Muslims Should Be Heard is an excerpt from the parliamentary debate of Hon.Lakshman Kadiiragamar on 21st October 2003. It delves on 11 points why Muslims should be heard to achieve lasting solutions to the ethnic conflict in our country.
Before delving further into the booklet, I would like to give a brief about Late Lakshman Kadiragamar with whom I was associated for sometimes in his pursuit for peace building in Sri Lanka and around the world.
I see him a world class visionary, whether about resolving Sri Lankan issues or global issues. Regarding Sri Lankan issues he emerged beyond the confines of his community, party affiliations and other ethnic political identities in advocating what is right to be done in the country as an astute statesman.
I remember the first time I met him, he assigned me the task of developing a Diploma Programme in Islamic Studies for the Bandaranayake Centre for International Studies BCIS. This was sometime after the 9/11 attack on New York Twin Towers. I asked him why a programme on Islamic Studies. His prompt answer was that “Islamic will be dominating the 21st Century therefore it is better to equip the diplomats and those in Foreign Service with a general understanding of Islam, its socio, political and economic thoughts”. He said that “in a world dominated by the media, the military industrial complexes, the Multi-national Corporation influencing power it will take a long time to understand the truth about the War on terror unleashed on the world”. Therefore it is important for Sri Lankan diplomats in particular to understand the socio-political and economic dimension of Islam to prevent Sri Lanka from getting sucked into the machinations of global powers.”
His thoughts on the post 9/11 ever emerging new scenario and how the world will get sucked in rates him a leader Par Excellence.
Coming to the Booklet, Muslims Must be heard. The 11 points he raised at the parliament is so deep and pregnant with deeper insights and I believe that this review cannot fathom some of his deeper thoughts in this small review. However to do justice to this review I wish to explore the 11 points thus:
1st Consideration: He emphasizes that ‘durable peace can come only if the just aspirations of all communities in the country are met, and stresses that ‘Unless the Muslim interests are taken into account and accommodated there will be no prospect whatsoever of a durable peace.’
2nd Consideration: He pointed to the then government that the CFA reached between the Government and the LTTE was frail and lacked protection to the Muslim community in the East in particular in spite of the Muslims being non-belligerent. His contention then is as valid even now. That the Muslim position in the post war reconciliation process is not equitable and they are yet to be heard.
3rd Consideration: In further critiquing the CFA, he also critiques the lack of vision of the Muslim political leadership for failing to position them to prevent further harm to the Muslim community through the CFA. This also raise the question about the status of the current Muslim political leadership whether they have matured enough to represent the Muslim interest in the ongoing reconciliation processes and find the rightful place for the Muslim community.
His 4th Consideration is very unique. He has defined what the Muslim Community is. This is something even the Muslim leaders have failed to define so comprehensively. While talking about the rights of the Tamils he alleges that Muslims are not similar to Tamils and hence calls for a different but alternative approach to their situation. In pressing the Muslim case, he defines the muslin dimension thus: ‘The Muslim dimension is something else; it is different, because there is a religious bond that holds the Muslim community cohesively together’. And goes on to add ‘the Muslims are not a linguistic community. Their aspirations are different from those of the ethnic Tamil community. By catering to the linguistic aspirations of the ethnic Tamil community, we are not dealing with the concerns of the Muslim community’. This is something that all those involved in the reconciliation processes must take note of that Muslim are different.
His 5th and 6th considerations are about providing adequate security to the Muslim in the East and to prevent Muslim youth from taking to arms to defend themselves. This is very important even now, especially in our time where there are global conflicts enveloping us. Any failure to equitably and justly resolve the current issues may produce disfranchised youth seeking to find their own solutions. Therefore an inclusive reconciliation process is an imperative.
His 7th Consideration is about the plight of the Muslim IDPs evicted from the Northern Province. At the time he raised this issues in the Parliament it was 13 years since eviction. Now it is 26 years the Muslim IDPs are still languishing and living a permanently impermanent life. The government, the international community and the Tamil political leadership must note their responsibility. Kadiragamer alleges that ‘this kind of discrimination is grossly unfair. It should not be tolerated either at home or by the International Community’.
His 8th point is a critique on the Muslim political leadership for failing to garner the opportunity to represent the Muslims as an independent entity at the negotiations. Regarding this he says that ‘the Muslim community as one of the communities directly affected in the North and East by a final political outcome seeks to be represented independently as a third party to the negotiations which are supposed to lead to an overall political solution. There cannot be a viable final and durable political solution to the problem unless the Muslim community is heard and accommodated in its own right and not by proxy.’ This is pertinent even today, as to what extent are the Muslim interest accommodated in the reconciliation process is yet to be known?
9th and 10 considerations call for a collective and consensual approach from the Muslim community to represent them in future talks.
In his final point, He confirms the endorsement of the International Community at the Tokyo Declaration on 10th June 2003 about the importance of taking full account of the delicate ethnic and geographical balance in the North and East and the need to move ‘expeditiously to a lasting and equitable political settlement based upon respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law… and the agreement of the Tokyo Declaration and Thailand Peace Talks to allow participation of Muslim delegations.’
Having gone through the 11 points of Late Lakshman Kadiragamar emphasising that Muslim must be heard in his adjournment speech in the Parliament on 21st October 2003, The review of thoughts about the Muslims, points to the fact that Muslim are yet to be heard and must be heard to find a lasting solution in our troubled nation.