Muslim MP says North and East should not be merged
[TamilNet, Monday, 04 August 2003, 16:42 GMT]
The Tamil people were forced to have recourse to an armed struggle as a result of the oppressive policies of the Sinhalese political leadership, and when finding a political solution to this problem, “we are clear that a similar situation should not be created for the Muslim minority in the merged North East, and that is why we have told the [Sri Lankan] President that we want the North and East to be separate,” said Mr. A.L.M. Athaulla, Member of Parliament (MP) from the Ampara district Monday.
Mr. Athaulla, who is also the Minister of Highways in the current United National Front government of Sri Lanka, was speaking at a meeting held in Eravur to discuss the Muslim community’s stand in the current political environment. Mr. Abdul Latheef, attorney-at-law, chaired the meeting.
The Ampara MP, who heads a breakaway group from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, is a rival of the SLMC leader, Mr. Rauff Hakeem. Mr. Athaulla is said to be conducting meetings in areas where support for Mr. Hakeem is considered strong, sources said. Political observers noted the significance in holding the meeting in Eravur, which is home to Mr. Basheer Segu Dawood, who is the SLMC’s propaganda secretary and is considered the right hand man of Mr. Hakeem, the SLMC leader.
In what the observers said was a clear reference to Mr. Hakeem’s leadership, Mr. Athaulla said: “The Muslim leadership has been saying for a long time that it is not the time for Muslims to be vocal about their rights and disrupt the peace process. But what we are saying is only that our community’s rightful share absolutely must be obtained when peace talks result in a political solution.”
On the Tamil leadership’s stand on the issue that there should be unity among Tamils and Muslims as a Tamil speaking people, Mr. Athaulla said, “The Tamil leadership has often said that the Muslims are Tamil-speaking people when it is convenient to them, but it is regrettable that when the Muslim community is speaking about its fundamental rights, Tamil leaders criticize it,” Mr. Athaualla said.
He continued: “That there should be Tamil-speaking leadership in the North is not in dispute. The North and East should be separate, however, with a separate Tamil Chief Minister for the North and a Muslim Chief Minister for the East. Only in such an administrative structure could differences in opinion in the future between Muslims and Tamils be resolved.”
“The North-East merger was only a temporary measure under the Emergency Regulations,” Mr. Athaulla said. “Since the ER no longer exists, we have asked the President to de-merge the North and East and appoint separate governors for each province.”
Sources said that a few hundred people participated at the meeting and urged Mr. Athaualla to conduct similar meetings across the entire Eastern province.