SLMC asks govt. to lift emergency, jettison Gnanasara report, review Easter attack probe

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Conditions for supporting all-party intitiative

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has set several conditions for its support for the proposed ‘National All-Party Programme’.

Among the SLMC’s demands are the immediate lifting of the emergency regulation, discontinuation of the ongoing wave of arrests, the jetitioning of reports commissioned by ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and review of investigations into 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.The SLMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket whereas one was elected under its own symbol. The SLMC parliamentary group comprises five MPs.

The following is the text of the letter dated Aug 10 SLMC Leader Rauff Hakeem, MP and its general Secretary Nizam Kariapper addressed the meeting : “Reference your letter dated 29th July 2022, we welcome your efforts to initiate a broad dialogue regarding the above subject. We appreciate the re-introduction of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and the proposal to reactivate and re-energise the Parliamentary Oversight Committees in order to fulfill the above objectives.

The High Command of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress wishes to place before you the following issues for which a positive response from you in order to create a conducive climate for us to discuss further co-operation to be extended:

1. To lift the State of Emergency and discontinue arrests and harassment targeting peaceful protesters and their leaders. Many of these arrests are unwarranted and would be inimical to the maintenance of normalcy causing further embarrassment to the government in the forthcoming sessions of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. It is also our contention that some of these arrests have raised concerns regarding the proper enforcement of the rule of law in the country and may act as a disincentive for investment inflows and impact tourist arrivals as well.

2. In keeping with your Statement made to Parliament during the ceremonial sittings in order to achieve the objective of a liberal, tolerant and secular nation, it is important that you make a clear commitment to jettison reports commissioned by the former President under the theme “One Country, One Law “headed by a radical cleric, known for his bigotry and prejudice. The minority communities have been disproportionately targeted by suggestions made for reform in their practices, belief systems and personal laws resulting in much consternation among Muslims in particular.

3. Similarly, the appointment of another Commission purportedly to safeguard archaeological sites in the Eastern Province, with no representation for any minority community, giving the impression that the archaeological sites in the Eastern Province are in danger of being destroyed or encroached upon illegally by the people living in those provinces, is seen as another futile exercise which has caused much heartburn among Muslims and Tamils. There are various government institutions including the Department of Archaeology having stringent laws at their disposal to ensure and protect any violation of the law. This was perceived by the Muslims and the Tamils living in the Eastern Province as a deliberate attempt at polarization of the communities by the previous administration. We will very much appreciate that you take appropriate steps to allay the fears and concerns that the appointment of this Commission and its mandate has created.

4. The probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the manner in which some of the cases connected have been pursued leaves much to be desired. We expect a proper review of the investigations conducted to ensure that justice is served to the aggrieved parties and unnecessary and unwarranted insinuations and action pursued against innocent people including former high ranking members of the Police Department who had unblemished service records. Concerns expressed by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and many others with regard to mishandled investigation and deliberate attempts at concealing or diverting evidence and failure to investigate certain incidents properly to shed light on other hidden factors. We, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress has thoroughly examined the Presidential Commission Report and evidence led before the Parliamentary Select Committee and are prepared to share our concerns with the investigators to clarify why certain leads had not been properly examined or investigated.

4. Postponed Provincial Council Elections and the local government elections to be conducted under the same proportional representation system as before.

4. While we welcome the upgrading of some local government bodies announced this week we would urge that Mutur PS, Koralaipatthu West PS and Sammanthurai PS be upgraded as urban councils. The recommendation made by the Pannambalana Commission regarding the Koralaipatthu Central DS Division be implemented without delay along with the creation of Thopur DS Division. The Kalmunai Muslim Division/ Kalmunai Tamil Division dispute should be resolved only after a proper re-demarcation of the GN divisions taking into consideration the concerns of both communities in consultation with accredited representatives of the people.

4. It is regretted to note that minorities are being ignored in appointments such as Secretaries to Ministries and other important civil service positions. We would urge you to rectify this anomaly.

4. Constitute a committee to examine petitions by thousands of affected farmers, evicted from lands occupied/cultivated by them, from many parts of the country including the northern and eastern provinces, due to actions initiated by the departments of forests and or wildlife based on gazettes and circulars issued after 2005 ignoring the fact that those plots have been cultivated over several years either owned by them or held under a valid LDO permit. This will assist greatly in your effort to promote cultivation of crops on all available land plots to meet the impending food shortages.”

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