National Government Is The Best Option For The Country – M. Nizam Kariapper

By Waruni Karunarathne

Deputy Secretary General of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and Mayor of Kalmunai, M. Nizam Kariapper told The Sunday Leader that forming a national government is the best option especially in terms of carrying forward the mandate given by people for good governance at the Presidential Election in January. Failing to reach consensus of all SLFPers, he suggested that the second best option would be to form a semi-national government with a substantial part of the SLFP.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: There is a delay in forming the national government. From the SLMC’s point of view, do you think they should still go ahead with the national government?

A: The option of forming a national government should be discussed. The Prime Minister openly said before the election that they should go for a national government. That is also very important in terms of taking forward the mandate given by the people in January this year. Despite the delay, the first and the best option is to go for a national government by reaching consensus – which I believe is a possibility. I believe that the President and the Prime Minister are capable of working that out. Failing which we should go for the next option where a part of SLFP or a substantial group of them is taken to form the government.


Q:  Do you think that having one set of the SLFP with the government and another set in the opposition will create confusions?

A: As I said, failing to reach a consensus with all the SLFPers, it is the second best option to form a government with a part of the SLFP. Such divisions have been part of our political culture. Karu Jayasuriya who was a MP of the UNP broke away with about 20 members from the UNP – and they were recognised as the playgroup of the UNP. They even represented themselves at the All Party Representative Committee. Thus, in an event where we fail to get consensus to form a national government with the entire SLFP then we should at least look at the option of taking part of the SLFP or a substantial group of them who would help to form a semi national government.


Q:  What are the concerns of the SLMC that you expect to be addressed in the new parliament?

A: The first and foremost concern is the implementation of the constitutional council. Then we have to get the other institutions in place in order to establish the rule of law and good governance. Those are our prime concerns and those concerns are shared by everybody. Then we urge for reconciliation. We believe that the reconciliation will take place by consulting all the parties to address the national question. As the first step towards reconciliation it is very important to bridge the mistrust prevailing among the three communities in the country.

Q: Sometimes back, the SLMC passed a resolution demanding a separate administrative district in Ampara. How do you expect to proceed with that?

A: Again, that needs to be addressed in a much larger picture – because at that particular point of time it was about getting an administrative district for the Tamil speaking people in the coastal area and in the Ampara district. That was our main concern. Now it is a time where we are addressing the national question as a whole. In this context, this has to be included in an acceptable manner to all communities. But that is a concern of the Tamil speaking people and we have to look at it depending on what type of consensus that will be within the reach amongst all three communities – especially among Tamils and Muslims.


Q: During the past, we saw some extreme elements in action against the Muslim community in the country. Do you still see those elements at present?

A: I am so glad that there is a clear message from the people not only from the Muslim and the Tamils but also from the Sinhalese rejecting such extremism in the country. It is very clear that people of this country do not entertain communal politic of attacking another community. Communal politics to propagate and violate the rights of the smaller community is being rejected completely by the people – this move is very welcoming. The extremism is the very reason that I think has been blocking the reconciliation process especially creating the mistrust of the Sinhala community of having power devolved to the provincial councils. The Sinhala community tends to think it is a matter of having a separate province. But it is not so. So I think as soon as possible we must prevent those extremist elements raising their heads again.   Given an opportunity, there is every possibility that they will raise their heads again if we do not address the issue meaningfully as soon as possible.


Q:  How do you expect the new parliament to act in relation to national reconciliation?

A: First of all it is nothing but consultation, discussing and finding out what has to be done and building the confidence of the Tamil speaking people.  They have the ability to use the provincial councils in such a manner that they can handle their day today affairs with the power devolved to their province. That is the only way forward.


Q:  What support would the SLMC extend to the new parliament in this process?

A: We will wholeheartedly be part of this process and give our fullest support. So far we have found that the President and the Prime Minister are very genuine in their commitment to all these issues -basically with reference to the rule of law, electoral reforms, the national question and the reconciliation process.

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