By Chandani Kirinde
Today marks the 20th death anniversary of M.H.M. Ashraff, the Founder Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). He died on 16 September 2000, when the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) helicopter he was travelling in crashed in the Aranayaka area in Kegalle District, leaving a void in the political sphere of the country, in which he was a rising star. In an exclusive interview with the Daily FT, Aman Ashraff, the son of the late SLMC Leader, spoke on a wide range of issues and gave his views on his father’s death, over which many questions remain unanswered. He also spoke on the challenges the community faces in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks and the need for all to work towards building a Sri Lankan identity.
Here are excerpts of the interview:
Q: The official versions of the helicopter crash that caused your father’s death say it was accidental. Twenty years later how do you see the tragedy?
After 20 years, having observed the dynamics since his demise, I find it hard to accept that it was an accident. There may have been a lot more to it than that. Of course, I have no evidence or anything substantial to hold onto and say, ‘This is there, so how do you say that?’ I do not intend to accuse anybody, but as an individual, not so much as his son, I feel there was more than meets the eye.
Q: If so, who do you think would want him out of the way or who do you perceive as his enemies?
He was certainly on the LTTE hit list. I would not go so far as to say he had enemies, but he had become the first ethnic politician to embrace national politics. And the speed at which his journey in national politics was taking off, he seemed to be garnering a significant amount of support from the populace and I suppose that may have been a threat to others, whosoever they may have been.
He was a very charismatic individual. He was capable of communicating in all three languages. His versatility was not just in politics but also his knowledge in law, being a President’s Counsel, which was significant. In a branding sense, it was a very appealing package to look up to and even accept as a leader. This could have ruffled feathers, but again, who is to say without evidence in hand?
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