National integration: one nation, one people, one destiny
National integration cannot be built by
brick and mortar; it cannot be built by chisel and hammer. It has to
grow silently in the minds and hearts of men - Dr. S. Radhakrishnan
“The wish of all Sri Lankans was unity as one nation notwithstanding
their racial, religious or caste differences but that was what Sri
Lankan nation had failed to achieve even after 65 years of
Independence,” President Mahinda Rajapaksa said recently. He added that
there is an attitudinal change among the people and everybody has to
make maximum use of this moment to create one nation.
In the context of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s comments, I think it
is time for us to address seriously the broader issue of national
integration within the context of current political perception and
vision to create one nation.
National integration is the awareness of a common identity amongst
the citizens of a country. It means that though we belong to different
races, religions and regions and speak different languages, we recognize
the fact that we are all one. It also means unifying all the forces in
the country so as to give the idea of one nation. National Integration
involves:- 1. The sentiments of nationalism, 2. The feeling of oneness,
3. Social, political, economic, linguistic and cultural unity, 4. Common
ideas of life and common code of behaviour, 5. The ability to
subordinate sectarian and parochial loyalties to loyalty of the nation.
National integration is a complex concept. It has social, political,
religious, regional and economic dimensions. The three basic factors of
national integration are; 1. Structural equality: equal opportunity must
be provided for all especially those who are socially and economically
backward, 2. Cultural unity: discriminations due to race, religion, and
caste should be eradicated, 3. Ideological unity: awareness about
‘national objectives’ should be created among the people who hold
divergent views on political and religious and similar other fields.
The societies that have been integrated into bonds of unity have
always enjoyed peace, stability, prosperity and permanence. And those
torn by mutual disruptive tendencies among various sections of the
society have always been short lived and become non-existent.
Sri Lanka is a small country. We have only 20 million people speaking
three languages and practicing four major religions. There are also
great varieties in costume, food habits and social customs.
Geographically our land is diverse and there are amazing differences in
Despite these differences Sri Lanka is a political entity, every part
of which is governed under the same constitution. We need to co-exist
with each other peacefully, respect the culture and religion of our
fellow Sri Lankans.
Our national symbols like the National Flag, the National Anthem, and
the National Emblem help to remind us that we are all belong to one
identity. These act as strong unifying forces both in times of
celebration and adversity. Other forces like the communication system
and the mass media help in the exposure to all the cultures of different
regions of Sri Lanka bringing the whole country together as one nation.
Sri Lanka has been facing certain disintegrating forces from inside
the country as well as outside the country. These elements’ primary
loyalty is not ethnicity, not religion, not language but narrow
political advantage. Some of these destabilizing groups are
understandably supported by foreign countries.
Recent events show us beyond doubt that the threats of disintegration
are staring us in the face.
If we do not sink petty differences our freedom is in peril. We
should not forget that divisions on the basis of language or community
will have serious repercussions.
Turn to Indian experience. India is hailed by many as a shining
example of a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic democratic state, which has
successfully weathered many internal threats of disintegration. But
still, the assertive face of multiple ethno-cultural identities has
worried many observers.
According to reports, analysts have hinted at India’s diminishing
capacity to address the developmental aspirations of the multiple
ethno-national groups. The unfolding internal divisions, characterized
by lack of trust (if not distrust) among diverse ethno-cultural groups,
have threatened to wreck India from within.
No right-thinking citizen would want this to happen in Sri Lanka.
Ways of integration
How do we bring about national integration? There are few proven
It can be forced out, or can be made to strengthen from within the
core of our hearts. The result of force would always be weak,
unsuccessful and it would be for a temporary phase only. But when the
sense of national integration stems from within our hearts, it would be
strong stable and ever-lasting. History speaks for itself, the British
government brought about national integration when they ruled Sri Lanka.
They never forced it on us. It came naturally.
The national integration was strengthened when our country fought a
united struggle for freedom. In our struggle for freedom people from
different communities participated, keeping one thing in mind that they
all are Sri Lankans first. It proves that emotional integration is the
basic foundation on which the main structure of national integration can
We need today synthesis of the power of the mind that can give rise
to a vision of the whole and oneness. The school and university teaching
material should be suitably revised wherein importance and need of
oneness should be emphasized. From one end of the country to the other
end, regular long distance tours must be conducted, so as to, foster
emotional integration among the young students of our country.
We cannot afford to be parochial, narrow-minded, provincial and
communal because we have a great mission to accomplish. Political
integration has already taken place, but emotional integration is a must
for national integration. Political freedom has brought in its wake new
forces of narrow fanaticism which threaten to destroy the concept of one
country and one people. In their theory, attachment to community is
given priority over devotion to the motherland.
Another key challenge facing Sri Lanka today is the mainstreaming of
values and ethical behaviour that will promote national cohesion. In
this regard, there is a need to urgently develop a policy on a national
values system. I am optimistic that such values will have a positive
influence on the work ethics and productivity of all Sri Lankans.
In addition to helping create national integration, these values will
also result in substantial improvement in the quality of leadership,
management practices and efficient utilization of national resources at
all levels and sectors of the economy.
I also wish to suggest that the government initiate a ‘National
Integration Day’ as India has done. India observes November 19, the
birthday of former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, as National
Integration Day. Its main aim is to promote among the people unity,
peace, affection and brotherhood. Indira Gandhi was the victim of the
demand for the separation of Khalistan.
In India, the National Integration Day is celebrated to bring people,
especially youths of different religious background, different economic,
social, cultural and education, together and in common platform so that
these young people will understand and learn about each other. The
Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration is the prestigious award
accorded by the Indian National Congress. This Award is given annually
starting from 1985 to distinguished persons or institutions for
promoting national integration of India.
Through national integration, we can prosper and flourish; we can
carry with us, power, strength and solidarity and the element of
cohesion which will give us further permanence to stay strong in present