Communal and religious extremism: Sri Lankans should be vigilant
Posted on February 6th, 2013

By K.T.Rajasingham

Singapore, 04 February, (Asiantribune.com):

The greatest challenge Sri Lanka will face in the next decade is the rise of communal and religious extremism, cautioned Professor Rohan Gunaratna.

After 30 years of bloodletting, the idea of promoting narrow ethnic divisions ended in May 2009. If anyone wants to instill racial and religious prejudice, suspicion and hatred and be a future Prabhakaran, the Government should look at that person very seriously, Professor Rohan Gunaratna
emphasized.

An internationally acclaimed terrorism expert , who heads the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore “”…” Professor Rohan Gunaratna suggested to consolidate the stability achieved due to the diligence of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary, the strategist who defeated the LTTE, has the understanding to take Sri Lanka to the next level of harmony and prosperity.

The renowned Sri Lankan Academician pointed out to consolidate the stability achieved and it is time Gotabaya Rajapaksa should spearhead a multidimensional strategy and create platforms to bring Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim community leaders to build one Sri Lanka.

When referring about the National Anthem, Professor pointed out that the Government of Sri Lanka has made a huge mistake by saying that the National Anthem can only be sung in Sinhala and he pooh- poohed that it does not make sense to anyone to prevent a community of its own people from singing the National Anthem in their own language.

The erudite Professor recommended e for one single composite National Anthem in the future where people sing in Sinhala and in Tamil.

He suggested that the most important thing is for the Sri Lankan Government to take measures to prevent the reemergence of the Tamil ethno-nationalism and Sinhala ethno-nationalism and to promote Sri Lankan nationalism “ƒ”¹…”As children of mother Lanka, all communities should live in harmony’.

Professor underlined that the Sri Lanka Government should enact a Harmony Act that promotes moderation, toleration and coexistence and also institute a Sedition Act that that would charge anyone who is inciting communal and religious extremism.

Given below the excerpts of the interview Asian Tribune had with Professor Rohan Gunaratna:

Asian Tribune: About rendering of Sri Lanka’s National Anthem “”…” What is your opinion?

Professor Rohan Gunaratna: The National Anthem was being sung in Tamil in the North and in the East before the rise of the LTTE. The Tamils had no problems whatsoever of singing the National Anthem. They did sing the National Anthem in Tamil in schools in Jaffna, in work places and ceremonies.

Even during the height of the LTTE days, when a delegation of Sri Lankan Scouts visited the North, the National Anthem was sung by Scouts in the North in Tamil.

The Government of Sri Lanka made a huge mistake by saying that the National Anthem can only be sung in Sinhala. It does not make sense to anyone to prevent a community of its own people from singing the National Anthem in their own language.

In addition to singing the National Anthem, all government servants and students in all schools should read a national pledge first thing in the morning. They should say they will serve all citizens of Sri Lanka equally and they will work for the prosperity and harmony of Sri Lanka.

I personally believe that the President should appoint a committee that will craft a national pledge, where every Sri Lankan at their work place and Sri Lankan students in their schools will pledge before they start working and their studies that they will serve equally all citizens of this country irrespective of religion or race and also work for the development and for harmony.

Asian Tribune: Kindly elaborate when you mention about singing National Anthem in Tamil? Whether we should have two separate National Anthems, one in Sinhalese, another in Tamil language giving the same meanings or wanted to have one composite National Anthem including Sinhalese and Tamil stanzas incorporated in the lyric?

Professor Rohan Gunaratne: The National Anthem that is being sung in Sinhala as well as National Anthem that is being sung in Tamil is identical with the same music and same meaning.

It does not make sense to prevent one community from not singing the National Anthem in their own language. It is absolutely something that should have never been done. It demonstrates that the Government took a decision without thinking.

Government or the parliamentary opposition should not take any decision that divides people by ethnicity, religion or region. With ethnonationalist ideologies in the north and the south polarizing Sri Lankans, everyone must come together to restore the pride and spirit of being a Sri Lankan. It will not come naturally. By investing in reconciliation and harmony initiatives, the pride of being a Sri Lankan should be inculcated.

Asian Tribune: Instead of two National Anthems in two languages, what about having one composite Anthem by including a Para or two in Tamil too in the same anthem that is presently sung in Sinhala language, so that Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese will all sing one composite National Anthem?

Professor Rohan Gunaratne: Yes, in fact that should be considered. Certainly there can be a composite National Anthem where Sinhalese sing in Sinhalese and Tamil and Tamils sing in Tamil as well as Sinhalese. I don’t think there would be any hiccups.

Since 1951, the Sri Lankan National Flag has a saffron stripe representing the Tamil community and a green stripe representing the Muslim community. It is one flag where the Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslim communities are represented.

Certainly there can be in the future one single National Anthem where people sing in Sinhala and in Tamil. The most important thing is for the Sri Lankan Government to take measures to prevent the reemergence of the Tamil ethno-nationalism and Sinhala ethno-nationalism and to promote Sri Lankan nationalism. As children of mother Lanka, all communities should live in harmony.

Asia Tribune: What can be done to strengthen future Sri Lanka?

Professor Rohan Gunaratne: The greatest challenge for Sri Lanka today is to promote the Sri Lankan dream. It is not for different communities to claim the right to any single region. Sri Lanka should not be broken up by religion or ethnic group – the Muslims to have the East, the Tamils to have the North and the Sinhalese to have the South. The Sri Lanka dream is for Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims to live everywhere in Sri Lanka wherever they want and as brothers and sisters.

It is also very important for Sri Lankan politicians whether they are Tamils, Sinhalese or Muslims not to campaign based on Tamil identity, Sinhala identity, or Muslim identity. Sinhalese politicians should always speak for the Tamils and Muslims, and Tamil politicians, for Sinhalese and Muslim, and Muslim politicians for the Tamils and Sinhalese.

After 30 years of bloodletting, the idea of promoting narrow ethnic divisions ended in May 2009. If anyone wants to instill racial and religious prejudice, suspicion and hatred and be a future Prabhakaran, the Government should look at that person very seriously.

The Government should enact a Harmony Act that promotes moderation, toleration and coexistence.

The Government should also institute a Sedition Act that would charge anyone who is inciting communal and religious extremism.

The greatest challenge Sri Lanka will face in the next decade is the rise of communal and religious extremism.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the strategist who defeated the LTTE, has the understanding to take Sri Lanka to the next level of harmony and prosperity. To consolidate the stability achieved, he should spearhead a multidimensional strategy and create platforms to bring Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim community leaders to build one Sri Lanka.

Asia Tribune: What is the greatest achievement of the current government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa?

Professor Rohan Gunaratne: It is ending the 30 year war. Other achievement was rehabilitating rather than prosecuting 11,500 of 12,000 LTTE cadres. This demonstrated that the Sri Lankan people do not wish to seek revenge from those who have killed, maimed and injured others.

It is essential for this spirit of forgiveness and compassion to grow as Sri Lanka moves forward and unite different ethnic groups that were divided by extremist ideologies.

Sri Lankans should not take Peace for granted. But it should become the duty of everyone in Government, the parliamentary opposition and all political parties to promote moderation, toleration and co-existence as a way of life.

Asia Tribune:What is the greatest tribute Sri Lankans can pay for those who died in the Sri Lankan conflict?

Professor Rohan Gunaratne: It is never to permit the rise of religious and communal extremism once again in the Island of Sri Lanka. It is to create a norm and an ethic against ethnic and religious entrepreneurs who flame communal and sectarian passions. It is to create the laws to charge and prosecute those who disrupt communal and religious harmony and to ensure that their assets are confiscated.

It should be remembered that every day that this war was ended not only by the Sinhalese, but by many Tamils and Muslims. They contributed towards ending terrorism in Sri Lanka as much as the Sinhalese.

In addition to the monumental contribution of the three time Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, I should single out the names of the founder father of the Special Forces Colonel Fazly Laphir and the Commanding Officer of the Sri Lanka Military Intelligence Corps Lt. Col. Nizam Muthaliff.

There are many other valiant Tamil and Muslim heroes that fought against terrorism and made a supreme sacrifice. To honor their memory, we must be vigilant and not allow anyone, especially politicians to play ethnic and religious politics, and destroy the hard won and costly peace.

Extremist forces may try to creep in under the guise of protecting or advancing community interests and we must never allow this monster of racism or fanaticism to return.

I would remind the quotation of Great Emperor Asoka

The greatest heritage Sri Lanka received was harmony. We lost our peace when ethnic and religious entreprenurers started to exploit them for personal and political gain. I urge the segment of misguided Sri Lankans determined to create a riot between the Sinhalese and Muslims to reflect upon the quote ofEmperor Ashoka who gave Sri Lanka the greatest of all gifts, Buddhism, to reflect on his time tested words:

“One should not honour one’s own religion and condemn the religions of others, but one should honour other’s religions for this or that reason. So doing, one help’s one’s own religion to grow and render service to the religions of others too. In acting otherwise one digs the grace of one’s own religion and does harm to other religions. Whosoever honors his own religion and condemns other religions does so indeed through devotion to his own religion, thinking ‘I will glorify my own religion’. But on the contrary, in so he injures his own religion more gravely. So concord is good: Let all listen, and be willing to listen to the doctrines professed by others.”

– Asian Tribune –

17 Responses to “Communal and religious extremism: Sri Lankans should be vigilant”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “all government servants and students in all schools should read a national pledge first thing in the morning. They should say they will serve all citizens of Sri Lanka equally and they will work for the prosperity and harmony of Sri Lanka.

    I personally believe that the President should appoint a committee that will craft a national pledge, where every Sri Lankan at their work place and Sri Lankan students in their schools will pledge before they start working and their studies that they will serve equally all citizens of this country irrespective of religion or race and also work for the development and for harmony.”

    100% agree. Do it now.

    But singing national anthem in 2 languages is rubbish. NO COUNTRY does it. We will be like jokers among other countries.

    Imagine Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims gathered in one large place and singing it.

    Sri Lanka Matha
    Sri Lanka Thaye

    It will be like “malu kade”.

    No one can make out what they are singing other than Sri Lanka. Which means “Sri Lanka confusion”.

    Please don’t turn the national anthem to a “malu kade”. Be reasonable.

    We should all sing in ONE VOICE the same thing. Otherwise the purpose is lost. ALL Tamils sing the German national anthem in German without ANY problem. 70,000,000 Tamils in Tamil Madu sing the Indian national anthem in Bengali. I a Tamil sing the US national anthem in English. What’s the damn problem of SL Tamils they want to sing the SL national anthem in Tamil? This is double standards and discrimination.

    I’m sure the national nathem was sung in SINHALA ONLY when we got Independence. Why change now!

  2. Nanda Says:

    “Whosoever honors his own religion and condemns other religions does so indeed through devotion to his own religion, thinking ‘I will glorify my own religion’. But on the contrary, in so he injures his own religion more gravely. ”

    This is excatly what Muslims are doing.
    So, what can be done if they do that ?

  3. strech4891 Says:

    Your wrong. A simple internet search would show you that several countries that has the national anthem in two languages. The below are from wikipedia:

    e.g. Canada (English/French)
    South Africa (English+five other languages)
    Switzerland (French, German, Italian, Romasch)
    New Zealand (English/Maori).

    Try not to peddle your ignorance as fact.

  4. strech4891 Says:

    FYI other countries whose people sing their national anthem in several official languages also include:
    Fiji, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, India (Sanskrit, Bengali and Sign language).

  5. Senevirath Says:

    LORENZO Give them tight

    Why not Rohan advise U.S.Aand Germanyto change the national anthem?
    Who had compassion not to take revenge but to rehabilitate 12000? were they SRILANKANS or SINHALA BUDDHISTS remember there are 70% buddhists in this country. Rohan why cant u say that. Will muslims do such a thing in their countries?

    Rohan Go to India and tell them that they should allow tamillnadu to change the national anthem They will put PARIPPU into your mouth
    Rohan is trying to please westerners . ROHAN DONT BE A MORON

    As lorenzo told it will be a MALU KADE when they sing in one classrom…..Oh! proffessor……

  6. Insula Says:

    “all government servants and students in all schools should read a national pledge first thing in the morning. They should say they will serve all citizens of Sri Lanka equally and they will work for the prosperity and harmony of Sri Lanka.

    Yes, they do that in the US all Schools. Country first, others later. Also Separation of Church and State.

    But, the problem in Sri Lanka was, as I understand, a big fraction of the Sinhalese and Tamils did not trust each other, was proud of each others heritage, their religion, Buddhism or Hinduism and the Tamils associated the national Anthem with Sinhalese Buddhism. This also played a part with the Terrorist Separation war.

    In India, this factor is not at play, as most Indians are Hindus and the Muslims are not language-centric, but religion-centric.

    I also understand the Muslims in Sri lanka have no problem with the national anthem being in Sinhalese, Sanskrit or any other language and many do speak Sinhalese.

    There is still a question as to why there are only Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka, and hardly any Tamil Buddhists, after 2,000 years of interactions, and whereas after 150 years of Portuguese rule about 1/3 of the Tamils became Catholic or Christian. The average Tamil would have been better off being a Buddhist than being a Hindu with the rigid caste system and the Brahmin Control.

  7. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Our National Anthem is a national treasure. Listening to that anywhere in the world, anytime make you so patriotic and make you so proud to be a Sinhalese, a Sri Lankan. For some people might not have the same emotions. If they do not like it, there are a lot of countries in the world, they can try to live in those countries. Then they can ask for all those things, and will be given them to on a plate.

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    It would be stupid/senseless to sing the Sri Lanka National Anthem in a language other than Sinhela. Unless of course, Sri Lanka wants to be an appendage of socially backward and caste bound Tamil Nadu.

    An Oath of Allegiance to Sri Lanka makes sense to me, especially in schools, armed forces and govt. work places. We have said so these past many years.

    Tamil leaders have always played for Separatism. They have yet to prove their sincerity about real integration of Sri Lanka Tamils into mainstream life here.

  9. Voice123 Says:

    I have to agree with strech4891 on this issue. How is singing the national language in many languages going to cause Sri Lanka to be subjugated by caste-ridden Tamil Nadu? TN is going to try to occupy and destroy us whether we sing it in one or 100 languages! In fact, I believe that including Tamil in the national anthem will wean many of our Tamils away from loyalty to Tamil Nadu and their fanatics. Thats the idea. You cant FORCIBLY assimmilate people. It is not only morally wrong, it has been tried in countries like Australia and Canada etc and failed. We have tried this favouring one language business for too long and it has clearly failed.

  10. Fran Diaz Says:

    There’s always English as a link language which can be used in Sri Lanka, and widely used by Tamil Nadu too. English is already used widely used in Sri Lanka.

    Singing the Lanka National Anthem in different languages doesn’t make sense as no one else wants to sing our National Anthem in their language !

  11. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Has any Sinhalese ever wondered about the doctors, engineers, solicitors etc. produced by the Mother Lanka year after year without any recourse to their parents. Soon after they get to respectable positions, home or abroad, start undermine very country who helped them to get on their feet. We all know how our President was hounded out of Oxford University by such ungrateful people. This is very very treacherous and hurtful to Sinhalese as some of them may have sacrificed their univeristy place one of these traitors unwittingly.

    While rich, developed countries in the world don’t provide free education to their youngsters, poor Sri Lanka still teach these ungrateful people to become very successful. We should consider limiting two children to a family so that the numbers of these traitors can be kept to minimum.

  12. Insula Says:

    Voice123 Says:
    February 8th, 2013 at 8:35 am
    I have to agree with strech4891 on this issue. How is singing the national language in many languages going to cause Sri Lanka to be subjugated by caste-ridden Tamil Nadu?

    COMMENT:
    Most people are all hung up on India, Tamil Nadu and Tamils. I remember, when I talked to a North Indian, he described Tamils from Tamil Nadu as educated fools, for whatever it means. My be he does not know much about Sri Lanka. Wonder what his thoughts are on Sri Lanka.

    Canada has the National anthem in English and French. I understand that the French dislikes or hates the English Language in France, more then the Tamils dislike or hate the Sinhalese language , the Sinhalese or Buddhism, even though there are are hardly any Tamil Buddhists.

    Just sharing what I have heard, read and seen. The sample is too small to be statistically valid, and therefore not scientific. Any comments?

  13. Fran Diaz Says:

    Why not every University student who gets free education off the taxpayers of Sri Lanka SIGN an Oath of Allegiance to Sri Lanka
    on gaining entry into any University here ?
    Also add the Penalties for non compliance, such as revocation of Passport, not allowed re-entry into Lanka (if abroad), cannot do business with/in Sri Lanka, monetary repayment in lieu of free education, etc.

  14. Voice123 Says:

    Insula said
    “…Wonder what his thoughts are on Sri Lanka.”

    – I have spoken to a lot of Indians, from all parts. They think we are ALL fools, Sinhalese, Tamils and others – and that Sri Lanka is too good a country for us. We have such an abundance of nature, climate, natural geographic position, cultural heritage from a variety of continents and sources, variety of religions, etc and we are bickering about cosmetic things like how many languages to use and not to use.

  15. cassandra Says:

    Voice 123,

    It’s good to see you, as before, bringing a note of sobriety to these discussions.

    I cannot help thinking that there will be many Sri Lankans who will share the views expressed to you by your Indian contacts. We certainly conduct ourselves like fools. We have scarcely emerged from a 30 year nightmare, but already it seems there are some who are intent on creating new divisions within the nation. Is there some compelling streak of masochism in us as a nation that makews us seek a return to the state of our erstwhile misery?

  16. Lorenzo Says:

    “e.g. Canada (English/French)
    South Africa (English+five other languages)
    Switzerland (French, German, Italian, Romasch)
    New Zealand (English/Maori)”

    Fiji, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, India”

    Out of 202 countries only less than 10 singing their anthem in more than one language!!

    What a joke!!

    Even out of them 7 out of 9 are worse off than SL!

  17. MuhammadFS Says:

    Muslims are the largest minority in Srilanka pretty soon. We have no problem Srilanka Matha in Sinhala only. Malays and European people also have no problem Srilanka Matha in Sinhala only. If Tamils have a problem, they have to correct, not others. I can tell you most Tamils are OK with it. Only a few extremist Tamils want a Tamil version national anthem.

    Making two versions of the anthem will confuse Muslims and Tamils who already use the correct Sinhala version.

    In Trincomalee school children mostly Tamils and Muslims sang it last week in Sinhala. They have no problem. Ask the people not their representatives who lie. We should have one country for all and one anthem for all.

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