Resignations and their aftermath | Daily News

Resignations and their aftermath

Monday’s across the board exit of Muslim Ministers from their portfolios was not the first such mass resignation of Muslim MPs from the Government. This happened in 2001 when the present Sri Lanka Muslim Congress led a mass exodus of SLMC MPs from the Chandrika Government. Only, on that occasion, they (Hakeem and co.) crossed the floor of the House to sit with the Opposition UNP, leading to the eventual collapse of the regime. This time though, Hakeem and his Muslim MPs will remain with the Government albeit as backbenchers. The UNP Muslim ministers and deputy ministers too have thrown in their lot with Hakeem and the beleaguered Rishard Bathiudeen who has been the villain of the piece where the Buddhist monks and the pohottuwites are concerned for his alleged links with the terror suspects linked to the Easter Sunday bombings.

The Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera only called for the resignations of the Governors Azath Salley and M. L. M. Hisbullah as the condition for withdrawing from his death fast and left Bathiudeen’s fate to be decided by the Prime Minister. Now with all Muslim MPs being thrown into one camp what the Ven. Thera has succeeded in doing is isolating the Muslims as a whole into a separate entity thereby polarizing the Lanka polity on communal lines, as never before. What this means is that the Ven. Thera, albeit unwittingly, had driven a deep wedge between the Sinhala and Muslim communities.

This state of affairs was reflected in the bitter sentiments expressed by Ministers Hakeem and Kabir Hashim at the media conference at Temple Trees on Monday to announce their collective decision to quit. What emanated here was a lament that the follies of a few were being foisted lock stock and barrel on the Muslim community as a whole, placing the entire community under virtual siege. Hakeem said that they were ready to face any punishment, if any, if they were found guilty and that innocent people should not be punished. “But as a matter of fact what is happening today is innocent people are at the receiving end. They have become victims. It is true that some of the perpetrators of the April 24 incidents were among our community. But we cooperated from the very first day to assist the law enforcement and tri-forces to establish sanity in the country and find the truth. We have been suffering the heaviest harassment. There are many who are languishing in prisons on minor issues. We expect the Government to complete the inquiry thoroughly and fully”.

In fact they all stated that they resigned en masse to facilitate the investigations since there were allegations that some among them were assisting terrorism and influencing the police investigations. Hakeem wanted the investigations to be completed in 40 days and carried out by the CID.

Now that the demands of the Joint Opposition and the Bikkhus have been met it behoves on all to tone down all rhetoric with a communal flavour to allow the investigations take its normal course. Religious leaders too should desist from making comments that has no bearing on the Easter Sunday attacks but are more or less anti-Government in nature. Of course, the Catholic community owes a debt of gratitude to the Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera for making common cause with their lot in even being prepared to sacrifice his life to ensure justice for them. It was also gratifying to see Catholics from the areas where the churches were bombed flocking in large numbers to the site of the death fast opposite the Sri Dalada Maligawa in a mark of solidarity with the prelate. The Easter Sunday carnage, if nothing else, has served to bring the Buddhists and Catholics together as at no other time and all measures should be taken to preserve this bond.

However, drastic measures such as death fasts to win over demands should be avoided particularly by members of the clergy. Monks holding such death fasts are nothing new in this country (Ven. Dhambara Amila Thera went on a fast unto death during the CBK regime over some issue, only to be rescued by a police team led by the now deposed Pujith Jayasundera). Death fasts have as their end result the act of suicide and no religion approves suicide as a means of rectifying a grievance. The danger lies in the practice catching up, where every Dick, Tom and Harry may try the stunt to hold the Government to ransom.

There should also be no aspersions cast on the investigations, particularly by the Joint Opposition and affiliated Bikkhus. Besides, the law enforcement and all the investigative branches under it are overseen by the President, who, we believe, has no particular interest in protecting any individual. Equally, if any politician is found to have had links with the terror suspects the full force of the law should be brought to bear on him. On the other hand, if no wrong doing is revealed that too should be accepted and the matter put to rest there. On no account should communal feelings be allowed to get the better of any one group. This is because, with major elections round the corner, every effort should be made to prevent an incendiary situation engulfing the country.


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