By Latheef Farook
In times of crisis in Sri Lanka, Muslims countries have always come to the island’s rescue with no strings attached. This friendly gesture was demonstrated once again by Muslim countries when they voted against the US sponsored United Nations Human Rights Council resolution against Sri Lanka.
Protest in Colombo on March 15 – pic by Charles Haviland-courtesy of: twitter.com/cfhaviland
While the European countries as a whole sided with the US, almost every Muslim country either supported Sri Lankan or abstained.
For example Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bangladesh Maldives, Mauritania and Indonesia voted against the resolution defying the US.
Four more Muslim countries, Malaysia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan and predominantly Muslim Senegal abstained thus depriving the US of large majority.
Surprisingly our new found friend the Zionist state of Israel co-sponsored the US resolution.
Under the circumstance isn’t it time that Sri Lanka begins to understand who the island’s sincere friends are and cultivate better relationships with them?
However support of Muslim countries has always been taken for granted by not only the island’s politicians and bureaucrats but also the mainstream media which never misses an opportunity to portray a negative picture of Muslims. In the local dailies, especially the English language ones, the three votes of Russia, China and Cuba were given a lot of fanfare on front pages while the larger number of Muslim votes did not merit even a single column space. Sadly this has been the traditional attitude of mainstream media in the island.
Muslims worldwide, especially those in the Middle East, have a fondness for Sri Lanka because of its support for the legitimate Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation of Palestinians lands. From Yemen in the Red Sea to Egypt and even North Africa, the moment they come to know that you are a Sri Lankan a pleasant smile of recognition appears on their faces. The perfunctory response from people of all walks of life in the Arab lands used to be “Oh Bandaranaike “in view of former Prime Minister Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike’s close ties with the Arab world.
Mrs. Bandaranaike pledged in her election manifesto in 1970 that she would shut down the Israeli Mission in Colombo if she was voted to power. On account of this pledge and departing from the established tradition of voting for the UNP, Muslims in large number voted for her United Front government. On assuming office, one of the first steps taken by her government was to fulfill the promise she gave in her manifesto. This decision was welcome with great appreciation and admiration by the Arab countries.
Pakistan was one of the first countries to respond to Sri Lanka’s urgent plea to airlift arms when violent political uprising by Janatha Vimukthi Permuna (JVP) erupted to topple the government. This timely help played a crucial role in crushing the uprising.
Later, as an influential member of the Non Aligned Movement, Mrs. Bandaranaike had been in the forefront of world events in highlighting Third World issues and thus was in the limelight in the third world countries .This put the tiny island on the international political map. Muslim countries like Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Algeria and others co-operated fully with her government when the island hosted the 1976 Non Aligned Nations’ Summit Conference in Colombo.
Muslim nations supported Ms. Bandaranaike with one voice in the United Nations General Assembly when she submitted the Non Aligned Colombo Summit proposal to declare “Indian Ocean a Zone of Peace”. Her speech at the UN General Assembly, as head of the Non Aligned Movement, was completely ignored by the Jewish controlled Western media while it received wide coverage throughout the Muslim world.
Under strong Israeli pressure, when Britain threatened to boycott Sri Lankan tea, then Trade Minister T.B.Ilangaratne, said in defiance that “Sri Lankans may eat grass, but would not change the decision to close down the Israeli mission here”.
This firm policy of supporting the just struggle of Palestinian cause won the hearts and minds of people in the Middle East and elsewhere. Countries like Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Iran emerged as some of the largest importers of the island’s tea and other products.
In the same vein as President of the Sri Lankan Committee for Palestinian People, President Mahinda Rajapakse supported the Palestinians for three long decades. He handed over that responsibility to Minister Athauda Seneviratne only after assuming office as Prime Minister.
Of course these friendly ties continued unabated though disrupted time and again during the pro Western United National Party governments. For example President J.R.Jayawardene declared arrogantly that he would bring the Israelis to crush the Tamil Tigers and the Muslim members could leave the government if they disagree.
He forced his foreign Minister A.C.S Hameed to support the move in parliament. Hameed did support the move in the parliament for reasons better known to him but never forgave himself for this act until he went to his grave. Dr M.C.M. Kaleel, the respected Chairman of United National Party who spent his life for the party was devastated and humiliated on account of this act of betrayal by J.R. Jayawardene. Fed up of Jayewardene’s arrogance, Muslims shifted their loyalties to the All Ceylon Muslim Congress which, further polarized the communities, and turned out to be a tragedy of Himalayan proportions to the Muslims in particular and the country as a whole.
However to Jayewardene’s shock and embarrassment, instead of helping to wipe out the Tamil Tigers, the Israelis who thrive on others’ misery trained both the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lanka’s armed forces simultaneously in the same area as stated in the Israeli spy’s book “By Way of Deception”.
In the footstep of Late President Jayewardene, equally pro western Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe’s government was perhaps the only third world government in the word to support the American invasion of Iraq which turned the hapless nation into a grave yard. When Muslim parliamentarians resisted Mr. Wickremasinghe, he in the same degree of arrogance as his uncle told them”you can leave the government if you disagree with party policy”. Despite Jayewardene’s and Ranil Wickremasinghe’s pro Western policy of hob knobbing with Israelis, Muslim countries always continued their friendly ties with Sri Lanka. Israel has once again, true to form, has stabbed Sri Lanka by stabbing the nation in the back.
Meanwhile when the development boom began in the Gulf countries in the aftermath of the oil boom in the early 1970s, these countries opened their doors for the island’s workforce. Since then there are around a million Sri Lankans workers in the six member Gulf Cooperation Council countries which include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain. They remit billions and help our economy besides paving the way for better political, economic, cultural and social ties.
Muslim countries stood behind Sri Lanka and its people even in the recent effort to crush the LTTE. In fact many Muslim countries especially Pakistan, Libya and Iran helped the island a great deal during the island’s final assault in the defeat of the Tamil Tigers. Moreover, Muslim countries like Pakistan, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have given billions in aid for numerous development projects. Sadly hardly any articles appear in the local newspapers, mags or TV giving due coverage to such positive stories. Instead, what we see are highly negative stories when a housemaid falls into trouble with her employers.
Ignoring all these facts many politicians, bureaucrats, professionals and the media in general openly hobnob with the Israelis paying no attention to the feelings of the Arabs or Muslim community in the island.
Some may ask “what is wrong in establishing ties with Israel as some Arab countries too recognized Israel”. Yes, some Arab dictators recognized Israel to please America so that their power could be maintained and keep the looted wealth of their people in Swiss banks. However people in these countries treated these tyrants with contempt as they watch the atrocities Israel commits on a daily basis against the hapless Palestinians.
In fact traditionally the island’s mainstream media has been rather indifferent towards Muslim issues both here and abroad. This could be partly attributed to their being brainwashed by the Western media, an integral extension of the West’s war machine, for their international coverage. The Western media has been employed by US led European war mongers to justify their invasions and destructions of poor Third World countries which include Vietnam and many South American, African and Arab nations. Inevitably the local media, depending on this propaganda machine, too come under their influence and thus fail to highlight the plight of the victims of US-European aggressions.
As a result local media too have been influenced by the Western media’s evil campaign against Islam and Muslims .This perhaps may be the reason why the local media fail to highlight Anglo-American genocides in Iraq, Afghanistan ,Palestine, Somalia Yemen and now in Pakistan to cite a few cases. Here too, except for a few, they are afraid to publish the victims’ sufferings even if they are provided with the facts as they are.
For example, wide publicity was given to around 300 Sri Lankans recruited to work in the Israeli agricultural sector. However more than a million Sri Lankans happily live and work in the Gulf States. Do the local media highlight these positive developments? Instead even before verifying the truth, media scream highlighting incidents involving problems of maids projecting Gulf people as whole as heartless barbarians.
Isn’t it time that the country as a whole and the ultra nationalist who got into powerful positions, open their eyes and realize the reality and change their views on local Muslims and Muslim countries in their own interests and in the interest of the country?