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DateLine Sunday, 20 April 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Heavyweights pledge promises


M. L. M. Hisbullah
- Former Deputy Minister

 The Muslim community forms a majority in the Eastern Province. With the elections a round the corner they play a major role in deciding as to who will be the leader. Two prominent leaders of the community spoke to ‘Face 2 Face’ on the up coming Eastern PC polls.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali

How do you see the Eastern Provincial Council elections?

M. L. M. Hisbullah - Former Deputy Minister

It is a very good step. Earlier, Batticaloa people’s representatives were living in Colombo unable to come and visit their areas simply because of security threats. People have no local political representation. The entire province was run by Government officials for the last twenty years. They had no interest to serve the people, may be due to many reasons.

The province receives a lot of foreign aid and there should be good leadership to properly use the money for the betterment of the people. I greatly appreciate and thank the President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his correct decision to hold the Provincial Council elections for the East. More importantly people get a chance to choose their representatives - it is a golden opportunity for the people to select their leadership.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali

There is no doubt it, this is a very important step particularly for the people of the East. This is a need of the people. For the last twenty years people were powerless. They were powerless without a local representation on behalf of them in the Government.

People need development and democracy. Democracy must prevail for the progress of proper development. With this elections democracy will be restored in the entire Eastern Province. It is essential at this hour.

How best the Provincial Council system could help to restore peace in the East?

M. L. M. Hisbullah - Former Deputy Minister

Clearing the East from terrorists threats is a great victory by our Armed Forces. Yet the development of the East did happen progress systematically. The area was stricken by war as well as the Tsunami.

Many houses were destroyed, roads were damaged and the hospitals were neglected. Unless these areas have a strong political representation like Colombo one can not expect the development to reach its full momentum. Eastern province can be developed into a model one.

All three communities live in this province. At a Provincial Council, people’s representatives can discuss among themselves about problems their people do face. If a Tamil becomes the Chief Minister, a Muslim can become his deputy and vice versa. So I strongly believe this system creates a space for a balanced representation.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali

Well I think it is best discussed at national and international levels. But until such ime we should relieve people from their burden of unrest. They are ones who are affected due to all this. Their requirements should be met. This decision to hold the elections is a very fine choice by the Government.

Initiating internal administration is important if development is to take place. This is crucial simply because people can not go on and on with fighting. At a point they should be given the power to decide for themselves.

After all they have been suffering for almost over two decades. Fortunately by now they do not have to pay extortion money to the LTTE. The environment is now very peaceful. And people will believe in all these. I strongly believe that the Government is in the proper path in restoring democracy.

How do you compare the very first Provincial Council elections for North and the East and now, only for the East?

M. L. M. Hisbullah - Former Deputy Minister

In 1989 Muslims were 42% in the East. Overnight it slumped to 17% with the merger of the North and the East provinces. Muslims remained a majority only in the Eastern sector. This is outright discrimination against the Muslims and thereby the community faced grievances.

The SLMC was started in this backdrop. In the whole of Northeastern Province there were only 17 members from the Muslim community out of a total of 72 members. Hence we sat in the opposition even with a 100% voting for the SLMC from the East. The election was held under the supervision of the Indian Peace Keeping Force. Hence, there was no enthusiasm among the people.

The then Chief Minister, who was nominated after the elections, formed a ‘Police’ CVF of his own and went around killing and injured maiming Muslims, in connivance with the IPKF. Then in Kalmunai about 60 policemen were pulled out from the Police station and were killed.

It was almost like a war then. But now we have a peaceful environment. This is what the people are expecting. Very good leaders are conducting campaigns. Those days we were unable to run our campaigns and had to contest under fake names.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali

East is a province where all three communities live together. At one time the elections were held with tight security from the Indian Peace Keeping Force. The Muslim community was compelled to accept the merger of the Northern and the Eastern provinces as a result of the India-Sri Lanka Peace accord.

The aspirations of the common people, particularly of the Sinhala and Muslim communities, were not met. As a result the 41% Muslimrepresentation in the East as a majority, in an overnight came down to 17% of the Northeastern Province as a minority.

This was a pathetic situation. And the LTTE claimed the North and the East as the Tamil motherland but not as Tamil- Muslim motherland. Then they tried calling it as motherland for Tamil speaking people but that was not a proper remedy.

Due to all these reasons the SLMC was formed to protect the affected Muslim people. Muslims were a main community division in the East yet their consent was not taken in while merging the East with the North. And for the current Provincial Council elections see the number of parties contesting. So we can see a positive turn.

What did actually go wrong with North and East Provincial Council system?

M. L. M. Hisbullah - Former Deputy Minister

Muslims faced untold hardships. The merger of the two provinces, the North and the East, took place without our consent. If the North and East were merged the minorities would not have been able to contest. We would not have been able to contest. But now, I can contest, Mr. Pillayan can contest.

Just imagine what will happen if Sri Lanka, with a 83% majority Sinhala people, was to merge with India. Eventually the Sinhalese will become a minority. And it is an unfair situation. This is what happened to the Muslims.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali

The North and the East have special features in comparison. Muslims are the majority in the East. Along with the merger of the two provinces the Sinhala and Muslim communities were being ignored by this unforeseen decision. The merged province was unfavourable for all the three communities.

As a result the majority Muslims in the East became a minority. The then Tamil politicians were not ready to listen to the grievances of the Muslim community. Yet in the present situation the Muslim community is quite happy. People say that they are ready to rule themselves.

What is your impression on the Local Government polls that was held in the Batticaloa district recently?

M. L. M. Hisbullah - Former Deputy Minister

I feel it is a free and fair election. The TMVP contested and it is a good sign. Though there were many complaints against violence during the pre-election period not a single complaint was raised after that.

Even I lodged several complaints. People were unable to use their voting rights for the last twenty years. But now after the elections each MP receives funds to carry out development work benefitting the people. I believe that the Batticaloa local Government polls are quite commendable.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali

On the recent Local Government polls mainly the UNP raised many allegations against it. Yet according to the Election observers we saw that the elections were held freely and fairly. On the other hand several Tamil parties had realized, after a long lapse, that they and their people’s aspiration can be achieved by joining the Government.

This was realized by the Muslim community years before. Batticaloa area needs a great deal of attention. It faced both a man made disaster and a natural disaster. I feel that even the TMVP have also realized by now that they are becoming strong and are achieving their people’s goals by entering in to the democratic stream and joining the Government.

What made you to align with the Government to contest in the May 10 Elections?

M. L. M. Hisbullah - Former Deputy Minister

When these elections came in to the scene the TMVP became allies of the governing party. Hence, according to my calculations 70% of the votes will go to them. 70% - 80% votes will be for the UPFA particularly from the Sinhala people.

The Muslim community will also vote for the governing party. Hence, the UPFA will win the elections.

In this backdrop the SLMC will only be able to get around eight seats. With the UNP it will be only two to three seats. I explained this to Mr. Hakeem and told him there is no problem of being in the Opposition but it does not provide us chances to do something effective for the people.

Yet Mr. Hakeem reiterated that he can not leave out the UNP as he has to protect the UNP. In the East the UNP representation is at a very low level. There will be maximum two seats either from Ampara and Trincomalee. When the UPFA has the possibility of wining 22 seats UNP’s weakness will affect the SLMC directly.

We discussed with our religious leaders and intellectuals on this matter and came to a final decision to leave the SLMC. Even our religious leaders instructed us to do so if the Muslim community is to be treated fairly.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali

Muslims of the Eastern Province are concerned of a Chief Minister of their race. They believe that their requirements are understood better in such conditions. The SLMC leadership is not interested in bringing in a Muslim leadership.

He is working under the spell of the international agenda. The SLMC leadership categorically said they are not interested about the requirements of the Muslim community. The UPFA is definitely getting the support of the Tamil community.

As a political party UPFA represents almost all the communities of the society. People will have confidence as a result. SLMC was formed to protect the community and be a voice for their grievances. But now I see that it has lost its control. Truly, SLMC members are reluctant to contest under the UNP. They are ready to contest as SLMC members but not under the UNP.

How do you see the current leadership of the SLMC?

M. L. M. Hisbullah - Former Deputy Minister

Our former leader late Mr. Ashroff genuinely worked for the Muslim community. He did not follow his own agenda. Almost all the time we discussed and decided for the betterment of the people. But presently the situation has changed and Mr. Hakeem is following the UNP agenda.

He has to come to the agenda of the community. When we visited Muttur in the Trincomalee district, which used to be 100% favourable for the SLMC, we were able to conduct a mass rally with a large gathering. Mr. Hakeem’s and Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s personal relations will not do any good to the common people. I can see that the Muslim community will teach a good lesson to Mr. Hakeem.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali

SLMC was formed solely to protect the innocent Muslims and be a voice to their grievances. Yet at present we see that it has lost its grip. It is totally because the SLMC leadership is following the agenda of the UNP; and ultimately the international agenda. This does not help to fulfil the aspirations of the ordinary Muslim men and women.

What are your views on UNP’s participation in the Provincial Council polls in the East?

M. L. M. Hisbullah - Former Deputy Minister

A very favourable approach. They committed a mistake by not contesting the Local Government elections in Batticaloa. But the issue is UNP is expecting votes of the people for the LTTE. But now people will not vote for the LTTE. The LTTE lost their base in the East and now it is totally free of terrorists.

The other factor is UPFA is formed with all three communities. They have an actual representation of all the factions of the society. But as we see the UNP has only Sinhala and Muslim representation. Without the representation of all three communities winning the confidence of people will be hard for a political party.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali

As a democratic politician I warmly welcome their move. Forming an alliance with another party is of course is at ones own will. We can not impose barriers. Though the UNP did not contest for the Local Government elections it was fully democratic. Though there were lots of allegations from the UNP the security forces provided safety for all the contestants equally - even to the independent contestants.

How far do you think the Government succeeded in carrying out the development programme in the East since it was liberated from the LTTE last year?

M. L. M. Hisbullah - Former Deputy Minister

There is no question of the security forces having liberated the area totally. Now the environment is fully favourable to expedite development programmes. Yet it has not taken place up to the level. It seems to be very slow. Electricity should be provided many parts and same with water supply and sanitation facility.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali

Before the Liberation of the East there was no possibility to carry out any of the development programs. But fortunately now the environment is favourable and safe for any development project of any level.

We tried our best to implement a water supply project in the East during 2004 - 2006 but failed. Same fate occurred to road development programs. As I was the chairman of the District Development Committee we were directly involved in these.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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