The Sunday Leader

North-East Unification Would Be Rejected By Muslims – M.T. Hasen Ali

By Camelia Nathaniel

sri Lanka Muslim Congress General Secretary, M.T. Hasen Ali said that when the new government came into power, there was hope of a political settlement  on addressing the problems of power-sharing for the Tamil and Muslim people being reached through a new Constitution. However he said that none of these promises are being fulfilled and petty personal issues and ego issues have shrouded the national issues of the country. In an interview with The Sunday Leader, Ali said that although there are calls for the merger of the North and East, a North-East unification would be rejected outright by the Muslims, unless there was consultation and consensus.

Following are excerpts of the interview:-

Q:   Some SLFP members want MP Mahinda Rajapaksa to be given the leadership of the SLFP, and there is division within the party. What is the Muslim Congress (SLMC) view of the current situation within the SLFP?

A:  This is an internal division and it should be sorted out by them and I don’t think that outsiders passing remarks on their problems are not advisable or healthy. Anyway the division of small parties due to internal issues is not good. I don’t think that there are any serious issues within the party, but these minor differences of opinion will always be there. In the past parties had different ideologies but they worked together, but today all the parties are the same and they are only interested in grabbing power.

There are some who perhaps want to take revenge from President Maithripala. Those who scolded him at the last election are now with him in the government and some are holding ministerial portfolios too. This shows that there is no stark policy difference. Hence these differences are mainly due to personality clashes and I don’t think we should look into these matters on a different angle as these are purely personality clashes. This is what I feel.

 

Q: The Government has been criticised for targeting some members of the previous regime, and claim that it is politically motivated revenge. Does the SLMC share the same sentiment?

A:  SLMC was not concentrating on those issues but I don’t think these are political revenge. The whole country voted for a change and gave them the mandate to bring the corrupt and fraudsters of the previous regime to book. All these things were told to the people at the political platforms and after listening to all these the people have given the verdict that they want the culprits to be punished. Therefore I don’t think that it is a political issue at any cost. The government is not simply punishing them without any proper inquiry, but they are following the proper law and order procedures of the country. Therefore if they have not done anything wrong, then they can fight it out.

 

Q: On the whole are you happy with the manner in which the new government is conducting themselves, especially with regard to the issues faced by the Muslims?

A:  We expected a lot of good things to happen as far as the minority communities are concerned. Some of them are the change of the constitution and electoral reforms etc.

However we feel that all these promises are very slow and this is not what we expected. Even the Local Government elections are not likely to happen this year, I feel. Also they have still not taken a decision whether to bring in changes to the existing constitution, or to install a new constitution altogether without any amendments.

We were under the impression that we were going to have a totally fresh and complete constitution, but the government is wavering and has still not been able to come up with a firm decision in this regard. The different ministers are expressing differing views and everyone is confused as to what is going to happen. I feel that it is a non-starter and there is no firm stand where the government is concerned on what they need to do.

With regard to the minority issues, there are huge lapses and the government has still not decided on whether they want to opt for a federal approach or a unitary structure and the debate is still going on, between the Tamil and Sinhala communities.

As far as the Muslims are concerned we are not interested in the terminology and whatever you call it we want the North East to be conducive for the development and safety of the Muslims. With regard to the war ravaged areas if they are going to find a solution based on the demands of the Tamils, then the Muslims in the East too should be considered and recognised as a separate community living in the North Eastern areas.

Based on that structure, the Muslim community too should be given an equal stakeholder status in the whole process. That is our view and it doesn’t matter if you call it unitary or federal but our main demand is that the Muslims too should be recognised as a separate community.

 

Q:  There are proposals to merge the North and the East and fully implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, where devolution of power is the main demand of the TNA. Does the SLMC agree with this solution?

A:  Our late leader Ashraf said, whether you are going to merge or demerge the North and the East, there are concerns. We even said that even the demerger is conditional and the courts decided the outcome but the Muslim community was not consulted. At the time of the merger too they never consulted the Muslim community. There was an accord signed between India and Sri Lanka and they just did it safeguarding their interests. They never considered the Muslims as equal stakeholders.

Therefore now that demerger is out of the question as it has already been done, if they are planning on merging the two provinces, the Muslims should have an equal say. Even earlier when they were appointing a chief minister, there was a problem between the Muslim and Tamil community as to who should have the position of the chief minister. This situation was then completely manipulated by the Sinhala community, where they pitched one against the other. These types of problems should be avoided and that is why we are asking for a separate council where we want the Muslim provincial council for the interest of the Muslim community living in the North East. The areas can be connected, should have   separate Muslim majority power-sharing structure comprising non-contiguous areas similar to the Pondicherry model in India.

 

Q: The SLMC was disgruntled with the Rajapaksa regime and felt that the issues of the Muslim community were not addressed. Has the situation changed for the better under the current regime?

A:  No there is no improvement at all and all our land problems in the eastern province is still the same. Once we quit the government on these land issues. However we are back with the government and the people are very angry with us for these things. All the land issues are still prevalent and during the 100 day program, I gave a whole lot of files to the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and I suggested he appoint a special commission to look into the land problems of the Muslims, which has been prevailing for over 40 years. In the Kalmunai meeting he gave the Muslims a promise that these matters will be sorted out, but nothing has been done and they have failed the Muslim people.

 

Q: Do you think that with the internal conflicts and difference of opinions within the coalition, more important national issues are being side-tracked while petty politics is taking a more prominent place?

A:  Yes definitely. The whole war issue came up because there were problems between the different ethnic groups in the country, mainly in the North East. But no government has properly addressed these issues. The governments change but the mind-set of the people who are handling these subjects has not changed. Only the colour of the party changes but the problems is still the same.

   

 

6 Comments for “North-East Unification Would Be Rejected By Muslims – M.T. Hasen Ali”

  1. Just Society

    Muslim Congress General Secretary, M.T. Hasen Ali has got it completely wrong as to what had happened in that past 70 years.

    The issue has been and is merely linguistic identities not religious, and oppression of one by the other in linguistic majority/minority based self-construct, notwithstanding that these two peoples have in the soil over 2000 years.

    Pondicherry model was based on language and not a religious model and even that will be merge itself as linguistic entities in years to come as the French factor will inevitably begin withers away. If he is thinking about that model why is he even leaving out his faith group in the rest of Lanka? He should be able to see the futility of his rationale. Sri Lanka should never become a religiously fractured nation.

    There are minorities throughout the Lankan soil, coast to coast to coast. And a properly constituted constitution will have the Charter of Rights and Freedom enshrined in it to protect them, whether Sinhala speaking in the Northeast or Tamil speaking in the South.

    Mr. Hasan Ali will recognize Ceylon Tamils are not a minority but a people in the North East. Their issues fall within the right to self determination in the UN Charter.

  2. raj

    one of the reasons Sri Lanka has many unresolved problems is that politicians can be either bribed easily or are corrupted or racially motivated. What does this guy’s message tell? Is he corrupted or racially motivated or bribed? Did he consulted with Muslims before talk to media to find if Muslims agree or not agree with his opinion? If not, he is motivated for unknown reason to pass this message? Who will benefit from his message or opinion?

  3. Noor Nizam

    What Hon. Hassali is stating about the merger of the North and East, a North-East unification would be rejected outright by the Muslims, unless there was consultation and consensus should be fully supported by the Sri Lankan Muslims. Hon. Hassanali’s views that, as far as the Muslims are concerned we are not interested in the terminology and whatever you call it we want the North East to be conducive for the development and safety of the Muslims is the realistic gut political feeling of the Sri Lankan Muslims in the East, especially that of the “poraaligal” and of other political ideologies. With regard to the war ravaged areas if they are going to find a solution based on the demands of the Tamils. Then the Muslims in the East too should be considered and recognised as a separate political enclave by the government which has still not decided on whether they want to opt for a federal approach or a unitary structure and the debate is still going on, between the Tamil and Sinhala communities and the question is – Why is the Muslim community living in the North Eastern areas not included in these discussions?
    With regards to the North and East, based on that structure, the Muslim community too should be given an equal stakeholder status in the whole process. That is our view and it doesn’t matter if you call it unitary or federal but our main demand is that the Muslims too should be recognised as a separate community which is another reality any government should start to consider. The Muslims should in the East have their own Provincial Council, in that case, is still another reality to be considered. The areas can be connected, should have separate Muslim majority power-sharing structure comprising non-contiguous areas similar to the Pondicherry model in India, can be the best political solution under a new constitution. Whatever said and done and the Sinhala politicians are squabbling over whether it is a “Yahapalaya government” or a “Hybrid government of the SLFP and UNP” the government of President Maithripala Sirisena should not forget that, if not for the Muslim votes and the Tamil votes adding to the UNP vote bank, HE. Mahinda Rajapaksa would have NOT been defeated. It is therefore time now a “New Political Force” or an Alternate Sri Lanka Muslim Political Entity” should emerge as an alternate to the SLMC, ACMC, NMC,NUA,MULF and the Muslim camps of the UNP and the SLFP, to lead the Sri Lankan Muslim Community’s POLITICAL DESTINY, Insha Allah. The Sri Lanka Muslim Youth should begin to give thought to this, Insha Allah.
    Noor Nizam. Peace and Political Activist, Political Communication Researcher and Convener – The Muslim Voice”.

    • Just Society

      There shall be no religious enclaves in Sri Lanka. Period. People speak only languages and religion is for spiritual purposes only.

      Let’s all help. This beautiful country got to move forward. Long live Jan 8 movement.

      • Noor Nizam

        Won by the votes of the Muslims and Tamils and now BETRAYED by the YAHAPALANAYA GOVERNMENT, the “The Lame Muslim Community” because is suffering without a strong political leader because PERKS enjoying Muslim Politicians do not have “Political Clout to defend and fight for the MUSLIM FACTOR/RIGHTS.
        Noor Nizam. Peace and Political Activist, Political Communication Researcher and Convener – The Muslim Voice.

  4. daggy

    Lets all speak the majority language as the Scottish did….
    Why not?

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