By Ameer Ali –
The creation of the SLMC as a political celebration primarily based solely on religion was a historic blunder, which if not rectified quickly, will drag the Muslim community into political abyss. The foundational philosophers of SLMC were deluded by a misguided vision about the Indian Muslim League model. The tragic consequences that Muslims of India had to face and are still facing as a outcome of this ethno-religious model somehow or other missed the consideration of the SLMC founders. A crucial study of the birth and development of SLMC is a tempting field for research.
In Sri Lanka, the demographic, linguistic and financial traits that had shaped Muslim settlements, and the fact that in the 1980s when the concept of a Muslim celebration was conceptualised ethno-nationalism was currently ripping the country apart, have been assumed to be irrelevant as long as Muslims could unite beneath a religious banner and fight for their so called ‘rights’. Up to now no one particular from the SLMC has enlightened the public what these exclusive rights are. The slogan “Allahu Akbar” and nothing at all about national unity or nation’s welfare decorated SLMC rallies and Muslim voters had been hallucinated with Marx’s opiate so that they could neglect their mundane difficulties and elect megalomaniac leaders, who had absolutely nothing but self-interest in their heart to market.
What the ethno-religious politics of SLMC has achieved so far had been, firstly, to devalue the ‘politics of pragmatism’ which the pre-SLMC Muslim generation so effectively institutionalised by joining one particular or the other of the then current national parties secondly, to worsen the already deteriorating ethnic tensions in the nation and making the Muslim community (like the Tamils under the LTTE) to shed even the tiny it had gained in the earlier era thirdly, to reward incompetency, corruption and dishonesty at the expense of talent, truthfulness and dedication and lastly, to damage immeasurably the positive image that the Muslim neighborhood had cultivated more than a millennium especially amongst the majority Buddhist Sinhalese. Will the SLMC offer a record of their achievements that benefited the neighborhood, let alone the nation? Have the leaders of this party created any contribution on behalf the Muslim community to the national debate on the country’s economy, safety and improvement? All that they have completed is to bargain with their coalition partners for ministerial positions and private wealth.
The problems confronting the community are as well a lot of to enumerate. For example, there is a landless Muslim peasantry in the East whose lands have been taken away by government administrators beneath false pretensions there are impoverished villages in the Central Highlands whose little economy has suffered irreparably beneath neo-liberal economic policies there are refugees in the North and North West who are the innocent victims of a reckless civil war and who need resettlement and, there are the unemployment and homeless Muslims in the cities, who out of desperation are falling victims to predatory anti-social elements. A quantity of these problems are no doubt widespread to all communities and they have to be tackled not on a communal but national basis. That demands a leadership that can rise above petty ethno-nationalism and win recognition by all communities. Which a single of the SLMC leaders has this quality and the capacity to address the nation at huge and win the support of the majority to seek solution to Muslim issues?
In a plural democracy it is by way of the national parties and not via sectarianism that minorities can locate salvation. What ever that the Muslims have accomplished so far are the outcome of a farsighted generation of Muslim leadership that realised the futility of ethno-nationalism, joined hands with national leaders and persuaded the majority community that Muslims are constructive contributors to national wealth and they required national help. The pre-SLMC history of Sri Lanka will vouch for this reality. It was the achievement of that politics which partly prompted the late President Jayawardena to alter the constitution of the nation from the Westminster model to the current hybrid Gaullist model. The creation of the SLMC was the incorrect move to counter JR’s master stroke.
It is time the Muslim community realises the heavy price tag it has currently paid for placing their trust on SLMC. Once just before I known as for the dissolution of SLMC, but that will not occur as extended as its leaders see the private rewards they could reap from of its existence. The Muslim voters at the next election however, can reject that celebration and its offshoots wholesale and revert to politics of pragmatism. A Sinhalese or Tamil politician elected to the legislature with huge Muslim assistance will be a lot more responsive to Muslim demands than one particular from the SLMC mafia or its offshoot. The community deserves a far better leadership.