Eastern Provincial Council destroyed- Hafiz

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Published by : CT WEB 2017-11-21 02:42:25

BY Mirudhula Thambiah

Minority Matters

Former Eastern Provincial Council (EPC) Chief Minister and current Deputy Leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Hafiz Naseer Ahamed said that following the dissolution of the Eastern Provincial Council, matters such as transfers and development projects in the region are disappointing.

"We managed to establish a system where we looked after all the officers in the area. Thus, they delivered results. Ultimately all those things have been destroyed because a dictator has come to help the province and is trying destabilizing the entire system," he said.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Being the Deputy Leader of the SLMC, how do you view the Ginthota incident?

A: A very unfortunate incident. This had been repeated throughout the country. This must be stopped completely. These types of incidents are repeatedly occurring even under the Yahapalanaya Government and it is questioning the country's law and order.

The minorities of this country are, from time to time caught unawares by such incidents. They must be protected. This will destabilize the economy of the country.

This is what Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime did and finally they had to pay the price. We all expect that the President and Prime Minister to take some serious action over this incident. They should take steps to put a full stop to such incidents.

As long as law and order is enforced immediately, these incidents will never be repeated.

Being the former Chief Minister of the Eastern Province how do you assess the current political situation in the region?

A: We established a very strong unity administration. But very unfortunately all this has been undone soon after the Council's dissolution. There has been no development since we left. Look at the development side, nothing had happened so far. Up to now, not a single cent has been received by the Governor or the Council. Even the ongoing projects have been at a standstill.

Apart from these, there are so many other activities happening with political motivation. Officers are being transferred. This is the end of the year. Generally, no transfers are implemented at this time, unless there is some major reason. So, many secretaries and other officers are being transferred without any reason, irrespective of their contribution and importance.

Such acts have totally destabilized the Council. Since it is the end of year, officials have to follow their ongoing projects and close their accounts and if there are any transfers, they have to handover procedures to other officers. But nothing of that sort had happened. On Saturday, letters are prepared and by Monday, the officers have been transferred. Most of these are punishment transfers.

However, according to media, the Governor says he did it to give promotions to these employees, or simply transferring those who have served at the same place for five years or more. This is an absolute lie. I have the entire list of those who have been transferred and not served five years. None of them have been given promotions with some even demoted.

"We managed to establish a system where we looked after all the officers in the area. Thus, they delivered results. Ultimately all those things have been destroyed because a dictator has come to help the province and is trying destabilizing the entire system," he said.

Since the EPC stands dissolved, isn't it the routine for all powers to be vested with the Governor?

A: We are quite doubtful. It should go back to the President. This could have been tackled in a different form. The people of the East did nothing wrong.

The government deliberately postponed elections for their advantage. It is not for the people's advantage. They did so many activities. You know the 20th Amendment and how they postponed elections through Parliament. That was totally wrong.

When they brought an amendment to Parliament, it challenged the political rights of all minorities.

Bringing in a single administrator to sabotage all that we have done is not acceptable.

But why did you support the 20th Amendment at the EPC?

A: We have no problem with the 20th Amendment which says that the current system will continue. The present body elected by the people will continue for one year. They gave a valid reason to say we don't want to have different elections on different dates, but have one election for all provincial councils. This is a reasonable platform for everybody.

The damage was done during Mahinda Rajapaksa's rule, but they wanted to correct it. In 2017, three provincial councils were going to be dissolved. Now, they will postpone that to 2018 and advance 2019 to 2018. Therefore, they fixed the date. They fixed it on 26 September according to the Amendment in Parliament. There was nothing wrong with 20th Amendment, especially in postponing the election to have the elected body to run the council. But here they have totally messed up the whole thing and brought in the mixed system with the new electoral reforms without even giving notice to public. Therefore, it is a kind of manipulation to their own advantage.

Electoral reforms do not safeguard minority rights and particularly that of the Muslim community. I have done the entire analysis. This will be totally detrimental to Muslims. Also the Tamils outside North and East, particularly the upcountry Tamils and smaller parties are affected.

Tell us what repercussions would SLMC face at the upcoming elections due to the recent splits within the party?

A: I don't see any challenges for SLMC. We are confident that we will definitely be able to sweep the entire local authority system.

We will perform better than ever.

My suggestion is that we must contest alone, from Kuchchaveli to Pottuvil. SLMC must contest alone and prove in all local authorities that we are a leading voice for the Muslim community. There is only one party that functions independently on its own and that is SLMC. There is no other so-called political party that can contest independently and secure a single local authority. It is not a challenge and I'm sure people will agree with us. People have understood political changes and challenges that are happening right now.

When you were CM of the Eastern Province, you have continuously emphasized on power devolution. What is your stand on the Interim Report by the Constitutional Council Steering Committee?

A: Devolution is very vital to this country and we must work on it very quickly, without any further delay. It is our duty to safeguard our political rights and it is also the government's responsibility. We will fight for whatever we need. Devolution is important for the country to develop. If not it will be the same as always.

What is SLMC's stand on the North-East merger?

A: I always emphasized that it is the government's responsibility to inform the public on their stand on the merger. It is not just passing the ball.

If any negotiation or settlement is to be reached between Muslims and Tamils, we are ready to do that. But the government must say that this is the solution we have proposed. They do not have to pit one party or community against another. They should say this is our solution, do you accept it? Then we can also take a stand. Proposals are collected from every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Ultimately no development had occurred on this regard.

If they want to play, they should not do it by setting Muslims and Tamils to fight each other.

This is my stand and I'm sure even the party would have the same stand. Leader Hakeem is always very positive on this. We are ready to discuss anything, there is no issue. But provided the government gives a word, both TNA and SLMC will discuss it. We are more than welcome to discuss this matter. All have to find a solution at the end. We don't want the Central Government to blame the Muslims and say we are objecting or supporting it.

But according to recent developments, Muslims in the East are against the merger. In such a case how would you tackle the situation even if the government gives a word or plan?

A: As I said, if the government had put up any proposal, it is easy. There is no point in us fighting each other. If they think we are all fools. Then it is absurd to even comment on this.

When you were the CM of Eastern Province, there had been allegations that you discriminated Tamils in providing job opportunities. What have you got to say?

A: It is an absolute lie. I have always said to come up with facts and prove it. I cannot just appoint anyone. If Ihave discriminated, let them find numbers and say it had happened.

I have asked some of the parliamentarians to give the details. Don't just make allegations without proving it.

You have recently mentioned about contesting for the Eravur Urban Council. Why from the Provincial Council to Urban Council?

A: Let's keep all options open. We do not know even if the elections will happen. This is too early for me to comment. But let's see how things turn out.

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