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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 single goal.

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 and traditions.

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 achieved.

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 granted.

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.

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India’s 61st Independence Day today will prove to be, perhaps in retrospect, more memorable than any in the recent past.

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The speech delivered by India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on August 15, 1947 on India’s Independence Day:

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.

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LTTE downfall imminent as more strongholds fall

There were many predictions two years ago when the Security Forces commenced military operations against the LTTE, that the Security Forces were going after the illusionary task of defeating the LTTE militarily.

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