Mangala’s Palestine dilemma

Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera first faced criticism — even detrimental to his political career– over his stand taken regarding a Palestine issue way back when he held the same post during the early part of the 2005/2010 government of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was even stripped of his portfolios, prompting him to choose a new path in politics.

Again on Tuesday, he had a salvo from the Muslim Ministers at the cabinet meeting as reported over a Sri Lanka’s abstention from the vote of the UNESCO to adopt a resolution recognizing the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem recently. The powerful countries such as the United States were not in favour of the resolution.

Almost all the Muslim Ministers, including Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Minister Rauff Hakeem, Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faiszer Mustapha raised concerns about Sri Lanka’s abstention. After the matter cropped up, Minister Samaraweera clarified the reason for Sri Lanka’s abstention. He cited that the resolution had been drafted in Arabic referring to it only as a place of Islamic worship. The Minister was taken to task in this regard, though. It led to an exchange of words among members.

At one point, it is learnt that Highways and Higher Education Minister Lakshman Kiriella shot back saying the United National Party (UNP) always stood for the rights of Muslims in Sri Lanka. “It was we, not the Muslim members, who spoke on behalf of Muslims attacked in Beruwala during the previous rule,” he reportedly said.

At the same time, Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka reminded how Mr. Samaraweera even lost his ministerial portfolio because of a stand taken against Palestine in the past.

Be that as it may, the Muslim politicians will not stop at that. Last week, SLMC MP Ali Zuhair Moulana gave notice to the Speaker on an adjournment motion to be taken in the House questioning as to why Sri Lanka has deviated from its pro-Palestine policies. It is to be seconded by MP A.H.M. Salman.


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