In a hard hitting speech, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa said today the UNP was making good use of the Muslim community for their political purposes, especially aimed at the presidential election, while Muslim leaders, completely dependent on Muslim votes, want a government they could manipulate.
He said this at his official residence in Colombo while urging the leaders of the country and of the Muslim community to act in a responsible and circumspect manner.
“All of us should understand that everything that we see happening now is directly connected to the presidential election that is due to be held in a few months. The present government is seeking to retain the Muslim vote base that they organised around themselves using various stratagems before 2015,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.
He said the Opposition tabled a no-confidence motion against one minister on the grounds that he had connections with the terrorists responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks.
“However, all Muslim ministers resigned. This seems to be ploy on the part of the UNP government to organise and line up all Muslim politicians on one side and to obtain Muslim votes at the presidential elections. The UNP is making good use of the Muslim community for their political purposes. The UNP needs the votes of the moderates as well as the extremists within the Muslim community. They don’t care from where their votes come from. The Muslim leaders, for their part, want a government they can manipulate at will. But this confluence of interests will not solve the problems that the ordinary Muslims face. The ordinary people of this country want protection from extremist terrorists. The ordinary Muslim folk want to weed out the terrorists from their midst and to resume their normal lives,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.
He said a brutal terrorism that targets the followers of other religions has emerged from within the Muslim community today.
“Buddhists, Hindus and Christians are joining hands in a common endeavor against that terrorism. Moderate Muslims should not be isolated from this unity of purpose that is being forged. Muslim religious leaders and intellectuals have admitted that as a result of the extremist ideologies that came into this country from outside, the Sri Lankan Muslim community had gradually isolated themselves from the rest of Sri Lankan society,” he said.
He said due to the emergence of exclusively Muslim political parties from the 1980s onwards, Muslims isolated themselves in the political sphere as well.
“My friend M.H.M. Ashraff, who was the first to form an exclusively Muslim political party, later realised his mistake and towards the end he formed a political party that was open to all communities called the National Unity Alliance. But after his death, this trend towards integration stopped and the isolationist trend gained momentum. Due to the fact that Muslim political leaders are completely dependent on the Muslim vote, they need the votes of the extremists within their community as well. Muslim extremism spread throughout this country because the Muslim leaders were unable to oppose it. There is the oft heard charge that the Muslim leaders speak of reconciliation in Sinhala, but spread the message of communalism in Tamil. Islamic extremism has gained traction in this country due to that kind of politics,” he said.
Mr. Rajapaksa said the spread of extremist ideologies among the Muslim population in this country did not take place all of a sudden and it took place over a number of years, in the midst of heated debates, threats, exchange of fisticuffs, the burning of mosques, the burning of houses and even murder.
“Even in the midst of all that, Muslim political leaders provided patronage to the extremists and allowed them to flourish. After the Easter Sunday bombings, Muslim leaders said that they never thought something as serious as this would happen. Be that as it may, we now have to find a solution for what has happened. The people of this country will never tolerate terrorism. This extremist terrorism will have to be destroyed by whatever means necessary,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.
“Imperialist powers have already destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libiya and Yemen by promoting religious extremism in those countries. The extremist terrorism that has now come into this country will not do the local Muslim community any good. I hope the danger of isolating local Muslims from other communities in this country would have dawned on our Muslim leaders at least at this late stage. All other communities must get together and protect the moderate Muslims at this juncture. Every Muslim for his part should use his own reason and eschew narrow religion based politics. That change should come from within the Muslim community. When the people of different communities in this country are uniting against terrorism, we expect the moderate Sri Lankan Muslim community to join them, following the example set by the vast majority of the global Muslim community. I wish to emphatically state before the people of Sri Lanka, that terrorism will not be allowed to exist in this country under a government led by me.”