COLOMBO: The senior-most leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Hasen Ali, has rebelled against the party, complaining of a consistent bid by the party establishment to engineer his exit by stripping him of his powers as the party's general secretary.
Ali (70) was conspicuous by his absence at SLMC’s 19th Grand Convention at Palamunai in Ampara district on Saturday in which the chief guest was president Maithripala Sirisena.
Ali’s boycott caught the media’s attention almost as much as the president's speech in which he ridiculed his rival Mahinda Rajapaksa’s demand that power be handed back to him.
Ali told Express that as the “sole surviving founder-member of the SLMC,” he could not be treated so shabbily.
He recalled that it was with great difficulty that Ashraf and he formed the party and fought the first-ever election to the newly formed North Eastern Provincial Council in the late 1980s in the face of threats to their lives from the LTTE.
Regretting that the party's leadership had not given him a chance to enter parliament through an election, Ali said that the last time he contested for the Eastern Provincial Council, he got the single largest number of preferential votes in Amparai district.
“Despite my capabilities they would always make me a National List MP ( which is by nomination and not election) because they can get rid of me at any time,” Ali alleged.
He further said he had been stripped of his powers to make party leader Rauff Hakeem supreme.
“My colleagues and I raised objections to this. Talks were held and I was promised that my powers would be restored before the party convention. But the promise was not kept. That is why I stayed away from the convention,” Ali said.
Asked if he would now leave the party and join Rishad Bathiyutheen’s All Ceylon Makkal Congress, which is the other Muslim power centre, Ali said he would never leave the SLMC.
“I will not leave a party of which I am a founder-member, the sole surviving one at that. Negotiations are still on and I am hopeful that my powers will be restored,” he said.
SLMC was formed primarily to safeguard the interest of Muslims against aggressive encroachments by the Tamil militants and Sinhalese colonists in East Sri Lanka.
According to Ali, the present leader of the SLMC does not feel for the Eastern Muslims as he is from Kandy. His stand on the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces will be tailored to suit his ambition in national politics, Ali said.
Ali’s stand is that if the North and East are merged to form a single Tamil-speaking province, as per the demand of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), then the Muslims should be given a separate but non-contiguous autonomous unit comprising the Muslim areas of the East and North West, on the pattern of Puduchery in India.