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
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.
writer is the president of the National