COLOMBO: The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has quit the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp, and has pledged support to Maithripala Sirisena, the joint opposition candidate in the January 8, 2015 Lankan Presidential election.
Announcing this on Sunday, SLMC chief and Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem said that the main reason for quitting the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa is that the latter had enacted the 18th Constitutional Amendment abolishing the Independent Commissions set up to oversee governance. Sirisena, on the other hand, has promised to restore the Independent Commissions by re-enacting the repealed 17th Amendment.
Alluding to the anti-Muslim riots in Aluthgama and the attacks on mosques, Hakeem said that the Muslims, as a community, had suffered under the Rajapaksa regime. Hakeem’s exit became inevitable after another Muslim party, All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) left the UPFA citing injustice to the Muslims under the Rajapaksa regime.
With the two largest Muslim parties out of the UPFA, Rajapaksa, who is seeking a third Presidential term, is unlikely to get Muslim votes.
Rajapaksa is unlikely to get the Tamil votes too. While the Indian Origin Tamils (IOT) have abandoned him, the “Sri Lankan Tamils” living in the North and East, are not enthusiastic about the election. However, if pressed to vote by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), they will vote for Sirisena. The TNA is yet to make its stand officially known.
Explaining the Tamil position, TNA leader M K Sivajilingam said: “Neither Rajapaksa nor Sirisena has said that our long-standing demand for devolution of power and a federal constitution will be met. Both have rejected our demand for an international investigation into war crimes. Polling will be low unless the TNA really goes the whole hog to make the people vote.”
According a recent survey, Rajapaksa has an edge in 12 of the 22 electoral districts, and Sirisena in 10. But while Rajapaksa is ahead in the Sinhalese majority districts, Sirisena is ahead in districts with a large Tamil and Muslim population. Sirisena’s victory depends on a massive Tamil turnout.