Irresponsible Rhetoric Of State Minister Could Set A Dangerous Precedent .
Posted on December 14th, 2016
Insight By Sunil Kumar
Given the reality that there is indeed a degree of unrest amongst the Muslims in Sri Lanka it seems hardly acceptable that State Minister of Resettlement and Rehabilitation Mr. M. L. A. M. Hizbullah, who represents the Eastern Province should suggest that if the government fails to settle the issue of hate speech in the East, it may even result in Muslim youths taking up arms.
This is a downright irresponsible statement and sounds almost inflammatory as he needs to qualify the degree of responsibility in his statement where there seems to be none !
He has said in Parliament that quote” if they ( obviously refering to the Government ) do not take any action to stop such statements, and if it continues at this rate, Muslim youth will not tolerate it. Unless the Government takes firm action, we cannot stop Muslims also taking up arms. If they take up arms, they will shoot us, the Muslim leaders, first, similar to how the Tamil youth shot their leaders. We have experienced history.”
So what exactly is the Minister implying? Another militant armed uprising where the Nation is still recovering from the horrendous damage done by the Tamil Tiger insurgents and their allies?
Such inflammatory words are hardly becoming of a respected member of the Legislature and perhaps he needs to word his rhetoric in a manner conducive to the issues at hand relative to Muslim dissent through responsible dialogue and interaction without inviting a call to arms or a state of unrest where in the event of such unfortunate circumstances (although such an eventuality seems a distinct impossibility) within then State of Sri Lanka today, he could still be held responsible together with those who whether inadvertently or not promote it or collude to initiate it, which seems to be the case here and could be construed as a security threat to the Sovereignity of Sri Lanka where lessons need to be learned from the not too distant past and apropriate remedial or preventive action taken if necesary by the authorities!
That there could be dire reprisals for such rhetoric seems an understatement as It seems a salient reality that there are indeed certain elements within the Muslim community ever ready to take the law into their own hands whether it be Sharia , Roman Dutch, better still Napoleonic as it caters to their needs and given the state the World is in today relative to happenings orchestrated by the so called Muslim Agitators causing mayhem and destruction globally it is totally unacceptable that a member of the Sri Lankan Legislature has had the audacity to make such statements in public.
Bearing in mind that Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist Nation there is no room for tolerance from minority communities, religions or cultures attempting to ursurp the smooth functioning of the Nation and these types should be thankful for the freedoms and prvileges granted them through a just and compassionate administration and should always endeavour to negotiate for peace and harmony through rational means rather than aggressive dissent.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
?: How do you view the series of hate speeches being used against the Muslim community recently, especially in the Eastern Province?
A: Not just now, but it has been continuing since 2012. However, especially within the last month, the Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary Venerable Gnanasara Thera had made such statements in his speech especially against the Muslims, the Quran and against Almighty God.
Normally when there is any sort of hate speech against Almighty God, Allah, not only the Muslims in Sri Lanka but those in the entire world will feel upset. Hate speech has to be stopped. Everybody has the right to speak about their religion but nobody has the right to attack or insult another religion.
When the Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamath (SLTJ) Secretary Abdul Razik made a statement, everybody was upset with his speech and thus he was arrested. Later with many conditions he was bailed out. In the meantime, there were many incidents that took place where Islam and Muslims were attacked with hate speech, but none of those who made such statements were arrested. If it is justice it should be equal to all. However, these days, the law has to be enforced to control such activities.
?: You being part of the administration, why do you think you were not able to pressurize the government to take legal action against those who are involved in hate speech against Islam and the Muslim community?
A: Hate speech by the Ampitiye Sumanaratne Thera in the Batticaloa District has created many problems. We are not against Buddhism or any religion we are ready to treat everyone equally. The Ampitiye Thera has also created violence yet no proper action has been taken to date. We have taken the matter up with the government and the Police on many occasions but no action has been taken.
However, when Hindu Priests called for the arrest of Ampitiye Thera, they were arrested and jailed by the Batticaloa Magistrate.
So, the one who creates problems, attacking officers and especially who insults senior State officials is allowed to go free. He had even used obscene language at the Batticaloa District Secretary. Therefore, it is high time the government takes action and inform the Police to carry out their legal obligations, if not it will be very difficult to control such activities in future.
But the government is not taking any steps. The Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has stated that the law cannot be enforced at this time, because the future consequences must be considered. He actually tried to say that such arrests are impossible. He cannot say that. He is the Minister of Justice, and has to maintain law and order in the country. But however, they have not taken any action until now.
?: In the current context, why did you warn Parliament against creating a situation where the Muslims will take to arms as well?
A: The government has to control this situation. We have requested the President, Prime Minister and other representatives to control the situation. Even when Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe met the Gnanasara Thera, he made promises that he will not make any hate speeches and he had agreed for dialogue. We do not want him arrested but we want him to stop such hate speech statements. We don’t want to punish anyone. But after all, such promises he still creates big problems.
Later he met the President along with other religious leaders, and made many issues. However, the President said we will have a dialogue to solve the issue and agreed to discuss the matter at committee level. But following this meeting he criticized our Almighty God at a press conference.
Referring all these incidents I urged the Minister of Justice to stop these actions. Venerable Gnanasara Thera said that Muslims can live in this country but cannot practice Islam. He also continued to say that we cannot pray five times or worship at the Mosque on Fridays. Muslims don’t want to live without practicing Islam. We will not live, we cannot live and we have to live with the Islam practice.
I further said in Parliament, if they do not take any action to stop such statements, if it continues at this rate, the Muslim youth will not tolerate. Even currently the Muslim youth claim that the Muslim Parliamentarians are sleeping, they are not talking on behalf of the community and they have refrained from their duty. They claim that the Muslim representatives go to parliament only to eat. The youth also say we are not taking any action but hungry for power. Not only the youth but others in our community are attacking and scolding the Muslim Leaders, including me. Unless the government takes firm action, we cannot stop Muslims also taking up arms. If they take up arms, first they will shoot us, the Muslim leaders similar to how the Tamil youth shot their leaders. We have experienced that history.
Therefore, I urged the government to take some suitable action to avoid such incidents in future. I did not say that they will take up arms immediately but if the problems are ignored nobody can stop such developments.
?: At the current juncture, how do you view the relationship between both minority communities, the Tamils and Muslims? How do you view the initiatives taken by both community representatives to maintain unity?
A: There are issues within each community itself. Tamil leaders are united but the Muslim leaders are not united. Tamil leaders are united because there were armed groups like the LTTE, thus the leaders were under pressure and they stayed united. But in the current context the situation has changed even the Tamil leaders are not united.
I feel that the Muslim leaders are not united as they represent different parties. But we all must unite and work together. I hope necessary steps will be taken and we hope for the best.
But both communities working together will have to face many issues and challenges. We want to unite with the Tamil leaders, in certain issues we can work with them and we have to work with them.
If you take the Tamil community representatives especially the TNA they only represent two provinces that are the North and East. But the Muslims are not confined to a particular region but we represent the entire country. Our members are from every part of the country. Therefore, when the Muslim representatives take a decision we must keep in mind that our people live all over the country.
?: Why do some Muslim representatives from the Eastern Province reject the idea of a North-East merger?
A: North-East merger is impossible, it should be decided by a referendum. As first instance, it is necessary to obtain a 2/3 majority in Parliament to go for a referendum. It is impossible to obtain a 2/3 majority. No Muslim will vote for it. In the second instance we have to go for a referendum, if we do so then 80 per cent of the Sinhalese in the country will not vote for it and 10 per cent of the Muslims do the same. Therefore, it will be quite difficult to pass the merger Bill through Parliament or by referendum.
Another important fact is that the Eastern Province Muslims, will never support the merger. Why will they ask for a merger? There is no proper reason. We have the Northern Province with a separate council and a Chief Minister and the Eastern Province also has the same set up. A Muslim can become a chief minister only in the Eastern Province. Northern Province is full of Tamil representatives, and the rest of the Provincial Councils have Sinhala representatives, they are the Chief Ministers and Provincial Ministers. Not a single Muslim has the opportunity become a Provincial Minister in any of the other councils.
This country consists 10 per cent of Muslims, we must safeguard the Muslims. Only in the Eastern Province a person from any community can become a Chief Minister since all communities are living with equal opportunities. Therefore, only in the Eastern Province a Muslim can become a Chief Minister or a Provincial Minister. All three communities are living together, there is no issue.
There is 35 per cent of Muslims in the East, but after a merger it will reduce to 16 per cent. So why do we need a merger?
?: You say that all communities are living equally in the Eastern Province, but there are so many allegations that youth from the Tamil community are facing discriminations in employment opportunities. What have you to say?
A: The employment opportunities are decided by the provincial government. There are Tamil representatives in the Council to look into it. The education and agriculture ministers are Tamils. How can they say there are discriminations? It cannot be accepted. All the minor employments are decided by the Council. So, the two ministers can look into the matter.
?: As you know there are allegations that most of those who have joined the ISIS recently are from the Eastern Province. What is your reaction to these allegations?
A: Minster of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said there are 32 Sri Lankans who have joined the ISIS, but the government denied it the next day.
Whether it is 32 or 32,000 the government must arrest them immediately and take all necessary action. I categorically said in Parliament too, that ISIS are not Muslims, they have no connections with the Muslims and have nothing to do with them. They are international anti-Muslim forces. These forces are used to destroy the Islamic countries.
?: What are the reforms you suggest for Muslim personal law?
A: One is Sharia Law, which is written in the Quran. The other is the personal law which is followed with Sharia. For example, dowry is against Islam, but is followed by Muslims of this country. There are certain things we follow like the age of marriage. Certain rules are very clearly mentioned in Sharia Law according to the Quran, we will never allow it to be changed.
But there are certain other laws that is practised by Muslims and changed from time to time. Such laws can be discussed and reformed.