Post and Telecommunication Minister Rauff Hakeem informed Parliament yesterday that he participated at the government`s `Rising of the East` ceremony with much reluctance, as it was a political exercise built on military gains that made the Tamils feel a `conquered people`.
Addressing the House just hours after taking part in the ceremony presided over by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and attended by government members, Minister Hakeem, who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) said leaders should not seek political mileage and score `brownie points` off military victories.
`I attended today`s ceremony with much reluctance as I did not want to be seen as one who is opposed to the security forces`, he said during the debate calling for fresh nominations for Local Government polls in the East.
Making a hard-hitting statement, he added, `War rhetoric at such ceremonies will not promote harmony. In fact they only add insult to injury to the Tamils by giving the impression that they are a conquered people. Blowing one`s trumpet to a captive southern audience won`t help unite the country. Why have a national event and choose an address to the nation to score political brownie points? `
He said civilized humans should celebrate the end of wars and not the wars.
The Minister noted that he could not say such things without `stepping on toes`, but was doing so as he could not blindly applaud the vanity displayed at the `Rising of the East` ceremony.
`The leader of the SLMC does not want to be a cheerleader` he said, adding that when choosing between two evils, one should try and mitigate the harm caused by the chosen alternative.
Quoting Ernest Hemingway he said, `The first panacea for a mismanaged country is inflation of currency. The second is war. Both bring temporary prosperity. Both bring temporary ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists`.
`The sacrifices by the armed forces are indeed laudable. But we must take note of what lurks behind. Several armed groups are patrolling areas where elections are to be held. Are we able to hold free and fair elections in such a situation? Can we disarm these groups? Can we afford to further sully our already tarnished international image by holding an election that could be rigged and would put the lives of the candidates in jeopardy? ` he asked.Mr. Hakeem noted that the decision to hold elections in the East should come from the representatives of the people in the areas and not from those holding power at the centre. `Elections must be held only when all parties agree that there is sufficient security to hold elections`, he said.
He concluded by urging President Mahinda Rajapaksa to purse the path of peace and ensures the safety of liberated areas in the East, so that voters could cast their ballot without fear of intimidation or violence.