By Azra Ameen
The dispute between the two Muslim ministers and political leaders, Rauff Hakeem and A.L.M. Athaullah, has proved to be beyond the problem solving capabilities of the senior committee appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to break the deadlock.
The two leaders, Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and Athaullah the Muslim National Congress (MNC) have been at loggerheads following clashes that erupted in the East last week. According to a senior government official, who did not wish to be named, the special committee had been appointed to resolve the issue and patch up things between the two ministers, after both of them had complained to the President and demanded a special investigation into the incident.
General Secretary of SLMC, Hassan Ali, said the party was not aware of such a committee and declined to comment on the issue. However, that SLMC alleged that on Monday (13) Minister Hakeem had been obstructed from attending an Iftar ceremony, by the police and several supporters of Minister Athaulllah. Hassan Ali earlier said SLMC candidates were being threatened by other political parties and this has been disrupting the party’s campaign for the Eastern Provincial Council Elections. “Candidates of the other parties are being backed by the government and the police. Several incidents have been reported from many areas where the police are part of the intimidation and violence that took place in the east,” he said. A senior officer attached to the Police Eastern Range dismissed the allegations made by the SLMC and said they are conducting an impartial investigation into all incidents.
“We have beefed up security in the East and have been on a drive to disarm all political groups. In comparison to the previous election, the level of violence and violations in the East are minimal this year. We are currently probing into the recent clash between the SLMC and the MNC,” he said. Minister Athaullah was unavailable for comment despite several attempts made to contact him.