Sri Lanka's Muslim party to support opposition candidate

The leader of Sri Lanka's main Muslim party resigned from the Sri Lankan cabinet on Sunday to lend his support to the opposition candidate in upcoming presidential elections. 

Sri Lanka's Muslim party to support opposition candidate

World Bulletin/News Desk

Sri Lanka's largest Muslim political party on Sunday defected from President Mahinda Rajapaksa's camp to support the opposition candidate in next month's presidential election, Associated Press reported.

The report states that the announcement of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress is a major blow to Rajapaksa's campaign for a third term in office, with more than 20 lawmakers and ministers already defecting to the opposition.

Party leader and Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem also resigned from the Cabinet.

“It is the politically and morally correct decision. It is also a well-considered decision, taking into account certain issues that affected the SLMC’s (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) electoral base that were unaddressed,” the party's General-Secretary, T. Hassen Ali said.

Ameer Faaiz, an official of the party that represents minority Muslims in overwhelmingly Buddhist Sri Lanka, cited the Rajapaksa administration's "intolerance toward religious minorities" and disagreement with his style of rule.

He said the party consulted its supporters and they would throw their support behind his rival Maithripala Sirisena.

An attack on Muslims in June that was provoked by a Sri Lankan Buddhist ultranationalist and left three dead and dozens injured exacerbated ethnic tensions in the aftermath of a decades-long civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels that ended in 2009.

Party insiders said the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress believed the government has not provided justice for the Muslim community from attacks on their mosques and businesses.

The Sri Lankan Government has been accused of fanning the flames of extremism and links with the radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena, who were allegedly involed in an attack on a Muslim community in June which killed three people and injured dozens. Bodu Bala Sena or Buddhist Power Force accused of instigating the violence has announced its support to Rajapaksa in the election.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress has eight seats in parliament with 13 members in Provincial Councils and over 100 members in Pradeshiya Sabhas, the divisional councils in Sri Lanka.

Sirisena is a former health minister who split from Rajapaksa last month to run for president in the biggest challenge for the incumbent since he was first elected in 2005.

Rajapaksa's critics say he enjoys excessive powers under a system known as "executive presidency" that has given his family a tight grip on the economy and politics. The president has said he will abolish the additional powers, but he made the same pledge before he was elected in 2005 and 2010.

The latest defections from Rajapaksa's ruling coalition suggest that Sirisena will narrowly win the presidency, Eurasia Group's Sasha Riser-Kositsky said in a research note on Monday.

It added that, regardless of which candidate comes to power, the new government will be politically weak and likely to pursue nationalist and populist policies at the expense of economic liberalisation.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Ocak 2015, 11:32