Avoid dangerous ‘politicking’ with MMDA

Why the SSA and Schubert are seeking to give fresh credibility to a canard that never merited any investigation by the Police or other authorities?

AndiThe Social Scientists’ Association (SSA) has put out a paper prepared by its Senior Researcher Andi Schubert (pic) containing inaccurate assumptions and attempting to give mileage to false fears, published in the Daily Mirror of April 5, 2017 under the heading “The Sexual Politics of the MMDA Debate”.

The SSA claims to have been founded in 1977 against the background of “…growing tension between ethnic communities”. It asserts itself as a research focused body. Conflict resolution and reconciliation are amongst the areas of research. But regrettably the published report exposes the absence of acceptable standards of research. The writer has not produced any supporting statistical or other authority for the assumptions in the paper, which can be demonstrated as misleading.

The point of entry is the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) and its amendments, which are under consideration by a Committee appointed by the previous government.
The issues relate, inter-alia, to the minimum age of marriage, the bride’s consent for marriage, divorce provisions and practices relating to dowry, alimony etc. Andy Schubert’s claim is that the MMDA reforms involve the larger national question of the Muslims here eventually becoming the majority in this country.

“Sri Lankans must also be concerned as to why the SSA claiming to be a body committed to ‘conflict resolution’ is seeking to create ethnic and religious tensions based on absolutely unsubstantiated and false fears being placed in the public domain. “

That is what the SSA researcher is struggling to argue! Therefore the writer alerts, of course discreetly, the sleeping majority of the country to look at the “sexual politics at work in the country” that is the MMDA and the proposed amendments!

The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) was the first to raise the unsubstantiated false fear of Muslims of Sri Lanka becoming the majority.

Muslim civil society effectively countered the BBS’s foreign funded phobia based on the population growth statistics of all the ethnic and religious groups from the time of the first census to the latest statistics in the Census Report of 2012. I do not propose to waste the valuable space of this daily by enumerating them here. SSA can support its researcher to study and research the country’s census reports and tell the world in which millennium Muslims here will become the majority sans Malthus!

But Sri Lankans must also be concerned as to why the SSA claiming to be a body committed to ‘conflict resolution’ is seeking to create ethnic and religious tensions based on absolutely unsubstantiated and false fears being placed in the public domain. It is better for the SSA to leave the science of ‘conflict creation’ to the well-entrenched agents of the world’s arms industry.

Now let us look at the issue of the minimum age of marriage, which the writer may legitimately argue, being as low as 12 could give an advantaged population edge. But for this, the researcher must compare the MMDA provisions with legal provisions applicable to other communities. Under the Marriages Registration Ordinance, which applies to nearly 90% of Sri Lanka’s population, there is no minimum age of marriage at all in view of Section 22 of the Ordinance! In other words as the law stands today, a Sinhala or Tamil father can give in marriage his minor daughter as young as even 11 years, though it is unknown that consummation may lead to prosecution. The fact is the law as it is permits child marriages! Section 8 of the Kandyan Marriage and Divorce Act permits child marriages similarly with no effective minimum age of marriage. Under the MMDA a Quazi’s authorization is required for the registration of a marriage of a person below 12 years. Though with effect from the 1995 amendment to the General Marriages Ordinance, 18 years was specified as the minimum age of marriage, Section 22 of the Ordinance and Section 8 of the Kandyan Act in effect allow marriages of persons below 18 years without a bottom limit as to age.

The question is where then is the procreative advantage to the Muslims vis-a-vis the other communities? While the Muslims, long before the current discussion, had commenced reviewing several matters in the MMDA, why is that no one from the other communities including the SSA had so far raised the need to review the General Marriages Ordinance and the Kandyan Marriage and Divorce Act? For a more detailed analysis of the matter, please read Ceylon Today of 01st December 2016, under the title “Laws of all communities allow child marriages” (http://www.ceylontoday.lk/print20161101CT20161231.php?id=10287) and the Daily Mirror of 25th November 2015 titled “Muslim law now- Thesawalamai and Buddhist laws to follow?”(http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Muslim-law-now-Thesawalamai-and-Buddhist-laws-to-follow–119711.html)

Andi Schubert has sought to flog a dead horse, when referring to a campaign carried out in the social media a few years ago warning Sinhalese that certain Muslim department stores were allegedly handing out sweets that would result in impotency. Why the SSA and Schubert are seeking to give fresh credibility to a canard that never merited any investigation by the Police or other authorities?

Schubert adds the “campaign marked this out as a dastardly plot by radical elements in the Muslim community to alter the demography of the island with a view to eventually becoming the majority in the country”. It is surprising that the media in our country had given space to spread such ridiculous mischief.

The writer has sought to give life to social media hypes urging Sinhala women to procreate ‘more frequently’ as a means of resisting the increase of the Muslim population. Reference has also been made by the SSA writer that there were also concerns that the 2012 Census Report was delayed “because the Muslim community now outnumbered the Sinhala community!”

It is most shameful that the SSA researcher does not have the guts to say that the 2012 Census Report proved the fears as totally false. By discreetly putting unfounded stories in the public domain, Schwwubert has sought to damage the ongoing process of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka. It is best that the SSA and AS leave the matter in the hands of the Justice Marsoof Saleem Committee to produce its report.

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