit after the report of the LLRC was released.
According to Peiris, Pillay has now written to the government saying she would like to visit Sri Lanka.
Be that as it may, the government’s latest move of inviting the UNHRC with open arms to visit the country has not been well accepted by its coalition partner, the JHU.
The JHU says that it is not in agreement with the government’s decision to invite the UNHRC to send its representatives to the country.
JHU Spokesperson Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe had said the invitation extended to the UNHRC was against the government’s previous stance of not allowing the Council to interfere in Sri Lanka’s affairs.
According to the JHU, the visit by the UNHRC officials would result in war crimes accusations being levelled once again against the President and the Defence Secretary.
In a bid to pacify its coalition partner, the government continuously stated that the UNHRC officials could visit the country and assess the situation, but not dictate any terms to the country.
Apart from the UNHRC, the government seems to also be treading carefully in dealing with India.

Spotlight on India

India is once again in Sri Lanka’s spotlight, mainly on the economic front.
While India is undoubtedly looking for market options for its expanding private sector, its focus has naturally fallen on Sri Lanka.
An announcement was made during Indian Trade Minister Anand Sharma’s visit to the country earlier this month that India and Sri Lanka were engaged in discussions on finalizing the controversial Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
Indian and Sri Lankan trade officers are now engaged in addressing the issues of concern to both parties in order to overcome any objections that could arise against the CEPA.
India has stated it wished to create institutional linkages with Sri Lanka on its five strategic hubs concept – the knowledge hub, commercial hub, naval and maritime hub, aviation hub, and the energy hub.
Sharma also announced India’s keen interest in Sri Lanka’s oil explorations saying, “We are also very keen on expanding our presence in the on-going oil and gas explorations in Sri Lanka. We want to be involved much more in both the Mannar and Cauvery basin explorations”.
India and Sri Lanka have also agreed on a Manufacturing Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) near Trincomalee with Indian support for investments linked to manufacturing and exports of auto components and engineering goods.
India’s entrance into Sri Lanka’s economy in a big way has become a cause for concern among some quarters in Sri Lanka’s political circles which believe that Sri Lanka is now the ground on which India and China will openly clash.
Meanwhile, the resolutions adopted at the Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organization (TESO) meeting convened by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi were handed over to Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh last Tuesday.
A 15-member delegation, led by T. R. Balu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) Indian Central Government Minister, had reportedly handed over the TESO resolutions to Dr. Singh with a letter from Karunanidhi, at his office in New Delhi.
Dr. Singh had acknowledged the TESO resolutions and had reportedly said that he would make them available to the Sri Lankan government and study them in detail for his reference.
The DMK had passed 16 resolutions at the TESO conference held in Chennai on August 12. One of the resolutions urges the United Nations to take action against the Sri Lankan Government over the alleged war crimes during the last lap of the Wanni clashes in 2009.

2 Comments for “SLMC Facing A Split Amidst Eastern Polls”

  1. vintage voter

    THEY ARE ALREADY SPLIT.
    THE ONE GREAT ACHIEVEMENT OF THE RAJAPAKSE REGIME IS THAT
    THEY SUCCEEDED IN “SPLITTING” EVERY PARTY INCLUDING SLFP.
    WELL, WAIT FOR THE “BIG SPLIT” !!!!!!!!!
    WAIT TILL THE THIEVES FALL OUT.
    WELL, YOU KNOW THE ROBBER BARONS.-
    ITS A MATTER OF TIME.

  2. singing fish

    As far as tamils are concerned all the politicians are liars.Tamils are searching for their beloved ones for the last three years but still nobody is helping them,then how can be reconcialiation possible?Unless the war crime is taken into consideration and the culprits are punished never expect the two communities to live in peace.

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