Thursday, 5 June 2014 01:12
By Ashwin HemmathagamaOur Lobby Correspondent
Minister of Justice Rauff Hakeem who was denied his right to speak as a party leader on Tuesday making use of Section 23 (2) of the Standing Orders, as seen by the Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody as an act “against the traditions and practice” by a member who is “not recognised as a party leader,” took up the battle with both the Government and the United National Party yesterday.
Starting with the UNP for undermining the Muslim Congress and ethnic minority and their political leadership, Minister Hakeem said: “The Opposition was very harsh on minority political parties. The UNP talks about multiparty democracy in the country, but it is in the forefront to deny our right to raise issues in this House. If you try to say that I am a member of the UNP to my party members in the Eastern Province, you will have to prove it at an election. At election times you want our support and come to understandings with us. But when it comes to our rights, as a party leader it is unfair to make such statements.”
Continuing his position by way of a ministerial statement subject to his right and without prejudice to his right to agitate to raise matters under Section 23 (2) of the Standing Orders after having discussed the matters with the Speaker and agreed yesterday at the party leaders’ meeting, Minister Hakeem said: “It is with absolute dismay that I read the distressing news item in the Daily Mirror on 3 June under the title ‘Muslims to remove Dambulla Prayer Centre’. First and foremost, the reference to this site as a mere prayer centre is incorrect. It is a mosque that was well-established and used as such for many years. The incidents connected with this mosque including attacks on it are in the public domain and of concern to all Muslims. This is an issue that was even raised as one that impeded the religious rights of a minority during the last Geneva meeting of the UNHCHR. The Ministry of Religious Affairs could have resolved this issue or the parties involved could have followed legal recourse. The President has also promised to intervene and had in fact assured the Muslim Ministers that it would be settled in accordance with the law after identifying alternative land.
“In this context, we are concerned why a particular group has suddenly surfaced to represent the Muslims and submerge the fundamental question of the right to worship of a minority in total secrecy in a process that is neither transparent nor equitable. On whose directions are they acting? It is highly improper for any unknown group claiming to represent the Muslims to arrive at a settlement that did not involve Muslim Ministers who were totally immersed in resolving the issue at a national level. Who gave these groups, the Wakf Board, the Ulema Organisation and the Muslim Youth Organisation, the right to interfere in an issue that disturbed the entire Muslim community?
“What does this solution offer to the concerned community of Muslims living in that area? Are they to leave the area? Are they to refrain from practicing their faith? Has anybody in authority found an alternative location for the Mosque? Why would the Chief Prelate Ven. Innamluwe Sumangala Thero of the Rangiri Dambulla Rajamaha Viharaya negotiate with unknown entities who claim to represent the affected Muslims? Why would he volunteer to lay the foundation stone for a mosque elsewhere when a consensual decision has not been reached with the persons who are directly affected? I see this as a surreptitious effort to bury a problem, unilaterally devoid of any semblance of justice or fairness,” charged Minister Hakeem.