By Chandani Kirinde
Former Governor of the Eastern Province M.L.A.M. Hizbullah told a Parliamentary Select Committee yesterday that he lost the 2015 General Election because Mohamed Zahran, who masterminded the Easter Sunday terror attacks, had worked against him.
“In the General Elections, Zahran worked against me. I couldn’t get around 2,000 votes because of him. I lost my chance to enter Parliament by 121 votes. When I was appointed through the National List slot after that, Zahran got his supporters to stage protests against my appointment,” Hizbullah told the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) looking into the Easter Sunday terror attacks.
The former Governor denied he had any connection with the terror group leader, and said he never helped him, nor did he get any help from him.
“I am the happiest person that Zahran died, because now I can win the next election without any trouble from his group,” he said.
Hizbullah, who resigned from the post of Governor due to pressure for him to step down over alleged support to the terror outfit, told the Committee that Zahran supported Maithripala Sirisena in the 2015 Presidential Election.
“I worked for candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa in the election campaign, while Zahran was working against Rajapaksa. He was supporting Sirisena. He was against me too,” Hizbullah said.
The former Governor disclosed that he met Zahran in 2015.
“He had extreme views, but he was not a terrorist then. He was a leader of a religious group. He summoned all candidates who contested for our district in the 2015 Parliamentary Election for a meeting. There, he sought our agreement with a list of demands prepared by him. The list contained demands with regard to use of loudspeakers, seating arrangements for women at public events, etc. We all agreed with him. Even Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, UNP, and UPFA candidates were there. Because we needed his support, we agreed with his demands. He had command of around 2,000-3,000 votes. In an election, all votes are important,” he said.
Hizbullah said that Zahran went missing from Kattankudy in 2017, after a warrant was issued for his arrest. “We heard of him again only after the Easter Sunday disaster.”
Hizbullah said Zahran’s group’s members had links with army personnel. “There was one person known as Army Mohideen. I think in that time Mohideen had deserted the army. He worked closely with Zahran’s group. The army men in our area were also seen with Zahran and his members. One such member was Niaz, a leading member of Zahran’s group.”
Asked of his recent comments that while in Sri Lanka, Muslims are a minority, but are a majority globally, Hizbullah said that statement had been distorted by media.
“My intention was to alleviate the fears of Muslim people, who had been terrified and worried about backlash. I wanted to give them confidence to resume their livelihood and to return to normalcy. That’s why I told Muslim people not to harbour any fears, and reminded them that we might be a minority in this country, but in the global context, we are the majority.”
The Parliamentary Select Committee consists of Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Dr Nalinda Jayatissa, Prof Ashu Marasinghe, Dr Jayampathi Wickremeratne, Rauff Hakim, Ananda Kumarasiri, MA Sumanthiran, and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.