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Sunday, 3 August 2014

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No communal or religious dispute in Sri Lanka - Minister A.H.M.Fowzie

Senior Minister for Urban Affairs A.H.M. Fowzie's significant contribution towards inter-communal harmony is a clear reflection of his illustrious political career which spans over 54 years. As a simple and tolerant politician, his prime concern is the welfare of the masses and he works for unity among various ethnic groups in the country. His services to the people irrespective of race and religion are commendable. Minister Fowzie with his 'charity for all and malice towards none' policy, inspires faith and hope for a peaceful and prosperous society. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said there is no communal or religious dispute in Sri Lanka. It is only an insignificant number that was creating these problems. The Sinhalese and Muslims have lived cordially with cooperation and understanding for years.

Minister Fowzie said it was unfortunate that certain elements who want to become popular are creating these problems by disrupting unity and co-existence among the Sinhalese and Muslims. Other than that there is no communal problem in Sri Lanka or religious hatred. This is an anti-Government trend created by a few elements who are raising their heads. In fact, the Sinhala Buddhists have been looking after their community, culture and religion. The Ven. Maha Nayaka theras and all other Buddhist leaders have fulfilled their duty to safeguard Buddhism. It is a blatant lie made by these extremist elements that Buddhism is not safeguarded and that they have come forward to safeguard Buddhism.

Q: At a time when the US and EU are crusading for human rights, what role could the UNHRC play on the current Israeli-Palestine crisis?

A: Actually it is a sad and pathetic situation in Palestine. More than 1300 civilians have been killed of which more than 150 are children and 300 are women. It is painful not only to me as a Muslim but all fair-minded people feel that the US and the EU are not fulfilling their responsibility. They speak of the violation of human rights in some countries, but take a different attitude towards countries favourable to them.

Q: You are known as an advocate of communal harmony. What do you propose to further strengthen the inter-ethnic relations in the country?

A: Actually there is no communal or religious dispute in this country. It is only a small number that is creating these problems. The Sinhalese and Muslims have lived together in harmony with cooperation and understanding for years. In fact if I tell you, during the time when there were no banks in Sri Lanka, the Sinhala Buddhists placed a lot of trust in the Muslim community and kept their money with the Muslims as they were bankers.

That was the situation which prevailed in the country at that time. But in the recent past, it is unfortunate that certain elements who want to become popular are creating these problems by disrupting the unity and co-existence among the Sinhalese and Muslims. Other than that there is no communal problem in Sri Lanka or hatred among religions. I think this is an anti-Government trend created by a few elements which are raising their heads.

In fact Sinhala Buddhists have been looking after their community, culture and religion. But these few extremist elements talk as if nobody is looking after Sinhala Buddhists. Then what about Ven. Maha Nayaka theras and all other Buddhist Leaders who had it been there all these years.

They have done their duty to safeguard Buddhism. It is a blatant lie on the part of these extremist elements that Buddhism is not safeguarded and that as a result they have come forward to safeguard it.

Q: Despite the Middle East being called the Arab World, the lack of unity among prominent countries, has made Palestine a victims of aggression. What have you got to say about this?

A: If the Muslim countries are united, Palestine would not have faced this problem. Today Palestine is a lone fighter. They don't have equipment or strength to fight. It is only the will and I am sure that Almighty Allah will help them to fight with this country which is terrorizing Palestine.

Q: Some of the UPFA constituent parties have expressed their displeasure over the appointment of three foreign dignitaries to advice the Maxwell Paranagama Commission on Missing Persons. Could you explain?

A: It is a job entrusted on the Government. The Government has to make sure that they take into account the UN recommendations. Therefore they are carrying out a procedure that will satisfy everybody. Just because somebody personally doesn't like that proposal, I think it is unfair of them to express their objection. They must take into account that the Government is doing a tremendous amount of work and that it will have to continue.

Sometimes the Government will face criticism from the world. Therefore the Government is doing everything within its means that will bring goodwill. For that purpose, both parties that are opposed to this should cooperate with the Government and allow the Government to do their job.

Q: The UNP has pinned its hopes on the Uva Provincial Council Election as they are confident of meeting the UPFA challenges successfully. Do you think it will be an easy win for the UPFA when some of its constituent parties contest separately?

A: The UPFA is a powerful political movement. The SLFP is the most powerful political party yet to be seen in this country. The people have a lot of trust and confidence on the SLFP. Others have also joined hands with the SLFP and they are also benefitted. They should realise that they are all in one Government and make sure that Government continues in the best interest of the country and the people. It is not fair for them to say that they are going out and want to contest separately. They have done that mistake and have decided to contest separately.

Q: The movement to abolish the Executive Presidency is gathering momentum with several UPFA constituent parties too supporting it. Do you think a pruned Executive Presidency will be in the best interest of the country?

A: As far as the minorities are concerned, I think the Executive Presidency is important. It should not be abolished and we must continue with this system whereby the President will be in a position to carry out good initiatives and look after the interest of the minorities. If the Executive Presidency is abolished, it is not going to help the country in any way.

Q: How does the advent of the Modi Government impact Sri Lanka's political landscape internationally?

A: I am sure Modi Government will cooperate with Sri Lanka and our friendship with India has been very cordial. Both Modi Government and Mahinda Rajapaksa Government will work together to have a good relationship and understanding between the two countries.

Q: The menace of heroin is threatening and the Opposition has pointed an accusing finger at politicians who are the kingpins of this social evil. Your views?

A: The Opposition has always make such false allegations. We can't take them seriously. If they know of any politician who is involved, why don't they point out the individual and give whatever evidence that they have got to the Police and other relevant institutions to take action. Otherwise just saying that politicians are involved will not make any effect. The Government is doing its best to see that drugs are not smuggled to this country. That is why so many detections have been made and action has been taken against the culprits. The Opposition must be happy about it. If these initiatives that are being taken are continued in this manner, we will be able to stop drugs being peddled into our country.

Q: Recently there were allegations that there were some Muslim politicians and Muslim parties who were communal-minded and were fishing in trouble waters. There should be some reason for such sentiments to be expressed, as the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire?

A: There are people representing powerful Muslim parties. In fact, there are some politicians who sell the religion as well as the community for personnel benefit which I don't endorse. At the same time, they have to look after the interest of the Muslims. You can't blame them for speaking on behalf of the Muslim community. They have to take up issues that are disturbing the Muslim community on various grounds. These matters will have to be taken up by the Muslim parties. That doesn't mean they are communal-minded, they are fighting for the cause of Muslims who are being undermined or deprived of their privileges and positions. You can't blame such parties.

Q: You are one of the most senior politicians in the country. Could you narrate your past political career with its landmarks?

A: I have been engaged in politics for the past 54 years. With the help of Almighty Allah, I think I will continue to be in politics. Because I escaped three LTTE suicide bomb attacks and the last one was at Akuressa. But nothing happened to me and I didn't have even a small injury.

That shows that Almighty Allah wants me to continue to do service for the people. I have already achieved my political ambition. I have done much for the country. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is doing a great job of work to make Sri Lanka the miracle of Asia. I will give him all the support till I die. I want to see that he continues to be in power as long as he lives.

Q: Do you think as a seasoned politician you could still face challenges and display your leadership qualities in delivering the goods to the people?

A: Yes. I know the people's aspirations and their problems. I am always at their disposal. I will make sure that their needs are provided and their shortcomings are looked after.

 

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