Can Sri Lanka find a Unifier-in-Chief?

2019-06-11 at 11:32

Rauf Hakeem, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) chief and former Minister of City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education, has called for an end to the trend of “continuous demonisation” of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Hakeem, who resigned his position a week ago along with eight other Ministers over the row generated by Sinhala Buddhist hardliners for the removal of a Cabinet Minister and two Muslim Governors in the wake of the Easter blasts, said in an interaction on Monday with senior journalists at The Hindu here that post-blasts, the community was on a “serious introspection mode.” The group led by Zahran Hashim, who was said to have been behind the attacks, had “absolutely no sympathy” among the community and was “isolated” by the community several years ago.

Yet, the Muslims, be they politicians or professionals, were being “targeted” for allegations. “If one allegation cannot be proved, you will be taken into custody on some other pretext,” the SLMC leader said.

It was for the purpose of halting the trend of “continuous outburst by xenophobic elements” that the mass resignation took place, which included the two Governors too.

“We [the Ministers and the Governors] have put the community at ease by collectively taking the decision [to quit positions],” Mr Hakeem said. This alone was not sufficient. The focus had to be turned away from the Muslim community. “We have started talking to political leaders, representatives of international community, religious groups and civil society,” he said, emphasising the need for reaching out to all, mindful of “extremist preaching, hate mongering and hate speech.”

Presidential election

The resignations could be seen as “an attempt to divide the country further on ethnic lines,” Mr Hakeem conceded. “It is the opposite we want. We want reconciliation and a healthy dialogue to promote co-existence.”

Referring to the Presidential election likely later this year, the SLMC leader said the personality of candidates to be put up by two major parties in the country would also matter. “They must been seen as unifying figures and not divisive,” he added.

The Hindu

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