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DateLine Sunday, 6 April 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Betrayal of our community not my forte - Hisbullah

The forthcoming elections to the Eastern Provincial Council (EPC) have turned into a political ‘tussle’ with the dramatic moves by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) heavyweights with its leader Rauf Hakeem turning more ‘green’ and the former Deputy Minister and member of the high command of the SLMC, M.L.A.M. Hisbullah turning ‘blue’.

Accusing each other for betraying the Muslim community both are eyeing for the Chief Ministerial post. In an interview with the ‘Sunday Observer’ Hisbullah said that the SLMC Leader was in an election ‘ploy’ for self centred political gains and the three communities, especially the Muslims, should not be fallen prey into this trap.

Hisbullah, who had started the election campaign from his hometown Kattankudy yesterday requested the people of the East to join hands with the UPFA despite ethnicity to win the election. He said that this would be a good opportunity to develop the East, which has heavily suffered for the last 25 years due to the LTTE terrorism and also the tsunami disaster.

“A large amount of funds has been allocated to the Eastern development. It is the high time to work together for a common goal. My request is to vote for the UPFA which is the party could lead a success development drive in the East”, he said.

Following are the excerpts of the interview:

Q: You have said that it was only by joining the government, Muslims of the East could aspire to have a Chief Minister. How is it possible when the Muslims are divided?

A: Yes. After liberating the East from the grip of the LTTE terrorism, people have faith in the President Rajapaksa and his government. So, only the UPFA can secure over 78 percent of the power in the EPC. Since the Eastern victory the TMVP too has a good base in the EPC, they together can field the majority of votes in the EPC.

The UNP does not have a good base there and it can secure a maximum of two or three seats. So the Muslims cannot achieve their targets by joining the UNP. After I joined the UPFA, the SLMC can win only five seats. The UNP-SLMC coalition can get a maximum of eight seats. I think joining with the UNP is a losing battle. Insha Allah! I am 100 percent confident we will win.

Q: You were with the SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem until very recently. How can you call him as a traitor overnight?

A: He betrayed the Muslims and has gone against the wish of the Muslims. He thinks only about him and he wants to fulfil his own agendas. Hakeem wants to satisfy the leadership of the UNP.

Before I join the UPFA he told me that the SLMC needs to help the UNP as it is very weak in the EPC. He said that the UNP can win three seats and the outcome would badly reflect in the future elections. So Hakeem wanted to protect the UNP. He has his own agendas and he did not think about the Muslims. That is why I call him as a traitor.

Q: How confident are you that you could fulfil the aspirations of the former SLMC Leader who wanted a Muslim to be the Chief Minister in the Eastern Province?

A: Insha Allah, I will win and would be able to make the dream of our late leader M. H. M. Ashraff, a reality.

Q: Why do you think that Mr. Hakeem rejected the invitation of the government to jointly contest the EPC polls?

A: It is basically due to his power hunger. He wants to remain as the SLMC leader for ever. His advisers have told him not to allow any Muslim from the East to become the Chief Minister as it will be a threat to his leadership.

That is why he joined the UNP to divide Muslims into segments. But we know his aspirations well.

Q: If he is not genuine why did he sacrifice his Parliamentary seat?. How do you see this?

A: This is an utter joke! Simply he wants to mislead Muslims to get sympathy to achieve his targets. The two National List vacancies have not yet filled.

He does not want to fill these two vacancies until the election finishes.

Because after the election he will be re-appointed to the Parliament from the SLMC National List. So he has cheated the whole Muslim community now.

Hakeem was elected from Kandy district at the beginning and was defeated later. Then he was the MP for Ampara and also lost the seat. Now he tries his luck from Trincomalee. But the Muslim community know the reality and I strongly believe that he cannot fool them now. And we think Muslims in the EP will not be trapped in his net any more.

Q: The TMVP is adamant that a Tamil should become a chief minister of EPC. In this context how confident are you that a Muslim would be selected to that post?

A: No, this is not possible. According to my information no political party has been given the guarantee of the Chief Ministerial post. The President will decide to whom this post should be offered after the election. Whichever party that gets more seats will be considered as the most suitable for this post. No one can keep hopes about the post now.

Q: Are you going to remain in the UPFA government in future or it is only for the EPC?

A: I am a strong SLMCer. I will remain in the SLMC for ever and will contest the election under the UPFA. No idea to cross over to the UPFA.

Q: Are you fully confident that you will become the Chief Minister of the EPC?

A: Insha Alllah, I am fully confident that I will become the Chief Minister of the EPC and I try my best to fulfil the aspirations of the majority of Muslims in the country as well as in the East.

Q: How do you cooperate with the TMVP which is still armed?

A: The TMVP agreed to not to use weapons. A calm environment is prevailing here. The situation is improving. We can not see TMVP carders carrying arms.

Let’s hope for the best.

Q: If you become the Chief Minister how do you disarm the Pillaiyan Group?

A: I will never allow any group to be armed in my Province other than the groups which are officially entitled to be armed. If the TMVP carry arms they have to lay down them. The security of the Province is strengthened and no political party needs to carry arms here.

Q: If you are not appointed as the Chief Minister what will be your political future?

A: If so, I will be with the government and commence my work for the betterment of the Muslims. And I will also help the government in its development process in the Eastern province. I also wish to help the Chief Minister who ever appointed from which ever party, to achieve his targets to serve the people of my Province.

Q: Majority of Muslims do not have faith in the SLMC now as the party hierarchy is always playing musical chairs to grab power. What is your comment?

A: I think Muslims’ only desire is to have a Muslim Chief Minister for the Eastern Province. Though the Leader took a different move at the last minute breaching the trust reposed in him still the people continue to have the trust in us. They wanted us to join the UPFA as this is the only Alliance that Muslims can keep hopes for winning the Post. No other party can achieve this.

Q: Don’t you think in this ‘game’ for power has badly affected the future of the SLMC?

A: Yes. What has really happened was we have decided to capture power in the East. There are nine Chief Ministers in the country and seven belong to the Sinhalese community and one will go for the Tamils in the North.

The only province that the Muslims have their majority is the Eastern province and we want a Muslim to be the Chief Minister. There are over 41.7% Muslims in the Eastern province where there are only 39.9% Tamils.

So everybody in our Muslim circle have decided to capture power at this election. Even last Friday at the Mosque, a large crowd of over 6,000 Muslims appreciated my willingness to join the UPFA. And they wanted to teach a lesson to Hakeem. Now what Hakeem says is that his intention is not to become the Chief Minister but to defeat Hisbullah. Do you think that in this situation Muslims will accept his wish. No. He has misled the whole Muslim community.

Q: Did you join the UPFA following a request by the prominent Muslim leaders or this is solely a decision of yours?

A: No this is not only my decision but the decision by the prominent religious leaders and intellectuals. Especially, the ULAMA, the group which represents the prominent Muslim religious leaders gathered in Colombo discussed the matter and finally they requested me to contest for the Chief Ministerial post to capture power in the East. So this is not only my decision. I accepted the invitation because it was the request of the ULAMA.

Q: Earlier the SLMC rejected the 13th Amendment. What is your stance now?

A: No, it is wrong. The SLMC never objected the power sharing under the 13 the Amendment. What our late leader suggested was to seek a permanent solution to the on-going crisis through merging the North and East. And under that situation we asked a separate unit within the North and East for the Muslim community. That was our original plan.

Q: Do you still want a separate unit for Muslims?

A: Yes. The SLMC has not changed our desire and still we remain in the same stance.

Q: Are you satisfied with the performances of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government in dealing with issues of the Muslims and also development of the Eastern region?

A: Yes, We are generally satisfied with the government in its attempt to solve the problems of the Muslims. But there are some land disputes in Ampara district.

There Muslims are not happy with the government because on the instruction of the Minister of Environment, Champika Ranawake their lands have been acquired by the government under the Forest Ordinance.

I have raised this issue with the President Rajapaksa and he agreed to settle some of these issues. So we are hopefully waiting for a positive response from the government. But I do not think these issues can be solved if we join the UNP.

Q: Do you think that the SLMC Leader has betrayed the Muslims right to self-determination?

A: Yes, very much. As I mentioned earlier he has betrayed the Muslims solely for his personal dealings with the UNP. That has been revealed.

Q: You said that the Muslims can achieve their target under the UPFA but not with the UNP. Do not you think that the UNP will come to power in future?

A: I am not talking about the elections after the EPC. If the UNP contests alone they would get only two seats, Ampara and Trincomalee.

Their poor performances at the election would affect the future of the UNP badly. That is why the Opposition Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe had pleaded Hakeem to help him by contesting under the UNP. After accepting the invitation, Hakeem said that he wanted to save the UNP’s future.

Q: The SLMC had several discussions with the Muslim Ministers to form a Muslim Alliance. Why did you fail?

A: Yes, the SLMC had several rounds of talks with the United Muslim Association (UMA), which is the intellectual body of the Muslims and the ULAMA about the issues.

These two bodies invited all the Muslim Ministers and eminent Muslim personalities and announced that all Muslim political parties should contest under the government. There Hakeem said that it was not possible as he crossed over to the opposition few months ago and he could not go back to the government.

They accepted his problem. Then they suggested us to form an Alliance and contest under one symbol. But objecting to their proposal he said that he was not willing to contest under any other symbol than the SLMC’s. He opposed the proposal continuously and insisted that the SLMC should contest under the SLMC symbol.

Here, it is obvious why he refused all those proposals to join the government. He was in another mission and only known to him, how he accepted the invitation of the Opposition Leader. He agreed to give up the issue of party symbol when it was asked by the UNP.

Finally he has agreed to contest under the UNP’s symbol. The two prominent Muslim bodies which were angry over his behaviour had discussed themselves and finally requested me to contest under UPFA. I accepted to contest the EPC under a common platform.

Minister Ameer Ali said that the resignation drama staged by Rauff Hakeem and the other two members of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress will not have any impact on the provincial council election.

He said that United Peoples Freedom Alliance would win convincingly despite the unconvincing drama staged by the SLMC leadership. He cautioned the Muslims and Tamils not to fall headlong into the traps of the UNP-SLMC combine, who might arouse racial tensions for political gain.

Ameer Ali, Minister of Disaster Relief Services said that they earlier invited Sri Lanka Muslim Congress to come forward to contest jointly with all the other Muslim groups and parties together under a common platform. A meeting was organized by the Muslim Ministers, ULAMAS (religious leaders), scholars and other eminent persons from the Muslim community.

“When Muslim politicians and religious leaders held a meeting with the SLMC leader and party members to unite all Muslim parties under one umbrella, Rauff Hakeem said that the SLMC would contest only under its ‘Tree symbol’”.

Hakeem also rejected the Government’s invitation to the SLMC to contest jointly with the Government. “He insisted on contesting under the ‘Tree’ symbol. The SLMC leader had since decided to forge an alliance with the UNP to contest under the Elephant symbol after the latter refused to contest under his ‘Tree’ symbol.

Rauff Hakeem joining the UNP and abandoning the SLMC’s ‘Tree’ symbol does not augur well for them, warned Ameer Ali.

He warned that as an election ploy, stirring-up of racial tension for the sake of self-centered political gains might be the trick up in their sleeves to win the Muslim votes. Ameer Ali added that Muslims and Tamils should be on the watch out and should not fall into the trap of rabble rousers who are planning to stir Tamil-Muslim tension to win the Provincial Council elections.

* People of the East have faith in President Rajapaksa and his Government.

* The UPFA has a powerful base in the East.

* A Muslim can be appointed as the Chief Minister only by joining the UPFA.

* SLMC Leader betrayed the Muslims.

* His intention is to save the UNP.

* Hakeem thinks a Muslim leader from the Eastern province is a threat to the SLMC Leadership.

* Sacrificing Parliamentary seats is an utter joke.

* They will be re-appointed from the National List.

* The ‘power struggle’ has weakened the faith towards the SLMC.

* The SLMC still wants a separate unit within the East for Muslims.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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