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Government Gazette

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.

D.A. 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 suffering.

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 Islam.

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 between people.

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 productivity.

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. Rajapaksa.

Our heritage

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 our heritage.

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 caused mayhem.

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 violence.

Loss of contact among people and between communities have affected individual and collective productivity due to loss of employment, trade and commerce.

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 of terror.

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.

Present challenges

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 Sri Lanka.

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.

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



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