One Sri Lanka
Time was when all inhabitants of this country
considered themselves sons and daughters of one mother Lanka.
That was an era when there were no ethnic divisions and all
communities lived in brotherhood and amity working towards a
Old timers still hark back to their student days with
nostalgia when Tamils and Sinhalese shared the same desk in
their classrooms and had much in common with each other. The
seeds of communalism were nowhere evident and both sides
coexisted side by side showing respect to each other’s cultures
There was not a cloud in the horizon to for bode the events
that were to unfold several decades later. This amity and
concord among the different communities were mirrored in the
Independence struggle where they all put their shoulder to the
wheel in the fight against colonial rulers.
Stalwarts Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Ponnambalam
Arunachchalam were in the vanguard of our freedom struggle with
giant freedom fighters Sir D.B. Jayatilake, Henry Pedris and
D.S.Senanayake et al. It was a typical effort of the combined
forces comprising all communities where the Motherland figured
foremost in the scheme of things.
It is perhaps this brotherhood and camaraderie in the
immediate post independent era which Defence Secretary Gotabhaya
Rajapaksa was alluding to when he called on all Sri Lankans to
‘learn to be Lankan’.
In an interview with the Indo Asian News Service Rajapaksa
said “We all have to learn to be Sri Lankan. The day we are able
to think as Sri Lankans first, and later as Sinhalese, Tamils,
Muslims and Burghers, that is the day we will win”.
“That will be the winning point,” he emphasised. The Defence
Secretary’s enunciation akin to a clarion call no doubt would be
received with much favour by all those Sri Lankans advocating
peaceful co-existence as children of one Mother Lanka.
It would also provide food for thought to those extremist
elements who are entrenched in their prejudices and are
reluctant to compromise.
That no lesser person than the Defence Secretary who is
leading a successful campaign against the LTTE should express
such a view is demonstrative of a magnanimity which is a clear
message to the hardliners that the Government will not tolerate
racial and religious bigotry even after miliary victory is
In this connection the statement made by the Defence
Secretary that the Government has failed to convince the world
of its sincerity to resolve the ethnic conflict should receive
the attention of the authorities.
More should be done to convince the outside world of the
mechanisms put in place to foster and promote secularism and
pluralism. It goes without saying that in today’s globalised
environment when geographical boundaries dividing states have
become blurred divisions carved out on ethnic or religious basis
can but only be redundant.
Today nations are fast ditching all sectarian divisions to
forge ahead in the new milieu to conquer frontiers. There has
also been a massive transformation in attitudes and dispositions
vis-a-vis ethnic relations.
Who would have thought that the mighty super power America
would throw up a black Presidential candidate given its racial
past that gave birth to the civil rights movement. Ditto for
India where Sonia Gandhi who is Italian by birth leads the
Congress and the Premier is from the minority Sikh community.
It is an indication that the world is gradually coming to
terms with the concept of inclusivity where all communities and
religious groups are being drawn into one common veal.
Globalisation has also dissipated not only ethnic and religious
barriers but also customs and habits that have been taken for
Today with the communications revolution more and more people
are beginning to be influenced by the unfolding events in the
outside world beamed into their homes over satellite television.
So much so populations are beginning to think anew and adapt
themselves to the new changes.
Hitherto secluded communities are being increasingly
influenced by the new unified pattern of the outside world
devoid of the tinge of ethnicity. The Opening ceremony of the
Beijing Olympics which depicted the coming together of all
nations bound by the single thread of sports notwithstanding
ethnic, religious and ideologically differences was a typical
demonstration of this different mix into a cohesive whole.
It is such demonstrations that are shaping the mindsets of
people to slough off their sectarian outlook and integrate with
the global community. True all efforts should be made to
preserve our heritage and cultural traditions.
But these no longer have to be the predominant factor in our
minds. Whether one accepts it or not the world has today shrunk
to such an extent that it has broken through all ethnic and
religious barriers. The name of the game is integration. There
is no room for ethnic divisions in such an order.