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Muslim minister says he gained support for Sri Lanka at UN, as he returns to cabinet

The leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) Party Rishad Bathiudeen said that Sri Lanka’s Muslim politicians had canvassed support for Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, where Colombo was attempting to fend off investigations into mass atrocities committed by the military against Tamils during the final phase of the armed conflict.

Bathiudeen, who was returning to Sri Lanka’s cabinet after Muslim ministers had resigned en masse last month following protests by Sinhala Buddhist monks, said that he had done so after discussions with his party.

“We, the Muslim Ministers then resigned to protect Sri Lanka's international goodwill," he said in an address after he took up the post of Minister of Industry & Commerce. Rauf Hakeem, Ameer Ali Mohamed Shihabdeen and Abdullah Maharoof also took up ministerial posts.

He went on to list out ways in which Muslims politicians had helped assist the Sri Lankan government in recent years. In his remarks, Bathiudeen said,

"Muslim countries stood with Sri Lanka when the human rights investigations were pursued by Geneva. At that time former President Mahinda Rajapaksa sent me and some other Muslim Ministers to visit Muslim countries to canvass their support to Sri Lanka, and we got their assistance-along with various types of reliefs from them as well.”

After years of lobbying by human rights activists at the UN Human Rights Council, several reports were issued which detailed the mass atrocities committed during the final phase of the armed conflict, in which tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in a massive Sri Lankan military offensive.

Though a UN resolution has since called for a hybrid accountability mechanism to hold perpetrators accountable, several Sri Lankan leaders have repeatedly vowed not to let one take place.

Bathiudeen also said Muslim ministers had played a key role in helping Sri Lankan economically, stating “at the end of the war, Sri Lanka could not afford to buy crude oil since we were short of cash”. “After Muslim Parliamentarians' request, Iran stepped in to give Sri Lanka crude oil for six months on credit, to the value of $250 million," he added.

He went on to attack the United National Party stating that Muslim politicians were "very hurt that the UNP, to whom we have been extending our political support sincerely to bring it to power, failed to stand together with us at this critical time, and did not voice or talk about our innocence regarding the false accusations on bombings, thereby leaving us to face it all alone and on our own".

See more of his remarks from ColomboPage here.

Despite Bathiudeen’s remarks, Sri Lanka’s opposition said they would again move a no confidence motion against the minister.

See more from the Deccan Herald here and AP here.