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Government Gazette

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.

Meaning

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.

Co-existence

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 climate.

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 ways.

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 be created.

Challenges

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 struggling world.

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