Minister Rauf Hakeem has crossed swords with the widow of his late leader, Mrs. Fareil Ashraff in what is described by observers as a battle for dominance in the SLMC. He has taken on the government for creating trouble within the SLMC by promoting Mrs. Ashraff against him. He has also faulted the government for non-compliance with regard to his demand for a separate district for Kalmunai.

While Mr. Hakeem’s demands are well defined, his statements are rather baffling. Giving a press conference at a five star hotel in Colombo the other day, he has lambasted some of his cabinet colleagues ‘for attacking the dignity of the SLMC.’

Of the motion of no confidence against the government to be moved by the UNP, some newspapers have quoted him saying that he could be ‘persuaded’ on this matter ‘by either side’ implying that he might side with either the PA or even the UNP.

But in the same breath he says, according to the state controlled The Observer, "Though the SLMC is disillusioned, I had made it clear to the President that the party will not be a threat to her government. Certain Cabinet colleagues are trying to create problems between the People’s Alliance and the SLMC, but we would like to see the President as an astute and a minority-friendly leader."

These statements leave even a discerning reader confused and this confusion is compounded by the following statement he has made.

Of the independent commissions he has demanded in return for his support to the ruling PA, he has said, "If we had an independent elections commission, we won’t have a PA government today." He is reported to have said that ‘nobody believed that the PA had come in with a clear mandate because of the election malpractices’. Many will agree with Mr. Hakeem on this. The country as he points out needs independent commissions for elections, the police, the public service and the judiciary.

But the question is why he as a minister is propping up a government which, he says, has come to power through election malpractices?

Besides he is in the same government as Minister Maheepala Herath whom he has gone all out to oust over the Mawanella incident. Mr. Hakeem has vowed to support the motion of no confidence against the latter. Strange bed fellows! Is Mr. Hakeem running with the government and hunting with the SLMC?

Then the issue or rather the non-issue of a separate district for Kalmunai. The on-going intra party dispute may have led Mr. Hakeem to press this demand to be able to claim that he has rendered some service to the Eastern Province Muslim electorate so as to score political points. But at whose expense is Mr. Hakeem trying to score points?

The country has no need for any more districts. On the other hand carving out districts on the basis of ethnicity will set a bad precedent with scores of others of Mr. Hakeem’s ilk demanding that enclaves be carved out for other ethnic communities or even religious and caste groups. Where will this end?

The country is already fighting a costly war to prevent a separate enclave being carved out by LTTE terrorists.

A government gets the allies that it deserves. But how can the PA govern and most of all concentrate on the war against terrorism with this kind of wavering support from one of its main allies?

All this points to the need for a national government so that the government will be free of pressure from political opportunists and its focus will be on the national interest rather than political survival.

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