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Sunday, 29 April 2012

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Isolated incidents can send wrong signals

The tense situation that erupted in Dambulla over the construction of a mosque was most unfortunate. Such untoward incidents, resorted to by a handful of mischievous elements, could send the wrong signals to the international community.

The situation was, however, defused due to the Government's swift action. Else, disgruntled elements could have exploited it to fan communal unrest. On the other hand, it could also provide 'ammunition' to the LTTE rump to show the world that their allegations about discrimination against the minorities in Sri Lanka are justified.

If one were to peruse news reports in the international media and the web, it could be seen how these incidents have been blown out of proportion. People overseas are unaware of the actual ground situation in Sri Lanka and the peaceful coexistence that prevails among all communities. Foreigners browsing such news items, especially Muslims around the world, could get a wrong impression about the incidents. This is precisely what the anti-Sri Lanka elements both here and abroad seek.

All communities, including the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers have lived in peaceful coexistence over many centuries, irrespective of caste and religious affiliations. This has been the real situation for centuries, although those with vested interests and INGO agents make a desperate attempt to project a different picture.

Hence, it's deplorable that some anti-social elements are trying to take undue advantage of what transpired in Dambulla. Isolated incidents of this nature give a totally different picture.

The Government took steps to stop construction work on the mosque within the sacred area of the Rangiri Dambulu Vihara and decided to construct a mosque at another suitable location in Dambulla. Steps will be taken to build a mosque in Dambulla and all facilities would be provided to the Muslim community to conduct their Islamic religious activities.

Had it not been for the timely intervention of law-enforcement officials to enlighten people in the area and those who planned to come in their numbers from adjoining areas, the situation would have aggravated.

The Muslim community in Sri Lanka has, over the years, lived in amity with the Sinhalese and Tamils. A peace-loving community, they have made a significant contribution to the country's national well-being even from the post-Independence era. Muslims in the North and the East had been at the receiving end during the height of LTTE terror.

LTTE terrorists drove Muslims out of their traditional settlements in the North. Having eradicated LTTE terror through the Security Forces' immense sacrifices, the Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese began a new life under one banner.

It is the prime duty of the majority Sinhalese to protect and assure the well-being of their fellow Muslims and Tamils. At a time when the international community is keeping a close eye on Sri Lanka's reconciliation, it devolves on the Sinhala Buddhists to demonstrate their rich cultural tradition-by their meritorious deeds they could prove that they are true followers of the Buddha's teachings.

It was indeed unfortunate that people residing in Dambulla had to experience such an untoward situation over a mosque. Instead of quarrelling with one another over erecting a Buddha statue or constructing a mosque, it would be far better if the followers of these two great religions conduct themselves in an exemplary manner. One's religious faith bears out one's character and not one's external appearance. This is the crux of the Buddha's great teachings or any other religion for that matter.

People should work for the well-being of their brethren rather than merely talk to show others that they are adherents of their respective religions. If a person conducts himself in an exemplary manner in keeping with his religious beliefs, others would naturally get a better impression of that person's religion. Hence, it behoves us to conduct ourselves in an exemplary manner rather than seeking cover under one's religion for one's personal glory.

Extremist elements too could have literally gone to town over the Dambulla incident, but could the country be robbed of the hard-earned peace gained amidst insurmountable difficulties? Thanks to the sacrifices on the part of the Security Forces Sri Lanka annihilated terrorism. Although three years have elapsed after the LTTE leadership was vanquished, certain countries are still trying to take Sri Lanka to task. In such a scenario could the country suffer more communal problems?

On the other hand, it would also adversely affect Sri Lanka's forward march. The country has made steady progress in all spheres, especially in resettlement, development and national reconciliation. Moreover, over half a million people who had been resettled after the humanitarian operation have been given a new lease of life, thereby contributing to the national economy.

All these efforts would prove futile, if extremist elements were to put their secret agendas in motion. By projecting themselves as diehard Buddhists, they could still attempt to spark communal unrest over trivial incidents. All patriotic and peace-loving citizens should be ever vigilant over those who attempt to mar the peaceful coexistence of Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils.

At the same time, opportunist politicians too could seek political mileage through these unfortunate incidents. Such incidents could prompt certain politicians to show extreme faith in their respective religions and communities to gain political mileage. People should not fall prey to these opportunists who seek advantage under the guise of religion.

It is the bounden duty of all Sri Lankans to protect the hard-earned peace and contribute towards national reconciliation. At a time when certain countries and international organisations are looking for opportunities to tarnish Sri Lanka's image, all citizens have a responsibility of giving a better value to the immense sacrifices made by the true sons of our soil.

The liberation of the country from the jaws of terrorism by the Security Forces in the world's largest human rescue mission should be made more meaningful. The Sinhalese, as the majority community, must extend their solidarity towards the Tamils and Muslims in the national reconciliation effort. If this could be achieved, no force on earth or in the international fora could level wild allegations that the minorities in Sri Lanka are being discriminated against.

Sri Lanka belongs to all communities since the Tamil and Muslim leaders too have been stakeholders in the country's independence struggle, along with their fellow Sinhala leaders.

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