The ‘feel good’ factor only won’t do
We believe it would be in order to, first, place on
record our appreciation of the far-sighted measure on the
state’s part to launch a very momentous undertaking under the
title of Social Integration Week. This project was flagged-off
yesterday under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa at
Temple Trees, with the National Languages and Social Integration
Ministry and its Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara featuring, along
with the President, as being among the principal driving forces
behind the epochal programme.
Getting down to specifics, the event marked the launching of
also a Social Integration Policy Framework, the Social
Integration Theme and the Social Integration Logo.
We hope all these components of the national integration
project would increasingly enjoy high public visibility. They
need to be discussed and debated in public and it goes without
saying that officials of the state and UPFA politicians owe it
to the people to lead from the front in popularizing national
integration and all that it implies.
Something that ails Sri Lanka very badly is that there are
very few takers for those things that are intrinsically good for
the moral and spiritual health of the people in particular.
Whereas, there are ample takers for those things that are
distinctly evil, such as, communal hatred, religious bigotry and
violence of the most revolting kind, there are just a few
takers, apparently, for those things that could make our lives
unmistakably beautiful. Hopefully, the concept of national
integration would catch on because here is an idea that could
work wonders for Sri Lanka.
Following the ending of terror, sections among our
communities are reaching out to each other in the expectation of
making those who were affected by the conflict ‘feel at home’ in
this country. This is certainly a big advance in public
perceptions and attitudes, but, as President Rajapaksa has
pointed out, we need to further consolidate these ties by
bringing into being a policy framework on national integration
which will give purpose, direction and substance to our
strivings towards communal and national harmony.
In other words, merely making sections among the public ‘feel
good’ about themselves, if they are working towards communal
harmony and are reaching out to ‘the Other’ just would not do.
Nor would it be sufficient to create in affected sections among
our communities the mere feeling that they are now being cared
for by the state and the polity. It is concrete, palpable,
substantive and even measurable progress towards national
harmony, and not mere pious sentiment, which is now urgently
The state did very well to give evidence that they were in
earnest when they spoke about communal harmony and national
integration by establishing the Ministry of National Languages
and Social Integration, under a minister with distinctly
progressive views. The latter institution has made some progress
towards giving concrete shape to the state’s programme of
national integration through a range of projects, such as,
practically realizing the country’s official language policy.
It is little realized that Tamil too is now an official
language of this country and this policy must take on practical
substance if national harmony is to be effected. We understand
that the ministry is endeavouring towards this end. Moreover,
the state has made its intentions plain, in the context of
nation-making, by launching the Trilingual Sri Lanka project
which too is rich in possibilities.
However, the state’s seriousness of purpose is being
underlined further by the launching of the Social Integration
Policy Framework and we now have a frame of reference, as it
were, for the further development of projects. This framework
would help in monitoring concrete progress and we urge that time
not be lost in working towards realizing the relevant policy
framework and its aims.
But the relevant ministry and other state agencies engaged in
national integration must be backed wholeheartedly by the rest
of the polity. Government politicians, ministers and the like
should not fight shy of backing the Social Integration Policy
Framework and other measures which conduce towards the national
good. May we have no ‘traitors’ and ‘betrayers’ on this score!