NCM: HAN­DLE WITH CARE

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - EDITORIAL -

The fear about Mus­lims af­ter the April 21 mas­sacre of Chris­tians by a Mus­lim group at three churches and three luxury ho­tels that had en­gulfed the coun­try seems to be fast fad­ing away or no longer ex­ists af­ter the anti-mus­lim ri­ots in Put­ta­lam, Ku­rune­gala and the Gama­paha Dis­tricts on May 12 and 13.

What re­ally hap­pened? Where has the fear gone? Did the ri­ot­ers di­vert the at­ten­tion of the peo­ple by di­vert­ing that of the se­cu­rity forces from re­cov­er­ing swords, knives, ex­plo­sives and other sus­pected items which they had been do­ing dur­ing the search op­er­a­tions af­ter the Easter Sun­day car­nage? Or, was it a Mus­lim bo­gey that had been cre­ated by the me­dia be­fore the anti-mus­lim ri­ots.

It was a strange fear. Catholic schools have not been opened for the sec­ond term yet whereas the other schools have been. At­ten­dance of stu­dents in Gov­ern­ment schools is still very low whereas the tu­ition classes are full of the same stu­dents. Even those who did not send their chil­dren so far to schools had thronged in their thou­sands in ma­jor Bud­dhist tem­ples on the Ve­sak Poya Day which fell on May 18. In fact, the gen­eral mood of the coun­try is al­most back to nor­mal.

How­ever, with the No Con­fi­dence Mo­tion (NCM) against In­dus­try and Com­merce Min­is­ter Rishad Bathi­udeen hav­ing been handed over to Speaker Karu Jaya­suriya by some Op­po­si­tion MPS, there is a danger of flar­ing up of feel­ings once again. Bring­ing in an NCM against a Min­is­ter or any other Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment is a right of the other Mem­bers of the Par­lia­ment.

If they have suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence against an MP, es­pe­cially against a Min­is­ter that he had es­poused ter­ror­ism or com­mit­ted cor­rup­tion, not only have they the right to bring in a mo­tion, but also it is their duty to take him to task, if the Gov­ern­ment did not take ac­tion against him or her.

Here, the al­le­ga­tions are very se­ri­ous in na­ture. They are not per­tain­ing to the usual al­le­ga­tion against Min­is­ter Bathi­udeen about the de­for­esta­tion of the Wil­pattu area. He is here be­ing ac­cused of sup­port­ing the Na­tional Thawheed Jama’ath (NTJ) ter­ror­ists to cold-blood­edly kill around 300 men, women and chil­dren on their holi­est day.

He does not deny some of the deal­ings some peo­ple close to him are said to have had with the suspects of the Easter Sun­day hor­ror but ar­gues that they had been nor­mal busi­ness deal­ings. It is not clear whether the NCM would suc­ceed or at least it would be taken for de­bate since it still lacks nec­es­sary num­bers in Par­lia­ment, de­spite the al­le­ga­tion against the min­is­ter be­ing espous­ing ter­ror­ism.

Al­though Na­tional Free­dom Front (NFF) leader Wi­mal Weer­awansa echoed the fa­mous state­ment -“Ei­ther you are with us or with the ter­ror­ists”- by for­mer US Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush (Jr.) af­ter the Al-qaeda ter­ror at­tack on the World Trade Cen­tre in New York on Septem­ber 11, 2001, even Op­po­si­tion Leader Mahinda Ra­japaksa, who boasts de­feat­ing LTTE ter­ror­ism, has not signed the mo­tion.

Par­lia­ment, in this case, seems to be partly di­vided into party lines and partly on re­li­gious lines, with UNP Catholic MPS sup­port­ing the mo­tion and the Mus­lim MPS of the party op­pos­ing it, de­spite the Mus­lims are worst af­fected as a com­mu­nity by the af­ter­math of the April 21 ter­ror at­tack. Against this back­drop, there is a danger of flar­ing up of anti-mus­lim feel­ings once again, which could again lead to anti-mus­lim ri­ots. That de­pends on the fe­roc­ity of views ex­pressed by those sup­port­ing the NCM and the me­dia be­hav­iour with re­spect to the is­sue.

What could be ex­pected to hap­pen in case of the NCM suc­ceed­ing? Will Bathi­udeen be ar­rested over the al­le­ga­tion that he es­poused ter­ror­ism? Also, what would be the sit­u­a­tion if the mo­tion flopped, since this is a pure num­bers game? It is very un­likely that he would be put be­hind bars, what­ever the out­come of the NCM might be. It is just a po­lit­i­cal game. If the pro­po­nents of the mo­tion have so strong ev­i­dence, which could trap Bathi­udeen for Easter Sun­day mas­sacre, the best way to do so is to ap­proach the CID with doc­u­men­tary proof, which might not whip up com­mu­nal feel­ings among the masses. Nev­er­the­less, now that the mo­tion has been handed over to the Speaker, the politi­cians, es­pe­cially those of the Op­po­si­tion have a duty to han­dle it with care, with­out lead­ing to an­other flare-up of ri­ots.

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