Feature Article

SLM Hanifa urges Tamil-speaking politicians to transcend parochial localism

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 26 August 2015, 10:05 GMT]
Veteran writer SLM Hanifa has warned Tamils and Muslims of the sinister motives of the incumbent UNP-SLFP regime and the exploitative global politics of the Powers. Urging the Tamil-speaking Muslims and Tamils to shed past old wounds towards building unity between all Tamil speakers, also including the Upcountry Tamils, in order to defend the larger interests of their communities, the former NEPC councillor from Batticaloa condemned the opportunistic parliamentary orientations of the Muslim politicians, who have hitherto brought political confusion among the Muslim masses through their actions that have only strengthened the Sinhala-dominated coalitions. "Like the caste system is exploited for seeking votes in Tamil Nadu, locality-oriented parochialism has emerged as a destructive factor in the electoral politics in the island, which is exploited by the UNP and the SLFP,” Mr Hanifa said.

In an exclusive interview to TamilNet this week, the popular Tamil writer from Oaddamaavadi in Batticaloa called for Tamil-speaking Muslims to not forget their Tamil roots, and for Tamils to seiz e the first opportunity in the future to demonstrate an inclusive approach in accommodating the Muslims, in jointly advancing the traditional bonds and cooperation in politics.

The recent parliamentary election was characterised by electoral politics which on one hand sought to exploit the ethnic identity for the petty interests of the contesting candidate aiming ministerial portfolios, while on the other, indicated the emergence of a dangerous trend of ‘electorate localism’ (piratheasa-vaatham) in the Tamil speaking constituencies, Mr Hanifa said.

In addition to ‘piratheasa-vaatham’, there is also the issue of masses ‘voting with the trend’ in favour of temporary solutions, instead of ‘voting for setting the future trend’.

Most of the voters don't care about what the thinkers tell them on the impending dangers and how to face the upcoming challenges.

Mr Hanifa was citing the difficulties being faced by the People's Movement For Good Governance (PMGG), a grassroots Muslim organisation, as a case of example.

In the whole island, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) received only one parliamentary seat as Muslim politicians chose to align themselves with the major parties.

At Kalkudaa electorate, MSS Ameer Ali, contesting on a UNP ticket, received only 12,000 votes from the Muslims. The remaining, 20,000 of votes were cast by the Tamils, he observed.

The Tamils, who had gone astray with the Tamil national politicians failing to attend their local needs, seem to have opted to vote for Mr Ameer Ali expecting him to deliver the goods. “Whether this shows Tamil-Muslim relations, or the level of prevailing poverty or the lack of knowledge on the part of Tamils, I don't know. But, regardless of the background, I interpret this as a positive gesture and urged the Muslim politician to allocate 60% of his allocations on fulfilling the needs of the war-affected Tamils ,who need to rebuild their lives,” Mr Hanifa said.

Striking a parallel from the Kalkudaa electorate in the past, he said the late K.W. Devanayagam, a Tamil parliamentarian, who was elected on UNP ticket from 1965 to 1988, with 75% of the votes of Muslims, Mr Hanifa remarked: “Although I was in my youth advocating leftist politics, I held great respect for Thevanayagam as he was clean and sincere.

In Anuradhapura district, SLM Hanifa illuminated that there are around 500 Muslim villages suffering in a state of condition as that of Dalit Muslims in India. They have no access to Tamil educational facilities, clean water, livelihood and shelter – Yet for the first time a Muslim candidate was elected forth by the people. This Individual, Hanifa warns, despite being voted forth, had to donate large sums of money to Buddhist establishments associated with the State known to implement Sinhalicisation processes in the area.

While the collective interests of Tamils and Tamil speaking Muslims should be channelized into an inclusive pan-Tamil way, which doesn't pose any threat to the Sinhalese, the Muslim identity politics has led the Muslim leadership into a cycle of opportunistic approaches, he said. He also condemned the conciliatory approaches adapted by the Muslim leadership towards Sinhala national parties.

Hanifa also exemplified that the popular Muslim leader the late MHM Ashraf, during an election campain, came with the notion that it was Sinhalese, more than the Tamils and Muslims, who were facing more hardships in the island.

SLM Hanifa illuminated that such remarks are grounded in the Muslim leadership's interests in appeasing the Sinhala political leadership and their constituencies.

The veteran writer also stressed that the Muslim political leaderships were tilted towards such politics due to the external factors.

He noted that three major external powers, U.S.A, India and China were promoting their respective interests through ‘globalisation’.

Although the Tamil-speaking people hoped that India would deliver a just political solution to them, the last 25 years have proven otherwise. It is mere politics and interest of these international Establishments, which dictate the dynamics in the island, he said.

Everything is going to be staged according to the scripts of the external powers and Ranil Wickramasinghe would ride the bus, stopping it beautifully at every stop, Hanifa noted with a literary sarcasm. It would not take more than a year for you to openly confirm this, he said.

The late Tamil leader Thanthai Chelvanayakam, who came with the analogy of venomous snakes in the polity of SLFP and UNP said that the snake in SLFP's Srimao Bandaranayake would be venomous only in biting, but the snake in UNP's J R Jeyawardane would be venomous just by it merely looking at.

This is exactly what we are going to witness in the coming months in Colombo's politics, Mr Hanifa noted.

On Muslim-Tamil relations, he said there was a lost opportunity in cooperating in the governance of the Eastern Provincial Council. Mr. Sampanthan of the TNA has given the entire administration to Muslims at the end. When Mr Hakeem came to his house, Mr Hanifa had reminded him of this lost opportunity. Mr Hanifa sadly remarked that Mr Hakeem disregarded his requests implying that he feared that the Sinhalese would accuse the Muslims of joining hands with the Tamils or the LTTE.

The future looked bleak for a merged North-East, he said adding that it would definitely not materialise under the regime of Ranil Wickramasinghe.

Tamils were once excelling in education. In fact, they faced the challenges during the difficult times through their education. But, now, they have fallen behind the Muslims in education. Tamils, especially their younger generation, need to take extra-care in the education, which is necessary for a prosperous co-existence with parity of status among the Tamil-speaking peoples in the North-East, he said.

Tamil speaking Muslim hails from the Tamil root and have lived among Tamils for generation. Nowadays many are forgetting this root, and are instead opting to cultivate the aerial roots that started to creep yesterday, he said, touching on diminishing cultural values and Tamil language eduation in the society.

Mr Hanifa also shed some light on the fact that the Tamil and Tamil-Muslim eastern coastal stretch, from Point-Pedro in North to Paasikkudaa in the east, being systematically colonized by Sinhala settlers and the Sri Lankan armed forces.


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