Resignations of Sri Lanka Muslim ministers have echoes of Amirthalingam ouster: Navin

ECONOMYNEXT – The mass resignation of Muslim ministers over the harassment of their community in the wake of an extremist Islamist attack on Easter Sunday had echoes of Tamil Minister Appapillai Amirthalingam in 1983, a minister said.

Sri Lanka enacted a law making Sinhala the sole national language a few years after independence, helping trigger a Tamil separatist war.

Legislators who did not swear to an amendment to the constitution which mandating a unitary state were thrown out of parliament.  In sharp contrast in the UK, a referendum was held on whether Scotland should separate or not.

"We are now at a crossroad, where the future of the country will be decided for the future generations," Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake told reporters in Colombo on Tuesday.

"Many of our youngsters today may not have been around in 1983. Even I was a child then," he said in Sinhalese.

"The government made a blunder in 1983, when it threw out Tamil Leader Amirthalingam. My father was a powerful minister in that government."

"We created a climate for a democratically elected representative to be removed democratically in parliament," he said. A big vaccum was created, and the LTTE came in to fill that void."

"We must not create a vaccuum for extremism to come up."

The ruling United National Party had an absolute 4/5 th majority in parliament and could change the constitution as it wished.

In Sri Lanka the current wave of Muslim extremism has been fired mainly by external Pan-Nationalist elements emerging from the Middle East.





Wahabi and Muslim Brotherhood movements have been fanning religious extremism also in Muslim majority states with secular leaders.

Ordinary Muslims have helped security forces catch the members of the extremist National Thowheed Jama’ath which had been banned.
A Buddist monk, backed by Sri Lanka’s Catholic Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith called for the resignation of three Muslim politicians, who were alleged to have had some links with members or close associates of the extremists.

Nine Muslim ministers including Kabir Hashim whose secretary was shot by extremists for acting against them resigned Friday saying members of their community were being harassed.

In May many Muslim businesses were vandalized, mosques attacked and at least one person was killed in a Nazi Kristallnacht style attacked which authorities said was a planned political pogrom.

A similar, much larger attacks took place against the Tamils in 1983, providing recruits for Tamil Tiger separatists.

Dissanayake said that racial hatred against Muslims will only help extremists expand.

Already, 10 foreign ambassadors have met the President to discuss how the Muslim community is treated, Dissanayake said.

Dissanayake also said that moderate voices in the country are being marginalized by extremist Sinhala elements. During the 1983 riots, moderate Sinhalese had provided shelter to their Tamil neighbours.

He said that a number of political forces are trying to target innocent Muslims and destabilize the country ahead of the Presidential Elections.

"There is a clear plan to destabilize the country through communal tensions, and their intentions are to carry this till the Presidential Election."

"They want to put more germs into Sinhala-Muslim tensions and put more petrol into the flames," he said.  (Colombo/June05/2019)


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