Leaders focus on a resurgent Sri Lanka:
Building social capital on the foundation of national unity
The following are excerpts from this year’s D.
A. Rajapaksa memorial oration delivered on November 11 at the BMICH by
Professor Karunaratne Hangawatte of the Department of Criminal Justice,
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, US.
I am honoured humbled by the invitation to deliver this year’s Hon.
D.A. Rajapaksa oration on this solemn occasion commemorating the life
and legacy of the late Mr. Rajapaksa.
This year’s commemoration ceremony is very significant, because the
year 2009 marks an important milestone of the history of Sri Lanka.
Driven by the legacy of the Late D.A. Rajapaksa, his progeny have led
the way to finally free the nation from the grip of violent and vicious
terror that has plagued Sri Lanka for several decades.
It is no secret that the national and international community stands
in gratitude and salutes Your Excellency for your unwavering leadership,
our defense leaders and personnel for their enormous sacrifices, the
public servants, and the civic community that bore the burdens of untold
The concept of social capital
The late Hon. D.A. Rajapaksa has left an exemplary legacy of public
service and a set of values rooted in Sri lankan heritage.
Sri Lankan heritage is rooted in Buddhism, and is influenced by the
philosophical doctrines and practices of Hinduism, Christianity and
It is particularly characterised by the values of compassion, unity
and caring for others.
Over the last three decades LTTE terrorism has for the most part
retarded this legacy, destroyed the economy and economic development,
and severely damaged the social capital of Sri Lanka.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has a sharp intellect that is
native to rural folks of Sri Lanka
Social capital in this context refers to social networks, community
and civic order that strengthen and integrate communities while helping
individuals achieve their goals. In this sense social networks have
value just the same way economic capital has value.
Social capital comprises the networks of association and cohesion
These include social, cultural and community networks, and community
relations that foster trust and a sense of belonging.
The norms, values and networks developed within and between different
ethnic and religious communities, and the personal relationships that
aid in achieving community goals can generally be conceptualized as
social capital. Social contacts that occur through social networking
have value because they affect both individual and collective
Social capital is not a single explanation or variable, it is how
informal human social relationships are important to the quality of life
of the entire community.
Just as economic capital and investment brings economic riches,
social capital building by improving social networks and cohesion
improves the quality of life for everyone throughout the country.
The next logical step is to eradicate any lingering terrorist
environments and violent ideologies from our culture and society.
In this respect it is very heartening to notice that, in the noblest
traditions of our heritage, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has no dedicated
the legacy and the spirit of public service that he has inherited from
his father, the late D.A. Rajapaksa to develop “social capital” through
unity. In my view, carrying the military defeat of terrorism to its
ultimate goal of establishing peace, unity and prosperity through social
capital building will be the best celebration of the life of late D.A.
Over the course of centuries Sri Lankan communities have been bound
in cohesion and enriched social capital.
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural
society. Buddha preached (Atthahi Atthano Natho) the importance of
compassion towards others while having faith in self and the importance
of self examination of truths. The Bhagwad Gita is a set of teachings
about the performance of one’s duties, without attachment and without
any heed to the rewards that might follow. It is a sense of duty towards
our fellow beings, both human and non human. The Biblical concept of
covenant teaches love, loyalty, responsibility, and compassion among
those who join in covenantal relationships. It is a bond of belonging.
North African Scholar Ibn Khaldun referred to asabiyya, an Arabic term
for the spirit of kinship or social bonding in fourteenth century Islam.
Human relationships in Sri Lanka are heavily influenced by these
ethos and values that are built into our mixed heritage.
This is our heritage and it runs in our blood. Our heritage has
evolved over thousands of years. Colonial influences could not destroy
The Sri Lankan people have weathered foreign invasions, incursions
and encroachments, and various communities have lived together in
harmony for centuries bound by a common social experience.
LTTE terrorism and social capital
The strength of Sri Lankan social capital has gradually developed and
shined through thousands of years. But it has been weakened and damaged
by the LTTE in just three decades.
LTTE routinely perpetrated horrific violence against innocent
civilians of every communal and religious group of the country.
These violent crimes include large scale massacres, murder,
decapitation, drug smuggling, gun running, violent suppression of
dissent, bombing civilian targets, child recruitment and kidnapping, and
The LTTE randomly targeted women and children, rural communities,
places of worship, and mass transportation including trains, buses and
bus stations. Babies were separated from breast feeding mothers and
hacked to death.
Their violence was random and unprovoked.
Their purpose was to cause havoc through random fear. This was their
morality. But at what cost! Do any events that happened in the past
justify this horrific violence against innocent Sri Lankans?
The worst consequence of LTTE terrorist campaign has been the
destruction of our long-developed social capital.
For example, personal relations between friends, neighbours and
families have been affected due to growing mistrust and suspicion among
ethnic groups, police and community relations have suffered due to
detachment of police from the community, political leaders have become
isolated from the public, people have lost access to their
representatives and public servants, barriers have prevented free
movement and socialization, multi community integration through
participation at religious ceremonies such as Vesak and Madu
celebrations and visits to multi religious places of worship such as
Kataragama, Sri Pada and Anuradhapura have been adversely affected, and
people have kept away from large community gatherings due to fear of
Loss of contact among people and between communities have affected
individual and collective productivity due to loss of employment, trade
Social functions such as Shrama Dana, through which people help each
other with various projects by donating labour, have ceased. Many
social, cultural and public institutions have crumbled under the weight
As a result of LTTE terror, communities that have the capacity to
peacefully co-exist have become sharply divided and grown suspicious of
each other. Violence has become a common norm in some urban areas. There
is a decline of civic engagement and our social and cultural
institutions have begun to crumble. Consequently it has created a
political culture that is authoritative and repressive. This
transformation seems to have occurred during the last three decades at
an accelerated pace. What should a democratically elected Government do
under these circumstances?
Successive governments in the last three decades have attempted to
tackle the LTTE problem.
They have attempted military and non-military options including peace
negotiations and the introduction of new constitutional and legal
frameworks. None of these were successful for various reasons. Peace
negotiations were unsuccessful mainly due to lack of forthright dealing
by the LTTE.
Finally the present Government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa has
managed to wipe out LTTE terror from Sri Lanka by acting with laster
like focus and sheer determination on the task at hand.
The feat of the LTTE and the eradication of terrorism from our soil
are significant historical events because the major cause of the
dissipation and destruction of social capital has been removed.
We have reached an important milestone in our history. Presently we
are passing through a time when the hard fought victories against
vicious terror must be solidified to ensure that terrorism will never
again raise its ugly head in Sri Lanka.
We have suffered enough. It is crucial that every peace loving Sri
Lankan bond together with the Government in its effort to guarantee
everlasting peaceful co-existence under one banner of unity.
Otherwise all of the valuable lives, limbs and property lost and the
sorrow of families disjointed and scattered in the last three decades,
and the valiant efforts of those who fought will be in vain. May not the
lives and tearers of innocent mothers, fathers and children go to waste.
It will be the worst crime against humanity ever in the history of
Obviously rebuilding social capital by improving trust among and
within communities and by improving the sense of personal security takes
more hard work than building economic capital.
Nevertheless building social capital will enhance personal and
collective productivity, bring lasting peace and prosperity, and improve
the quality of life of every Sri Lankan citizen.
Crushing the LTTE terrorism militarily was a daunting task that
required enormous sacrifices and hard work.
Now, the same leadership can take us to a resurgent Sri Lanka through
building social capital on a foundation of national unity. Social
capital can be revitalised through economic development and through
social and legal frameworks. First I will discuss economic development.
Now that the military war is over it is time to rearrange budgetary
priorities and spend the war capital wisely.
In this respect it is laudable to note that the Government in
cooperation with the private sector has already embarked on various
development projects aimed at erecting infrastructures, building homes,
schools and places of worship in the areas of the North and East that
have been seriously affected by war.
In addition, various development schemes are under way to bring
economic well being to rural areas specially in the dry zone and at the
periphery that have been neglected for a long period of time.
Successive Governments of Sri Lanka have neglected development at the
periphery. Industrialization has focused around urban centres.
To be continued tomorrow