Are we all Lankans?

By K.S. Sivakumaran

This country belongs to me and I belong to her just as much as the others born and bred in this blessed isle claim ownership to Lanka. But there are a few amongst us who have an idealistic perception that it belongs to a chosen few.

While the majority of the right-thinking and magnanimous Sinhala Buddhists do not subscribe to this hegemonic view, a handful of them proclaim that the majority Sinhala Buddhists are mighty in view of their numerical strength.

It is true that the majority of the inhabitants in this country are Sinhala people and the majority among them is Buddhist. But quite a few among the Sinhala people belong to other denominations as well.

We must acknowledge the fact that the Sinhala Buddhists deserve to be appreciated for their kindness, compassion and magnanimity and their powerful strength in determining things for all the people in this country.

The minorities should win the hearts and minds of the Sinhala people. The Sinhala people are basically sincere in love and caring for others, nurtured by noble precepts of the Buddha. They are receptive to reason if the minorities collectively convince them of their rights.

Of course, the past nine decades have been bitter with regard to racial relations. However, the majority of the people on both sides of the divide have learned lessons and are willing to make amends for the absolutely foolish behaviour and ostrich-like mentality that the world outside does not matter. So, why don’t we encourage discussion, compromise and tolerance?

At the same time, one cannot deny the reality that a negligible minority among the Sinhala Buddhist people trespass the noble principles of Buddhism covering themselves in the shield of ‘patriotic nationals’ and proclaim that a particular minority should be packed to another country on the grounds that they speak an alien language different from their mother tongue. This is ridiculous because such people do not seem to know their origin and past history, the missing pages in the chronicle.

Worse still, some garbed as members of the revered clergy advocate this unwise and dangerous move, which may result in the annihilation of not only them but also others who are wiser. If one subjects oneself to a DNA test, one would find to one’s surprise that not all the people in this country are pure Sinhala Buddhists. At least a good fraction of them would be Thamilian Buddhists or Dravidian Buddhists (Telugu, Kannada, Malayalee, Tamil speaking people turned Sinhala and Buddhist) or their origins could be traced back to Muslim or European settlers. It is paradoxical therefore to proclaim that the minorities in this country are aliens and should be therefore subjugated to a level of inhuman treatment. This is evidently a manifestation of ‘ultra nationalism.’

While it is legitimate and right to preserve one’s own religion and language, it is pathetic to undermine the collective contribution of all the people who have built up this country in many ways for many centuries.

Such ‘nationalists’ have forgotten the damages they have caused periodically, not only in terms of property and valuable lives, but also to the country at large.
Violence begets violence. Instead of abhorring violence from any quarter, such ‘ultra nationalists’ from all parts of the country (north, south, east and west) are indirectly indulging in deadly violence only to destroy all of us.

In Lanka (I judiciously avoid using ‘Sri Lanka’ because most numerologists say that calling our country Sri Lanka is not conducive to our land); society is made of many races, (however insignificant they maybe in terms of numbers) or ethnic groups.

Though most of us may not be aware of it, we are all from one ethnic group. Even the Aryans, Dravidians, Moors, Burghers and North Indians are all of a mixed blood.

Lanka can prosper again if we are all determined to ignore the ‘ultra nationalists’ and unite as one people, speaking different languages, observing different cultures and professing different religions, and communicate in words and deeds to set about practical things without combing ourselves to sectarian politics.

Instead of branding Tamil speaking people as ‘terrorists,’ we must identify the reasons why violence exists among the perceived ‘enemies.’

The reasons are well known. The leaders of political parties and the militants should suspend their respective partisan politics for a few years and work towards the common goal of unity and nation building, respecting each other individually and collectively.

This can be done, because understanding and kindness and love conquer all. What should be done immediately is the implementation of the basic expectations and aspirations of the people in the north, east and south east and also people in the west to avid confrontation. Once the basic needs are satisfied, at least to a reasonable extent, people would not resort to aggressiveness.

Shall we ask the government in power and the militant leader of the north to sincerely consider the plea? Postponement means it would be too late for redemption.

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