Sri Lanka Finding the Middle Path: compromising demands, reconciliation & reciprocity
By Shenali D Waduge
In the backdrop of lies, half-truths, exaggerations and misinterpretations it is time to take some issues and deal with them head on. In batting with a straight bat, everyone should feel comforted that decisions have been fair and honest. In general, we are all in unison that politicians and political parties have only aggravated the situation. In many ways the current impasse affords an excellent opportunity to publicly bring out issues that had been kept from public attention. The best way to solve a problem is to first identify it then list reasons and finally look for solutions.
- Demands common to all communities not same as desires common to elite of all communities
Let us all be united in agreement that the common man – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim desires a few simple things only – the right to educate their children & obtain a good school, the right to employment & livelihood, the right to practice one’s faith without impediment or harm to others, the right to live and purchase property anywhere in Sri Lanka.
The common Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim whatever faith they follow share these common desires & aspirations. Their demands too are common – manageable cost of living where essential goods are affordable, usable roads and minimum comforts in transport (bus/train).
These Sinhalese, Tamils & Muslims crave not for luxury cars, imported luxury goods or a fancy lifestyle. While these ordinary people of all 3 communities comprise over 95% of the populace they have never demanded a change in the constitution, a change from unitary to federal, changes in penal codes or labor laws, reduction in the military or closure of camps…
- Equality for All but special privileges enjoyed by elite of all communities.
But does that happen if a politician, a local associated with the UN/INGOs, an influential businessmen or rich person of any of the 3 communities is arrested. The answer obviously is a big NO. However, it is this hardly 5% who end up not only violating the laws in large measure but in weakening the country by aligning with forces that are out to destabilize Sri Lanka. It is good for the ordinary people of the 3 communities to realize and distinguish these common traits they share with each other and not fall prey for the googlys that are thrown to use them to destabilize the country.
For in all occasions that mischief occurs not only do the destabilizing agents manipulate this 95% but it is this 95% who are the victims and sufferers in the end. Nothing major happens to the 5% of all the communities. If everyone is in unison about this, let us move to the next item.
- What are the discriminations by Sinhalese against Minorities
The generally promoted perception around the world is that minorities are discriminated and suffer injustices. Those making such statements must qualify their allegation with examples. To make such allegations people must also produce statistics & data while also being aware of what minorities presently enjoy over and above what all citizens enjoy equally. If the minorities wish to self-alienate themselves the majority cannot be faulted.
These are psychological issues that the minorities themselves need to alienate themselves from & be joint participatory partners in developing Sri Lanka instead of adopting the ‘victim’ approach. Perhaps minorities themselves are not aware or have even listed what they actually enjoy and compare that to how minorities round the world are treated.
When anyone says Minorities are discriminated, the Majority are wondering what exactly people who make this allegation mean by discrimination.
There are 33 Tamil MPs & 21 Muslim MPs in Parliament, the Opposition Leader is Tamil, the PM’s financial advisor is Tamil, the Immediate Past President of the Bar Association is Tamil while the present deputy President of the BASL is Muslim, the immediate past and present Governor of Central Bank is Tamil, his sister is a Member of the Constitutional Council, the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Press Institute is Tamil, the head of the Sri Lanka Press Complaints Commission is a Tamil, the CEO and Chief Complaints officer of the same Commission is also Tamil, Minorities represent Sri Lanka as diplomats in all foreign missions, minorities serve in the armed forces & police and numerous minorities have held position as head of police too. Talented minorities have headed various sports, reaching world acclaim, the immediate past Chief Justice was a Tamil, wholesale business is dominated by minorities as is the gem & jewellery business, some of Sri Lanka top business conglomerates are owned by minorities, 8 of the top 20 billionaires in the stock market are Tamil, some of the top CEOs in Sri Lanka’s business community are from the minorities.
When 7 out of 10 in Sri Lanka are Sinhalese, how can minorities thrive & become rich & own businesses if there was discrimination?
Examples of Discrimination by Sinhalese against Tamils
Sinhala majority discriminated – Paid Adverts ‘Tamils Only
Name a single country that has given ethno-religious minorities privileges as Sri Lanka has done http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2016/03/06/name-a-single-country-that-has-given-ethno-religious-minorities-privileges-as-sri-lanka-has-done/
The Sinhala Majority even changed the national flag to accommodate the minorities adding 2 strips to depict Tamils & Muslims. The constitution has been violated to accommodate the demand to sing the national anthem in Tamil. While the argument to sing in Tamils was claimed to improve reconciliation nothing of the kind has happened.
So what is it that the Sinhalese majority have not given the minorities. This is a puzzle that the majority would like answers. Those making the allegations please come forward and give examples and facts.
Name anything legally, constitutionally and legislatively denied to minorities which legally, constitutionally and legislatively is allocated to only Sinhalese.
Name any insistence where the law and the judgment has been changed because a person was a minority
When the calls are for unbias & mutual respect – Can the same persons also explain by quantifying the number of ethno-religious day-care centres, montessori’s. international schools that are emerging at a rate throughout the island – the attempt to build a minaret higher than the Dalada Maligawa, the proliferation of mosques some now emerging after every other road! These are all abuses of freedom of religion but are Sinhalese expected to keep quiet while these structures emerge all over the island? Are these signs of mutual respect & peaceful coexistence?
- Shouldn’t LAW be common to all?
We are all in agreement that One Country must have ONE LAW common to all. A comment in Sinhala has been translated to bring out some factors that the minorities cannot brush aside claiming it to be hate speech. It is nothing that cannot be denied and it is something for the minorities to seriously address. New cultures & trends cannot be accepted as religious rights as they did not exist.
- When it was mandatory for all citizens to wear a helmet when riding motorbikes, one ethnic group started riding bikes without helmets & law enforcements were not allowed to take action.
- When it was mandatory for all citizens to show their face in public places, one ethnic group began wearing robes that covered even face (we have not seen this before 1990s) again law enforcements could not take action.
- When common quality standards for food was applicable, one ethnic group began a new standard based on their religious belief which all had to comply with (this too emerged a few years back only) no one was allowed to object.
- When it was illegal for citizens to cut forests, one ethnic group began raping forests and settling their people (the previous government is faulted for this) that rape continues unabated.
- When the law declared a minimum age for marriage, one ethnic group demanded to marry children (again the authorities are faulted for not nipping this in the bud)
- When all citizens had to come under one equal law, one ethnic group is demanding a separate Shariah law for them above that of the common law (again authorities are faulted for not disapproving this)
- When marriage/divorce is registered & comes under one common law, another ethnic group wants to marry 4 women and have separate Quazi Courts (fault of authorities)
- When anyone entering a public & state offices has to remove helmets, jackets another group of people demand to wear a robe that covers everything but their eyes making distinction and recognition impossible (fault of authorities)
- When motorists were asked to remove full face helmets citing threats to national security, another ethnic group demanded to cover themselves from head to toe including sitting for public exams and having their NIC photos taken in that manner (fault of authorities)
- When a common banking system prevailed for all citizens, another group of people demanded Shariah Banking
- When people were asked to follow planned parenthood to assist in developing the nation by controlling population growth, another group of people began encouraging more children (statistics is evidence of increasing population of this one ethnic group and it is the fear of eventual outcome when calculated into future years that draws people’s attention)
- There are other personal laws like Thesawalamai & Kandyan laws which cannot come above country laws or the constitution.
- When the constitution gives right to live anywhere minority communities create ghetto areas and conclaves & declare others are prohibited to live in them (statements of Northern Chief Minister)
- It is good to ban ethnic-based political parties belonging to all communities (such parties do not represent the entire polity and more often than not they spew hatred and division against others)
- Do minorities sell property to Sinhalese? Enough of paid adverts to the contrary serve as examples!
These are areas that the minorities may like to work on to remove irritants that cause tensions and impede peaceful coexistence.
- Politicians have worsened situation
We can deduce that politicians – Sinhala, Tamil & Muslims have failed to serve the nation & its citizens fairly & without bias. Coming to politics at any cost, making promises and doing horse deals never intended to keep and falling prey to money and vote politics has totally ruined the nation.
Voters too are guilty of voting for politicians and political parties that through their manifestos and speeches set out to divide people and the country.
Voters & citizens need to be not only aware of the history of the country but aware of global geopolitics as well. The citizens and voters cannot ignore the attempts to create new states and realize that Kosovo, South Sudan are recent examples promoted by UN with the same players canvassing for same in Sri Lanka. This should suffice for people to immediately tie these demands to the locals peddling for its realization in Sri Lanka. It should immediately have citizens & voters denounce such politicians and civil society players giving them no room to promote same in Sri Lanka.
If people were aware of the games and plans played to create newly independent & separate states while also militarily intervening in nations, they would be able to connect the dots for the modus operandi in Sri Lanka.
Some of the stunts carried out overseas are virtually the same taking place in Sri Lanka. This is why it is crucial for citizens and voters to identify the politicians & others linked to these plans. To promote their hidden agenda, they need burning issues to justify interference. The minorities must realize that their lives are also at stake. To understand the gravity of the situation all they need to do is to look at life after UN intervened independence in Kosovo, South Sudan, & Libya, Afghanistan & all other nations that the UN & West have poked their noses in.
If Sri Lanka is separated what next for them – have minorities thought about this?
- Can minorities save the situation?
Tamil separatism has many tentacles and ordinary Tamils are roped into silently agreeing using various reasons generally for personal benefit. Have Tamils realistically thought of life after separation? If they have not, it is a good time to start thinking.
Muslims themselves are caught between radicalism & continuing life under Sinhala culture which they have comfortably fitted in. Wahhabi faith is even targeting and murdering their own. Even in parts of East Sri Lanka, Wahhabi radicalism has ended in deaths of many Muslims. These are dangerous factors that can lead to ISIS and other jihadi presence as foreign intelligence have already warned. Even late Alavi Moulana warned about Wahhabism. Something Sri Lanka does not wish to deal with. Can Muslims deal with this on their own. Doubt so, look at the suffering Pakistan is undergoing in trying regain their nation. Global Islamic terrorism is something Sri Lanka cannot afford to ignore.
This foreign report is interesting & timely for it brings out factors that many are trying to hide under the carpet by blaming Sinhalese https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7L0c8oCDd4k&feature=share
Wahhabi radicalism extension of which terror emerges cannot and should not be ignored or be allowed to be pooh pooed by Muslim politicians and others in Sri Lanka. Remember how warnings on Tamil militancy was ignored and that led to 30 years of terror. We cannot allow the same to be repeated.
Dr. Ameer Ali has clearly appealed to the Muslims regarding this.
Muslims in Sri Lanka are self-alienating themselves from the mainstream community – Dr Ameer Ali
Muslims must self-introspect not self-alienate http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Globally-self-introspect-and-not-self-alienate-119707.html
- Try to see things from the Sinhalese point of view too, for a change
All that the Sinhalese ask is to give due place to historically prevalent Buddhist ethos, to protect the Buddhist heritage and ensure the country is not divided or separated using any nomenclature or falsified reasons. At no time has Sinhalese ever said that minorities do not belong in Sri Lanka.(a notion some are falsely spreading)
By maintaining the historical place & cultural ethos in Sri Lanka there is no impediment to minorities right to fundamental freedoms especially right to practice their faith. The only restriction is that No person can demand right to religion beyond individual worship if it impedes the right of the indigenous ethos/culture/heritage. These demands are few and does not infringe on the minorities in the least.
Some facts are stubborn to accept but need to be reminded. Tamils originated from Tamil Nadu, Muslims find their origins to Middle East, Christians/Catholic Sinhalese & Tamils evolved from forced conversions after 1505. Institutionalized and politicized religions are on the quest to expand and increase flocks and the heads of these religions have openly declared this to their priests giving them targets & goals. These are concerns Sri Lanka’s majority cannot ignore even if politicians do.
Globally there are 76m Tamils, 1.3b Muslims and 2.2b Christians. They all have rich institutions to protect them. The EU bloc of nations/Vatican & World Christian Churches look after the interest of Christian/Catholics, the OIC looks into the welfare of Muslims while India openly claims its interest in Tamils is what makes India interfere in Sri Lanka. This is why Article 9 to foster and protect Buddhism by the State is important & cannot be removed. It is clear that those calling for its removal are only out to remove the only weak link to the State’s historical identity of Buddhism with Sri Lanka.
Who is there to protect the 14.8m Sinhalese or Buddhists?
Look at the manner the Sinhalese have been attacked following a well-orchestrated attack on the minorities without any proof of it being racial as even Buddhist temples had been attacked and harm had come to a Buddhist priest as well. While the damaged Islamic structures will be rebuilt bigger and better using state & foreign funds, will it be the same for the Buddhist structures?
To strike a compromise all parties must accept their fault lines and agree to address the irritants.
On the part of the politicians it is important they desist from making racially hatred statements and refrain from making politically motivated decisions that create problems.
On the part of the law enforcement authorities without political interferences they must take action against any wrong doer whatever ethnicity, however rich or influential they are. Now that people are alert & will be taking note of illegalities & irregularities it requires both law enforcement authorities & public servants to not only play by the rules but not violate them for any reasons too. In the event of such violations, is there an unbiased body that people can appeal to?
On the part of public servants, they must not approve illegal structures requested through influential ethno-religious groups and take action against illegal structures that are springing up, they must not be scared by campaigns that weaken their authority using canards like racism, discrimination etc.
On the part of the minorities, instead of always adopting the mentality of thinking and believing one selves to be victims, use the irritants some of which are globally common to reach a compromise
On the part of the majority, look into areas where minorities claim there is discrimination and see how best to address these.
If we can put the above in order, Sri Lanka can head to a better and peaceful future.
One Country. One Constitution. One National Anthem. One Common Law for All.