Forging a Muslim alliance

Feb 9 (IL) The Muslim political scene has taken a new turn with plans underway to forge a new alliance among all Muslim political parties to contest the forthcoming general election scheduled for April 2 under one banner.

Muslim theologians, intellectuals, university students and other members of civil society in the Eastern province are also pressurizing the Muslim parliamentarians to come under one umbrella, resulting in a stronger representation in parliament.

This latest development of a Muslim alliance came after talks between the Athaullah and Hakeem factions of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) broke down last month. Athaullah faction leader S. Subairdeen said that even though both parties were ready to unite, SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem's stand that he cannot make any sacrifices was the hitch which led to the break down in talks.

Since breaking away from the SLMC in late 2002, the Athaullah faction has demanded the SLMC leadership to appoint a supreme council to the party, a move which would soften Hakeem's powers as leader of the SLMC, as decisions pertaining to party matters should be taken by the council and not by Hakeem alone. The dissidents have given an undertaking that if Mr. Hakeem agrees to this request they were ready to rejoin the party.

Meanwhile Mr. Hakeem who has already begun his political campaign in the East, told a meeting in Puttalam last week that the SLMC dissidents (Athaullah faction) have shown willingness in joining the party, including many other Muslim Parliamentarians from the North and East have shown interest in contesting under one banner. Meanwhile the Athaullah faction scheduled to meet today will decide whether they would support a main political party, or join the potential Muslim alliance, or else contest independently at the forthcoming election.