Former Deputy mayor of Colombo and founder leader of the National United Front (NUF) Azath Salley was taken into custody by the Police in the morning of Thursday May 2nd 2013.
pic via ~ facebook.com/mazathssalley
The outspoken Muslim politician was taken away from the residence of a relative in Kolonnawa by a team of Police personnel comprising the Criminal Investigation Dept and Terrorism Investigation dept. Salley had been keeping away from his own house and staying elsewhere to avoid being arrested.
Salley is to be interrogated intensively by the Police on the basis of an allegation that he is involved in a conspiracy to promote terrorism in Sri Lanka. This charge apparently is regarding an interview given by him to the Tamil Nadu bi-weekly magazine “Junior Vikatan”.
According to Defence authorities Azath Salley in the interview had purportedly said that the Muslims too should launch an armed struggle against the state in the same manner in which Tamils conducted a campaign earlier. He had allegedly stated that such a struggle would commence once necessary arms are procured.
These views are perceived by the authorities as “inciting,supporting and promoting terrorism”.
Three more charges against Azath Salley that are to be investigated further by the Police while being detained are the “suspicious”circumstances of his recent visit to the North,Transmitting SMS messages that allegedly promote racism and alleged links with Tamil Diaspora elements connected to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The Police had been summoning Salley for questioning earlier but he had reportedly asked the Police to record his statements directly at his residence. Thereafter Police had gone twice to his house and recorded statements.
When Police went again to the residence Salley was reportedly missing.The Police had gone again and again to the residence but Salley was absent. The cops went away after hanging around the residence for several hours.
Sections of the media then reported that Azath Salley had gone” underground” because he suspected he was going to be arrested. However Salley issued a May day rally call.
Police went to Azath Salley’s relative’s house at Kolonnawa in the early hours of the morning on May 2nd and took him away to the fourth floor for further questioning.
Azath Salley had in recent times earned much popularity because of his open criticism of the Rapaksa regime and the racism against the minority communities in general and Muslims in particular. This enhanced his image in contrast to Muslim ministers in the Government who adopted the “eloquence of silence” on these issues
Salley also went to Tamil Nadu and participated in a public seminar in which he castigated the Rajapaksa Govt strongly.
Azath has also been stridently critical of the “ethno Religious Fascist”Bodhu Bala Sena(BBS) and the anti – Muslim activities of the Jathika Hela Urumaya(JHU).
He was actively engaged in efforts to initiate legal action against both the BBS and JHU .
Salley also promoted greater unity among victimised minority communities against the racism of a section of the majority community. He had been critical of the indirect support given to Sinhala Buddhist racist elements by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother the defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
When Azath Salley’s mother passed away a few weeks ago mammoth crowds from all ethnicities attended the funeral. This was an indicator of his growing popularity due to his firm opposition to the ruling regime and racist organizations.
It is against this backdrop that Azath salley has now been “arrested” for further investigations into his alleged offence of promoting terrorism in Sri Lanka.
Azath Salley had obtained anticipatory bail on an earlier occasion fearing arrest. It is not clear as to what the legal position is regarding his current “arrest”
Azath Salley is the nephew of senior Cabinet minister AHM Fowzie.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org