'Creating harmony is paramount' - Prof. Rohan Gunaratna
Prof. Rohan Gunaratna, is an international terrorism expert and Head
of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism
Research (ICPVTR) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore,
which is one of the largest counter-terrorism research and training
centres in the world. Prof. Gunaratna in a special lecture delivered
under the title, "India under Modi: A turning point in Indo-Lanka
relations" organised by the Sri Lanka Parliamentary Journalists'
Association at the Parliamentary Complex on Wednesday, outlined the
impact of new Indian Premier Modi's leadership on Indo-Lanka relations
and the key initiatives to be adopted to take Sri Lanka forward in this
Prof. Gunaratna said if we are to have a stable country, we should
ensure harmony. The phase of fighting against terrorists is over. The
phase of living in harmony and creating harmony is paramount. Creating
harmony is not only the Government's duty. It is a duty of all such as
media organisations, religious institutions, educational institutions
We should get to know each others' cultures, traditions and customs
and pay respect but entertain no prejudice or suspicion. This is a new
He said those who are campaigning on the basis of religion and
ethnicity are the worst politicians in the country. We should end ethnic
and religious politics. Because this is what has taken Sri Lanka back to
30 years. We have ended the byproduct of ethnic and religious politics,
which is terrorism. Terrorism is the vicious byproduct of extremism. In
future, if we are going to create a stable Sri Lanka, we should create
educational, media and political structures where we don't encourage
ethnic and religious politics. "I am an old boy of Ananda College,
Colombo. I myself had constantly advocated that we need to have at least
a small number of Tamil and Muslim students. I studied under a Tamil and
a Muslim teacher. So I didn't have that prejudice. Because the prejudice
leads to suspicion and suspicion in turn leads to anger. Anger leads to
misunderstanding and then to protests and riots."
What is the TNA doing right now? They are speaking about Tamil
nationalism. Some Sinhala political parties are also speaking about
Sinhala nationalism. We have to get rid of harping on Sinhala, Tamil and
This is a cancer in our society. Let us talk about Sri Lankan
nationalism. My thinking is that we should not encourage any longer
ethnic and religious politics. This is what had really destroyed our
nation. Otherwise, we would have maintained the status of just being
next to Japan. We cannot have political parties based on ethnicity and
religion. It has destroyed our country. India is organized on the basis
of ethno-linguistic states. But Sri Lanka is too small to do that. Sri
Lankan model should be that everyone should be able to live anywhere
preserving their own cultural and ethnic identity. The state itself
should not play a role in encouraging those divisions.
We must understand that the biggest damage that the LTTE did in the
last 30 years was not killing the people or destroying the physical
infrastructure. The greatest damage that the LTTE did was spreading an
ideology of prejudice and suspicion, not to trust Sinhalese, Tamils or
Muslims. This was the message given by the LTTE. So we have to build
harmony centres in every district and harmony clubs in every school. We
should make the Tamils and Muslims feel that they are equal to the
Sinhalese and there is no distinction between Sinhalese, Tamils and
Muslims. If we can do that, we don't have to create separate regions for
Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. We are a small country.
More than 50 percent of the Colombo population are Muslims and
Tamils. He said it was a monumental mistake that the Sri Lankan
Government made at the end of the war against terrorists by permitting
those who have taken the oath of allegiance to Prabhakaran, to enter
Parliament and use the political platform. Because their separatist
ideas are still remain very much intact. My personal view is that anyone
who has been a member of a terrorist group or from a terrorist family
should not be allowed to come into mainstream politics.
It is a huge mistake. We should have a law in this country to prevent
that. Moderate Tamil Leaders who were not involved in terrorist
activities should be given the opportunity to engage in politics and
enter Parliament. Today terrorist ideology is being spread only by a few
political leaders. That is an offence. Sri Lankan Government should
prosecute anyone who is spreading terrorist ideology. If anyone causes
ethnic or religious prejudice among people, it will eventually lead to
"To my knowledge there is no law in Sri Lanka that prevents anyone
who was a member of a group that had engaged in terrorism from entering
mainstream politics. Otherwise, I am sure, the JVP could also not have
entered mainstream politics. But this is a law that Sri Lanka should
reflect and debate in Parliament. Because that will be a deterrent to
those engaged in violence. We have seen those engaged in terrorism have
a certain ideology. If we give them a political platform, they will be
able to influence the general population. The whole purpose that we got
rid of one terrorist group is to ensure that their influence does not
Today the 13th Amendment itself is irrelevant. It was enacted to
facilitate the terrorist groups like LTTE to enter mainstream politics
which the LTTE didn't do. But the EPRLF, EROS, PLOTE and TELO entered
into the mainstream politics. The Indian model should never be imposed
on Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan model should be a homegrown one. The Indian
model is such that it has divided India into ethno-linguistic states.
That is not conducive to us, because we are a very small country. We
can't divide this country based on ethnic and religious grounds. Indian
model is good for India. We should have our homegrown solution. We
should not copy India. India is a great power. But we have our own
history and a great pride. So we should develop our own model. I believe
this is the best time for us to reflect on these aspects.
I believe if it is not for India's cooperation, Sri Lanka could have
never dismantled the LTTE in May, 2009.
In the terminal phase of the fight against the LTTE, we saw India
didn't intervene to stop Sri Lanka's military advance to defeat the LTTE.
That was India's contribution at that time. Because New Delhi was very
much influenced by the politics in Tamil Nadu. But the intelligent
politicians of India and the bureaucracy didn't not intervene.
That is why the LTTE could be defeated, because the Indian
bureaucracy knows that the LTTE is a long term threat not only to the
stability and security of Sri Lanka but also to India.
In fact, Modi is the first Indian Leader to be a Prime Minister who
was born in post-independent India. All the other Leaders who came to
power were born before the Independence. So Modi is a true son of
independent India. He is not looking at issues merely through political
and a security lens. He has a third eye which is the economic lens. Sri
Lankan political Leaders also should do that.
"I believe India will move towards harmony and prosperity under Prime
Minister Modi. He advocates regionalism. In fact, he is the first Indian
Leader who is truly committed to regionalism. The other Indian Leaders
didn't, because the LTTE killed the last of the strongest Indian Leader
Rajiv Gandhi, the grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru. The successive Indian
Leaders were weak and we have seen the India's position. Sri Lanka
should be mindful of three things. One is superpower politics. Second is
geopolitics and third is domestic politics in Tamil Nadu. In the past,
India's attitude towards Sri Lanka was driven by these three
considerations."Modi is a different leader. He invited the South Asian
leaders. He first visited Bhutan and Nepal. He will visit Sri Lanka as
well. He is going to visit all the countries in the region. He is not
going to have the same suspicion the other Indian Leaders had on
Pakistan and China.
I believe he is the best Leader to resolve the geopolitical and
geo-strategic disputes that have aggravated and the friendship that
could have existed in SAARC. If the regional Leaders can cooperate, the
SAARC under Modi will change into a powerhouse. We have the potential to
do that. European Union and ASEAN have become a powerhouse. So SAARC can
do so. I hope the other Leaders of this region will cooperate with him.
He has a third eye. He is not looking at the world through security
and political lens. He is looking at the world through economic lens.
This is what our political parties should also do.
With Modi coming to power he has made a very important statement that
India's future foreign policy will not be governed by Tamil Nadu
politics. The political compulsion in Tamil Nadu will not influence the
foreign policy of India. Modi is a very strong Indian Leader. How should
Sri Lanka conduct itself in terms of foreign policy? We have pursued a
policy of friendship to all and enmity to none. This policy should
continue. But Sri Lanka should establish a special relationship with
India specially under Modi. Why is that so important? Traditionally Sri
Lanka's friendship to defeat the LTTE in the first phase was with the
West. But this ended in great tragedy for Sri Lanka, because India
itself was under the Soviet influence. Today we have to conduct our
foreign policy in a very intelligent way.
Part of that is not only strengthening relationship with New Delhi
but building equally a friendly relationship with Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu
is as important as New Delhi. Some Sri Lankans including some of our
leaders are very happy that Prime Minister Modi has kept Tamil Nadu in
its place. But it is important for us to rebuild our relationship with
DMK and AIADMK, two main parties in South India. In addition, we should
also rebuild our relationship with smaller political organizations that
have had a very negative perception on Sri Lanka.