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.
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!
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.
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
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
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