Emerging signs of an anti-Muslims spectre? | Daily News


Emerging signs of an anti-Muslims spectre?

As the Presidential election campaign hits the final two week stretch, various strategies are being used by the principal candidates and their campaign teams to woo the electorate. These range from promises bordering on the bizarre to futuristic visions for the country to make it a ‘promised land'. These of course are fair game at election time, most would agree. So are name calling and the vilest of accusations.

However, a dangerous element is now being injected into the campaign by those who should know better that is bound to exacerbate the polarization of the electorate on deep communal lines, and, what is more, spell the harbinger of a fierce communal backlash.

Most ominous is a clear attempt to instill fear in the minds of the Muslim community of becoming targets of the majority community if they spurn the offer of being equal partners in the possible victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The signs of this trend have already been pinpointed by Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology Minister Ajith P. Perera who has decried statements allegedly made by SLPP legal adviser Ali Sabry PC about the fate of Muslims who do not vote for presidential contender Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Sabry, a respected legal luminary, had reportedly said that after Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins, Muslims who have not voted for Gotabaya may face serious consequences - or expressions to that effect. This is according to Tamil and Muslim scholars who have analysed his speech made in the vernacular Tamil spoken by the Muslims of the west coast. Perera said this speaks volumes about SLPP plans to incite violence against the people who did not vote for Gotabaya Rajapaksa- dire forebodings indeed.

True, Sabry as any other citizen in this country, is entitled to his/her political view and choice of candidate at a Presidential election. He also is free to mount a political platform, address audiences and criticize the political opponents of his chosen candidate to his heart’s content. However he should strictly steer clear of inciting communal passions or pitting one community against another for exercising their free right to vote for a candidate of their choice.

Ominous signs of this trend first emerged when Pro-Gota artiste and Sinhala hardliner Madhu Madawa Aravinda in an unguarded moment gave expression to his inner thoughts as to what would befall all the Muslims of this country following a Gotabaya victory. Aravinda had to resign from all posts he held in his own party in the ensuing fiasco.

Sabry who projects himself as the Muslim face of pro-nationalist Pohottuwa chose to soft-pedal the racist comments at the time, no doubt for political expediency. His own comments, at a pocket meeting, only goes to confirm where, in fact, his true loyalties lay when it comes to a choice between his own community and a Gotabaya victory.

At that meeting Sabry albeit in not so many words warned Muslims of dire consequences visiting upon them should they fail to vote for Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He claimed that Rajapaksa is already through in the race with the Sinhala majority vote alone and the Muslims can only afford lose sight of this at grave peril to themselves.

In other words, after the election, should Rajapaksa prevail, there could be a fierce backlash against the Muslims by the Sinhala majority for daring to defy the odds. This is a clear indication of an emerging dictatorship for the rest of his time should Gotabaya Rajapaksa win, heralding yet another era similar to that which the nation witnessed pre January 2015.

Sabry, also the legal counsel for Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a myriad of cases now before the courts against the latter, has recently emerged as the principal point man to enlist the support of the urban middle-class Muslims for Presidential aspirant Gotabaya. Sabry painted a grim picture of what awaits the Muslim community should they refrain from voting from Gotabaya.

He enjoined them: “Vote for him (Gotabaya) and get on to the right side in the contest. If you don’t!” He leaves the rest unsaid, but the message is crystal clear. He even gets an audience member to complete the sentence, whereby he agrees “Appadi illaati, ambanekku kedechchum” (“If we don’t, we will get it properly”). The idea he projects is that Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s victory is inevitable and therefore, the indulgence and largess of the ‘strongman’ president is essential for the Muslim minority to exist.

This kind of remark is totally unnecessary and completely out of sync with the sentiments of all communities who are looking to move on from the three-decades of conflict and the recent Easter Sunday events. Furthermore, the Elections Commission itself has warned candidates not to engage in communal rhetoric.

We hope that the persons and parties concerned will atone for this statement. It is time that candidates and speakers on all sides tone down the inflammatory communalistic rhetoric that could once again fan the flames of hatred in a country just emerging out of decades of conflict. We certainly can do better than this.

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