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Muslim factions try to bury the hatchet
By Nilika Kasturisinghe
Following Friday's court order on the SLMC crisis, Minister Rauff Hakeem continues to be the leader of the SLMC. The Athaullah faction obtained an enjoining order from the District Court, against Mr. Hakeem upholding the position that the latter has been suspended from the party. But the enjoining order was suspended and Mr. Hakeem's leadership was upheld.

The Athaullah faction then tried to canvass the order made by the District Judge suspending the enjoining order issued earlier. That was rejected and they were back to their old position with Hakeem as the leader.

While the main facilitator in the SLMC rift, Faiz Mustapha, Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to the UK is to leave the country this weekend, disputed SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem confirmed that a meeting between the two factions was in the offing.

"Facilitators are working on a settlement, and the need to bury the hatchet and preserve the unity is being emphasised,' he said. A meeting between the two factions ought to take place in the next few days, Mr. Hakeem said, expressing hope that at this meeting the two sides could discuss and arrive at a compromise which will not jeopardise the need to have strong party structures.

Mr. Hakeem presently being condemned by his rivals for his authoritarian role told The Sunday Times, "In the guise of wanting to have more consultation with the party rank there is a move to dilute the powers of the party leader which might not augur well for the party."

The need to come together without laying down conditions was stressed by the SLMC leader who was presented with a charge sheet of 37 items, by the Athaullah faction. The case pertaining to the leadership crisis in the SLMC was taken up on Friday, with the Appeal Court upholding the decision of the District Court to remove the restraining order on Rauff Hakeem acting in the capacity of SLMC leader.

Meanwhile, he is preparing to outdo his rivals show in Nintavur when he holds a public rally there tomorrow. Party General Secretary T. Hassan Ali told The Sunday Times this will be a 'big show'. Denying claims by the rival camp that 6,000 people had attended last week's meeting, he said when Mr. Subairdeen was addressing the meeting only 172 people were there alongside 300 police and STF cadres.

The SLMC delegates conference is to be held next month, he confirmed. In the Hakeem camp, MP Basheer Segu Dawood who was initially appointed Secretary General of the SLMC, following the suspension of Dr. A.L.M. Haffrath, was obliged to step down before 12 hours passed and was replaced by Mr. Hassan Ali from Ampara.

When contacted by The Sunday Times Mr. Segu Dawood said he had resigned because of pressure of work. He also expressed the need to speak to the rival camp, "We also like to talk to Athaullah's group, but they must come with no demands" he said.

Meanwhile, newly elected SLMC Secretary General Dr. A.L.M. Haffrath issued a notice to the party organisers and supporters informing them of the expulsion of Hakeem.

"I am requesting our branch offices not to organise meetings or follow brother Rauff Hakeem's instruction without consulting me. You all are well aware that brother Rauff Hakeem has been expelled from the leadership of the Party High command of the SLMC," the notice stated.

It further stated, "The time has come for us to march forward with our struggle to win our rights. For this the co-operation of our branches and the supporters is required, as such, refrain from organising party branch offices, appointment of new office bearers, organising meetings and discussions until further notice and without the party's consent."

At an emergency meeting held on December 11 a discussion took place on the agreement reached at the Oslo Peace Conference for the formation of a federal set-up to solve the ethnic problem of the country.

The Athaullah faction is organising a conference of political analysts and thinkers to discuss and then advise the SLMC on a workable formula to safeguard the interests of the Muslims, particularly the Muslims of the North and East.

For this purpose an Advisory Council comprising 18 members headed by former Senator Al-Haj. S.Z.M. Mashoor Moulana has been appointed. Minister of Wanni Rehabilitation Noordeen Mashoor in a statement issued this week said "Like all other communities in this country the Muslims too are entitled to enjoy such facilities as are provided to the Tamils in the Eastern Province. Our struggle is to achieve these dreams."

Meanwhile, the All Ceylon Muslim Congress has condemned the moves to create confusion in the SLMC at a crucial time for the Muslim community by disrupting and preventing the participation of a Muslim representative at the Oslo peace talks. The ACMC called on UNP Minister M.H. Mohamed to represent the community at all future conferences pertaining to the future of the Muslim people of the North and East.

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