Guest Column

 North-East crisis and Muslim leaders
By Dr. H.M. Mauroof

An injured youth being carried away during the recent violent scenes at Muttur

When the country's ethnic issue gets untangled the final outcome is expected to be a federal solution. The structure of this 'federalist solution' must surely be now under microscopic scrutiny by the concerned stakeholders.

The LTTE currently has dozens of its senior delegates in various parts of the federalist world trying to figure out a model that will meet and suit their aims. Although the 'temporary withdrawal' ploy has been conveniently allowed to rob the headlines, in fact, the LTTE is hard at work with the substance of identifying their 'ideal model' and be ready when the relevant negotiations commence.

The other major stakeholder, the government of Sri Lanka seems to have conveniently taken a soft line on the matter. 'Short of dividing the country, we are prepared for anything', is the Prime Minister's line. He seems intent on taking the path of least resistance and letting the events play themselves out. His attitude to events in Valachchenai and Muttur are two good examples for Muslims to bear in mind.

The third stakeholder, the Parliamentary Opposition led by the President had already spelt out its stand by way of the 2000 Constitution proposals in Parliament, and, on that basis is prepared to negotiate; the President's cards are on the table, so to speak.

The fourth major stakeholder, the Muslims seem to be inexorably, but unwillingly, being drawn into a state of stupor and inanimation by their political leaders. This began at the outset of the peace talks at Satahip, Thailand. The above is what was conveyed in the Guest Column by Prof. M.L.A. Cader in The Sunday Times of 27/4/03.

Normally political leadership comes from Parliamentarians, but this hasn't been so for the Muslims. This time there are 26 Muslim Parliamentarians, among them eight are ministers and two are deputy ministers. And out of the 26 Parliamentarians 22 sit firmly with the UNF government.

When it was announced that the Tamil community's representatives had accepted the LTTE as their voice at the talks, the Muslims breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that all Muslim Parliamentarians, irrespective of party affiliations, had formed themselves into a Committee to formulate the Muslim stand point.

The Muslims felt it would help the country and the community. But the Muslims now know that it had been only a flash in the pan that vanished into thin air. And now it has become clear that there are as many 'Muslim leaders' as there are Muslim MPs.
Minister M.H. Mohamed was chosen as the leader of the Muslim Parliamentarians Group, and the government chose Minister Rauff Hakeem as the representative for the Muslims at the Peace Talks.

Precious months have passed since those times, and lo and behold, neither the Peace Table, the country nor the Muslim community know what the Muslim stand point is and what their proposals are.

As a major stakeholder, the Muslims owe it to the country to spell out their viewpoint. Otherwise what is likely to happen is that the government and the LTTE will keep talking and try to arrive at a solution leaving the Muslims in the lurch. Such an eventuality may force the orphaned North-East Muslims to take matters into their own hands, (which the late M.H.M. Ashraf was adroit enough to thwart) and in the process unwittingly help unleash events that may derail the Peace Process.

The North-East Muslims must understand clearly that the situation has now reached a most critical point with the important Tokyo Conference only weeks away. Prominent, respected and credible Muslim leaders are now duty bound to take the initiative into their own hands. Prof. M.L.A. Cader, Dr. M.S. Hisbullah, one of the pioneers to take up the cause of the Northern Muslims, M.I.M. Mohideen who has done decades of hard work on the subject, and others should galvanize themselves and call a conference of 30 members.

This should include the 15 North-East Muslim MPs, 15 other leaders from the North-East including five from the Ampara District, three each from Batticaloa and Trincomalee Districts, one from Mannar and Wanni, and two from Jaffna.The 30 should sit down and attempt to resolve two urgent tasks: 1. Get ready with the necessary details for the Tokyo Conference. This is a monumental and urgent task
2. Study the political structure most suitable for the North-East Muslims.

If this venture is to succeed, they should keep the three Cabinet Ministers out since they are not from the North-East. Prof. Cader, over to you. Muslims from every walk of life will volunteer to assist you.

The writer is the president of the National
Muslim Movement.

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