To paraphrase the national anthem, there has been no time in Sri Lanka’s history where each line resounded so loudly than during the people’s movement. Perhaps the forces that divided us for so long thought the violence they unleashed on peaceful protesters on 9 May would develop into larger unrest that would overwhelm minorities. But those sinister plans faltered and shattered into a million pieces.
We have witnessed, time and time again how politically-sponsored mobs destroyed lives and properties of minorities, who in turn became extremely marginalised in their own country of birth. That marginalisation led to terrorism and war which expanded that divide between Sri Lanka’s peoples. Conniving politicians took their opportunity, filled in these gaps and made careers that devastated the country’s economy and society. Divide and rule, used liberally by Sri Lanka’s colonial masters to break resistance, became a handy tool in politics. Shops and houses were burned and people were killed on the streets when time and time again politically-motivated mobs went on the rampage crying for the blood of whomever minority was on their targeted agenda, but the tables were turned this time around and vigilantes targeted the houses and business of the politically rich and powerful.
At the core of the people’s movement there exists an unshakeable solidarity, which in time can raise this country from the abyss and put it on the path to prosperity. But the task is not easy as simply shoehorning Sri Lanka’s different people into one identity. What if the problems that prompted this massive movement were to be resolved tomorrow; will we be as united as we do now against tyranny and injustice that exist if we got our fuel on time, lights are on and our essentials affordable? The people in this country need to know that at the heart of this crisis lies the divide and rule policies which had separated the people for so long.
Communal strife had led to so many problems in this country. We have lost talented individuals who could have bloomed this land into the ‘Wonder of Asia’ like how a now-deposed leader once said. From the disenfranchisement of the Malayaha Tamils to the Sinhala-Only act, the instances where this nation fractured are numerous. We Sri Lankans never benefited from this fractured nation. As our lives became harder the mansions of our MPs grew larger. We continued to fight our brothers but our futures remained ever bleaker. The fear and distrust only benefited one minority; the politicians.
Meanwhile, on Sunday (8) India’s The Hindu reported that the LTTE is regrouping and planning an attack and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence promptly denied the report. We as Sri Lankans strongly condemn any attempt to divide our country again and know so in our spirit that there are those who view our non-partisan movement as a threat to those who have other plans.
Now tides are changing and the momentum is up. Let bygones be bygone and usher real change that will write Sri Lanka’s new history; that of truth, justice and accountability. Soon we will have the prosperity we have been looking all our lives with everyone sharing in an inclusive country where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.
This in fact is the true essence of peace and loving kindness, that the Buddha preached, that all must keep in mind in this holy month of Vesak. Let there be no more darkness of racism dividing our people; let there be no more feeding of the egos of opportunistic politicians; and let us not give into the manipulations of elements with vested interests who thrive on conflicts and do not wish to see a united, peaceful and harmonious Sri Lanka that the vast majority of the people seek to establish.
Therefore, let us all speak, act and be true to the message of Metta: ‘May all sentient beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering’!