National Harmony in Sri Lanka – Catalysts and Solutions.
Posted on February 5th, 2010

Ananda Ariyarathne

When Mr.Alagaratnam wakes up in the morning, he does not miss his tea made in the traditional manner it is normally made in Jaffna and his wife who was sharing the burdens in life together bringing up their children has not become changed simply because they have now been living in Colombo for quite some time. Being staunch Hindus, they have their lives strictly controlled by the traditional rites and customs. They have their own relations and friends in the same communities, but live in Colombo just like them. The friends they have among Singhalese and Muslims are the only things that can be seen as outside typically and traditionally outside their way of life.

In spite of the damage caused by LTTE and Prabhakaran they lived where they are even now only with the fear , because of their roots that they might be harassed by the security forces every time a bomb went off killing mostly non-Tamil people. But nothing drastic happened except for some stories about some Tamil people were arrested on suspicion. But that was something even Prabhakaran did in those areas and all those who lived there know that he and his security men were more brutal.

Now that Prabhakaran is no more how light all the people feel and how easy it has become for all the people to live without fear, hidden antagonism and uncertainty. All must realize that what matters is peace. The peace to live without fear. Peace to have self respect and freedom to select a way of life for sustenance.

Historically, in Sri Lanka the people we have are biologically one type. We are a mixed nation biologically and we are different only in the languages and cultural features. We are one people divided by two languages and two cultures. A typical Singhalese farmer walks in a street in Jaffna wearing a traditional waisty with religious marks on the forehead given as blessings when the temple was visited would not look different from a real Tamil citizen of this country and that is proof enough that we are the same people who got distanced through years of geographical distancing due to isolation. That made people to feel as if they are different.

The greatness of rulers varied from time to time and all the people had and have reasons to be proud about great leaders. Starting from the so called first king of Singhalese people, in the recorded history, the relationship with the Tamil Culture was there. Prince Vijaya got his queen and for his seven hundred followers seven hundred noble ladies from Mudurai, a place in present day Tamil Nadu. Even the Singhalese who were left behind when those areas came under Tamil rulers who came from South India from time to time, settled down and got mixed.

The existence of Singhalese people even during PrabhakaranƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s fanatic anti-Singhalese proves this fact. The last King Sri Lanka had was not a Singhalese by birth but he lived like one and it is said that he was known to be a great poet too. Singhalese do not hesitate to name him as the last Singhalese King of Sri Lanka.

When the Singhalese and Tamils had one common ruler, and they stood together and fought for freedom .It became complicated only when Local Politicians tried to live in the history, thinking about the glory in the past. That is what started distancing the people. It was a problem with the armchair politicians who did politics as a pass time over a glass of whiskey.

History is gone and if we try to live in the history, we will never prosper. The best advantage of the history is its capacity to teach those who live today. Carry forward the good things and drop the failures as life is precious and short. In a world where people are more educated and therefore have developed the capacity to become more rational, how can some people try to highlight differences and try to establish and maintain those differences. If they are true leaders, what they have to do is not to establish differences, but to have ways to get rid of such.

It was because of short sighted communal feelings, our society was forced to suffer for more than thirty years. And now all can breathe a sigh of relief and only fading signs of doubts and suspicions still linger on because of narrow minded individuals. Such people exist only as long as they look important. It is they who make the others feel doubtful and look at things with squinted eyes. When they talk about demanding self government, they try to look great in the eyes of the so called beneficiaries. What they do not understand is the simple fact that such a thing shall make others react and cause friction.

IsnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t that a fact that the friction created that way distanced people bringing misery for all. Such leaders do not allow the society to heal the wounds and learn to live with each other sharing what we have ?

It is really refreshing to note, at this moment, there is a special man who is not scared of being criticized and as a fighter who faced more risks than those new generation armchair politicians who complicated matters by not allowing people to settle down. He committed himself as he stood against injustice. When he saw injustice was there in another form even in the system where he had become a key figure but had the courage to take a stand he was bold enough to take a decision. His thinking was not liked by a sadist like Prabhakaran. Knowing that his life was in danger, only choice left was to escape. But he did not escape like a rat and instead managed to make others see reason. Then the other progressive people helped and as a result, peace became possible faster than anticipated. He was a man who could call a spade a spade and he came forward ,set an example to show others what is real is the need for peace and happiness of the people.

In the eyes of the so called fire breathing arm chair fighters may call him a traitor. But if they have the courage to be rational they will tell themselves that he was right. Simply because he changed into an enemy of LTTE and because he has proved himself to be a realistic leader who has a balanced head over his shoulders.

The stand he has taken in going to the extent of calling the Tamil people not be misled by TNA, he does so not because he has become a coward but because he sees the futility in a protracted armed conflict that would bleed the whole society. He is a true Sri Lankan who has not lost his roots. One day the Tamil Community will remember him as an honest man who risked his own life to show a path. He is none other than National Integration and Reconciliation Minister Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan.

He got tired of killings and the aimless way Prabhakaran led his people. When he came in he came in committed, he did not take steps towards reconciliation. He took strides. He proved that he could become one among the others. Prabhakaran became ruthless tyrant who had human feelings only for his family members.

All the others were expendable. Others had to die so that he and his family could live. The way he had lived is not a secret anymore now. When the whole Tamil community was treated as a flock of sheep waiting to be slaughtered it was, Vinyagamurthi Muralidharan who had the guts to change the thinking. He did it with the force as that was the only language Prabhakaran understood. Other Tamil, except for those who tried to find ways to work together, endorsed what Prabhakaran said. TNA existed by towing that line. They might have thought that they would have lost their dignity if they had to suggest to his community to look for ways to live together.

He knew those leaders better and he knew well that those people could not and did not know to play another tune than breathing ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Self GovernmentƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ and that was in a way showing Prabhakaran that they were on his side. They sang that song for so many years and now they cannot get away.

Let us have a hypothetical situation. Say East and North are merged. Self rule will bring in extremists who would want more and more .They will do that while a large number of people with similar roots are well settled in Colombo and suburbs. They will live physically among Singhalese people and they will be compelled to lean towards the so called self ruled region. This will lead to frustration among Singhalese extremists and they will not keep quiet. The result is an uneasy relationship. Small incidents will grow into big differences. If this is to be explained it will take more time. If people learn to respect each other and live together, where will be the problems ?

Anyway, to put it as briefly as possible. We would have a problem pushed on to us. Is this what we want ? Ordinary people have no problems and what is happening in Jaffna when people from the South visit those regions is the best example. That is how the resources become open. Should not the so called Tamil Community leaders allow innocent Tamil people to live first without pushing a self rule concept. Those people need peace and happiness and to be with their children and relatives.

In that case why these insane people trying to establish differences ? The Tamil people should reject such mentally sick people who call themselves their leaders. It is the same thing that has to be said about Singhalese leaders also. We live in a modern world. At the same time, time even those who Singhalese Leaders who think that Self rule is alright are impractical as we do not live in a hypothetical world. The moment you recognize such a situation, you recognize others rights also to think in the same manner. Where can one draw the line ?

If Singhalese and Tamil people can have equal status what else will they need ?. What do not the Tamil people have now what Singhalese people have ? If one has money, who is going to stop him buying land in the middle of Singhalese areas ? But can a Singhalese do the same in a Tamil area ?

It is in such a frame of mind we must look into what is ahead. Buddhists and Hindus believe in reincarnation. Then cannot a Buddhist Singhalese be born as a Tamil in the other life ? and Vice Versa ? Love thy neighbour is the Christian Teaching and what can be difficult for a Singhalese and a Tamil or a Muslim to live next to each other ? Is not that what is happening in Colombo ? If all can live in a place like Colombo, why is it not possible elsewhere ? Is not this an attitude problem ?. Do we need Prabhakarans and Sampandams to bring solutions. This is why a man like Vinayagamurthi Muralidharan becomes futuristic.

When he said that though the pro-LTTE Tamil leaders want a ‘change’ for their own gain, ordinary Tamils were with President Rajapaksa who gave them a remarkable ‘change’ – peace after ending the 30-year LTTE terror, was not he talking loudly what the ordinary man thinks.

“He is the only leader who ended the 30-year terror within four years of his tenure”, When he said that he is trying to open the eyes of those who are actually not blind but blind folded. What ever, some negative thinkers may think, how moving was it to hear the Sri Lankan President speaking in Tamil ? If the first citizen can do that why cannot others do it ? If that can happen will they become Tamils overnight ? Tamil or Singhalese our cultures will remain in our hearts. When I writer this article in English, will I become an Englishman ?

When Minister Muralitharan invited the people to think ‘why so-called patriots need a change’ while people are enjoying the outcome of the change brought about by President Rajapaksa, he told some naked truth. Thirty years of suffering and stagnation is over.

He said voting wisely was important to defeat foreign influence and also the remnants of the LTTE still trying to drag the Tamils in to the stone-age. Being a person who once believed in LTTE knows more than anyone of us how external forces want this country to be separated. As he is not a fanatic like Prabhakaran,he could see that .

“Presidents and Prime Ministers have come and gone but who gave the leadership to defeat the LTTE? They only knelt down before the LTTE and the West. The only leader, who ignored the Western influence and challenged that the LTTE could be defeated was President Rajapaksa. People should remember this with gratitude”, Minister Muralitharan said without any reservation.

“Tamils in the North and the East know who really brought development to their doorsteps and who strove to bring peace while the international community backed by the Opposition and pro-LTTE Tamil politicians were influencing to halt the military offensives to save Velupillai Prabhakaran. I am sure the Tamils will pay their gratitude for these achievements on January 26 to elect President Rajapaksa for his second term”, he said and added,”I think a great responsibility lies in the hands of the Sinhalese and Tamils in this election as this is the most crucial election after decades”, he said inviting people to support President Rajapaksa to strengthen democracy and to prevent an emerging dictatorship”, he said before the elections and we now know with what happened immediately afterwards, how things had gone wrong.

His aspirations were found to be too wishful as things did not happen exactly like that and that was because of the thinking promoted by communal lines and the promises given by General Sarath Fonseka and the group supporting him. They cared a hoot for peopleƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s well being. They had only one aim and that was to bring President Rajapaksa down and to have mayhem re-established. Minister Muralitharan believed that Tamil politicians in the North and the East were working hard to bring back President Rajapaksa to power but he underestimated the elements working on communal lines.

Minister Muralitharan said that no other Government thought about developing the Eastern province other than Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government. He said a massive development drive was introduced in the East and Easterners got good roads, bridges, electricity and several other development projects for the first time in their lives under the UPFA Government.

Another place where he guessed wrong was when asked whether there could be any impact in securing votes in the East after Batticaloa Mayor Sivageetha Prabhakaran pledged her support for Sarath Fonseka he was confident that President Rajapaksa would secure over 60 percent of votes from Batticaloa and her support for Fonseka would not create any impact as she was not a key politician. She does not have a good vote base in Batticaloa. ” People know how President Rajapaksa supported her and others to enter democracy. She cannot make a big impact”, he said, but there could have been another reason which he did not wish to believe.

By the firm stance taken, Minister Muralitharan has clearly shown where he stands wit regard to North and East Merger issue when he said that it was high time to defeat the sinister moves of the TNA which dreams of a merged North and East. ” I don’t think the TNA would be able to re-merge the North and the East as the JVP who went to courts against merging the two provinces and the former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva who gave the final nod to de-merge the North and East are in the Fonseka camp. So, will they allow the TNA to re-merge the two provinces. Its just another pipe dream of the TNA which expected Prabhakaran to rule the Eelam State”.

It is really admirable the way he treated the issue. When he said that it is not only the Tamils but the Sinhalese should also seriously think about these factors before casting their votes , he saw the importance in making both Singhalese and Tamils to start thinking as one and decide on what is best for both.

The role played by Minister Muralidharan was actually the missing link found in bridging the gap. It is the Tamil mindset that has to be educated to stop relying on extremist elements as they brought only misery.

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