The 19th National Convention of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) brought together all political leaders including President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan along with all other political big wigs irrespective of their political views, highlighting unity amidst diversity, in Ampara last Saturday (19).
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the premier Muslim Party was founded by the late M.H.M. Ashraff in 1981 and played a tremendous role in maintaining unity and integrity when the island nation was traversing the path of a ruthless civil war in the North and the East for three decades.
The SLMC under the guidance of its late Leader M.H.M. Asraff became very active in politics to safeguard the identity, integrity and safety of the Muslims in the North and the East when the LTTE emerged as a superior militant force. So it was the democratic path adopted by the late M.H.M. Asraff that had prevented the Muslims being isolated politically in the North and the East while ensuring their support in maintaining the unity and integrity of the country.
The year 1990 could be considered as a disastrous period for Muslims in the North and the East. In August 1990, the entire Muslim community was driven away from the Northern Province by the LTTE. In the same year in October nearly 150 Muslims were massacred ruthlessly, when they engaged in prayers at the Kattankudy Mosque in the East by the LTTE.
It was at this juncture the SLMC played a remarkable role in safeguarding the dignity of the Muslims who were caught in a situation somewhat between the 'devil and the deep blue sea'.
If it was not for the political strategies of the SLMC, the Muslims in the North and the East would have lost their political identity as a community suppressed by the both sides of the warring factions.
The LTTE later realizing the errors it committed in antagonizing the Muslims in the North and the East had extended its apology with the LTTE Leader V. Prabhakaran meeting SLMC Leader and Minister Rauff Hakeem at the time of the formation of the Tamil National Alliance.
When the SLMC marked the 25th anniversary of the expulsion of Muslims from the Northern Province, in Colombo last year, TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran had admitted that a grave injustice was committed to Muslims by evicting them from the Northern Province by the LTTE.
The Muslims also suffered immensely during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. The communal unrest in the down south against Muslims had led to enormous destruction to the community in 2014.
It was the racist attitude of the Rajapaksa regime that had been the prime factor in minorities in the Island particularly from the North and the East overthrowing the regime in the Presidential and the Parliamentary polls last year.
The TNA and the SLMC being the prime political powers in the North and the East, Leader of the Opposition and TNA Leader R. Sampanthan had also been exemplary in not adopting a confrontational approach with regard to the relations between the TNA and the SLMC and allowing the SLMC hold the Chief Ministerial position in the Eastern Provincial Council.
At the 19th National Convention of the SLMC last Saturday in Ampara, almost all the national parties and their leaders including President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had participated and extended their solidarity with the SLMC as well as reiterating the present government's firm stance on fulfilling the political aspirations of the minorities.
So the 19th National Convention of the SLMC in Ampara had been more than a celebration of a premier Party in the North and the East with all political powers recognizing the political aspirations of the minorities on the path of strengthening peace and reconciliation in the island.