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Sunday, 24 April 2016

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Cantilever of co-existence

For centuries we have been a resilient people, enjoying the natural bliss and beauty of the island. A people with world renown for their genuine smile. A ancient culture that embraced diversity. Being invaded and subject to three eras of foreign rule, and the hasty propagation of reward based religion our forefathers began to absorb the differences within each community. Customs and rituals that were once considered common became elements that provoked division. Our brotherhood began to strain. Suspicion took deep root. This paved way for jealousy. Soon it was supplemented by short sighted political decisions taken in haste that left dark stains that are visible even today.

After three weary and bloody decades of ethnic conflict fought on our own independent soil, what have we achieved? Have the aspirations of all peace loving communities been duly recognised and sustained? Does not language still impede our national unity? Surely peace cannot be symbolised by simply releasing a few white pigeons and one solitary rendition of the national anthem in Tamil, which action itself became a political debate and drama, opposed by the patriots of Sri Lanka!

Correspondence

Every citizen alive today with a mind of clarity will endorse that we are still a nation divided by language. Some are of the view that the introduction of English in all official correspondence in state and other institutions will be a good start.

I don't fully agree.

Let's face reality, how many state officials (including Parliamentarians) are proficient in the Queen's language to engage in official duties. Many simply downplay the need for English proficiency. I opine that all correspondence and forms be done to facilitate the three national languages ie - We often see that If a person writes a letter to a State body in English, the reply letter comes in Sinhala. Likewise, letters for Government job interviews are sent in Sinhala to Burgher and Tamil candidates.

Refreshing

This is not patriotism, it is administrative ignorance. As the Police Department celebrates 150 years of dedicated service to our motherland, one feature that must change is the recording of complaints only in Sinhala, where non-speakers of that language have to simply grin at the desk sergeant and oblige with a signature for whatever he has recorded. It is refreshing to note that steps are being taken to teach Tamil and English to new recruits.

A good case study would be the United States where all employees who deal directly with the public have to be proficient in both English and Spanish, given the large Hispanic population. Even students from Asian regions are encouraged to study Spanish. The US Military has a programme to teach basic Arabic to troops deploying to the Middle East nations, so that they may engage the innocent public in goodwill and trust. This is wisdom.

National

Ministries tasked with reconciliation and social integration must rapidly implement systems where every Sri Lankan, is given a total sense of National identity.

A cricket match between a school from the Northern Province and Southern Province is not good enough. This is child's play in more than one sense! We must rebuild that golden era when Sinhala brothers had businesses in Jaffna and Tamil brothers ventured to Kalutara and Galle to run grocery stores.

Our Muslim brothers too are part of our wonderful heritage. Sadly our jolly Burgher brothers (and their attractive sisters) are now domiciled in Australia and England.

The darkest part of this ugly saga is that our citizens are divided within their own ethnic clans. The Jaffna Tamils somewhat despise the Tamils from Batticaloa and Trincomalee. In turn both of these combined groups mildly shun the Indian based Colombo Tamils.

Not to be outdone, the Sinhalese from the salubrious hills of Kandy look down on their brothers from Galle and Matara. The Muslim community has mild strains between Moors and Malays. Come on, people, we all have the same blood. A house divided will fall. We have fallen from grace many times.

Unite

Let us forget the past, learning its lessons and unite as one nation. One family. Let us passionately embrace our diversity. Recollect how we all come together to cheer our team for a world cup cricket match, well let's do it daily.

We as a nation have many matches to win, in many arenas. All Sri Lankans must remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi - "You must not lose faith in humanity, Humanity is an ocean.

If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the entire ocean does not become dirty".

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