Nine Muslim ministers in Sri Lanka on Tuesday announced their resignations from their ministerial portfolios to sit as backbenchers in Parliament for a period of one month during which they have requested the government to investigate allegations against the ministers and the Muslim community expeditiously.
Their decision comes amidst growing concerns over reprisal attacks on the Muslim community following the Easter Sunday terror attacks in April.
“We have taken a collective decision to resign from our portfolios and request the government to expedite their investigations and bring a closure without any further delay,” Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem said. “We expect the government to do this within a period of one month during which we will render our support.”
Hakeem requested the government to hand over investigations to the Colombo Crimes Division and said they are willing to accept any allegations if proved true.
“What is happening today is that innocent Muslims are at the receiving end of hate speech, continued attacks and in peril,” Hakeem said, adding, “There are many who are being arbitrarily detained. This has to end.”
Former Minister Rauff Hakeem was flanked by former Ministers Kabir Hashim, M.H.A Haleem and Rishard Bathiudeen. The state ministers who are vacating their positions include Ali Zahir Maulana, Faizer Cassim, Ameer Ali, H.M.M. Harees and Deputy Minister Abdulla Maharoof.
“It is true that the perpetrators of the April 21 bombings were from our community, but from the first day onwards, we have assisted the Tri-Forces in rooting out these individuals and have complied with the government to bring about a change in our community,” he said. “Yet, we have also suffered immensely during this process.”
He added that Muslims continued to be harassed while many others were languishing in prisons over minor trivial matters which were not connected to the April 21 Easter Sunday terror attacks. “This hate culture and state of impunity must end. If we are satisfied with the progress the government has made, we will reach a decision thereafter.”
“Once every allegation is investigated and this hate culture and impunity is removed, only then we will feel confident to be serving in the government. Until such time we are happy to serve as backbenchers.”
On Monday, the Governor of the Western Province Azath Salley and Governor of the Eastern Province M.L.A.M. Hizbullah submitted their resignations to President Maithripala Sirisena.
Their resignation comes in the wake of a fast by Buddhist monk Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera who demanded that the Governors resign over alleged links to the Easter Sunday terror bombings that claimed over 250 lives on April 21.
In his resignation letter, Governor M.L.A.M Hizbullah states that he has served the Muslim community loyally and his resignation is merely because his community was at stake. “I have been made to understand that unless I resign or I am removed, that my community’s safety cannot be guaranteed.”
Hizbullah added that since the Easter Sunday attacks, there has been a calculated attempt to discredit the Muslim community and create a fear psychosis against the community.