COMBINING ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS IN THE PROPOSED NEW CONSTITUTION AS A SUCCESSFUL SOLUTION TO ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS PROBLEMS IN SRI LANKA PART 2
Posted on November 19th, 2021

By EDWARD THEOPHILUS

The basis for ethnic problems in the world appears to be no other reason than minority ethnic communities feel they are discriminated against by ethnic or religious differences by the majority. The government doesn’t purposely discriminate against people providing education, employment, various economic benefits, and many things as they relate to different ethnic or religious groups. Human being has feelings, and when compared to animals, humans are always provoked by discrimination feelings, which motivates people to act against discrimination. The nature of minorities to react against discrimination may be peaceful or violent or in both forms. In many countries, it shows that conflicts are based on complicated reasons and burdensome in finding a proper solution for the ethnic and religious problems. When there are economic, social, cultural, and ethnic differences in society, discrimination feelings have an upward trend and religious discrimination could not be eradicated unless making a society that has no religions and ethnic groups.

In modern society, discrimination feelings are vigorously influenced by colour bars, language differences, religious differences, provincial differences, caste dictions, and many others. Since the manifestation of the human being to this world, diversity has been a part of our world. Diversity exists not only among humans but also in other areas such as animals. Weather, soil structure; water, forest, and many other areas in our world. The diversity in the environment is being treated as an asset to humans. However, the diversity among humans shows a negative factor. Violence in the world is bred by a diversity that promotes provocation against other ethnic or religious groups. In this situation, the major question is how can diversity become an asset as interpreted by academics? The answer to this question would be an assortment of skills that will be helpful to individuals and the country.

Many economists are of opinion that Japan has achieved rapid economic progress after World War 2, and the major contributing factor for the progress in Japan was existing a single ethnic group in the country. A single ethnic base motivated people to live together. A single ethnic group supports developing trust among people and did not support promoting discrimination feelings among citizens. One language and one ethnic base maintained harmony among the Japanese nation. This truth also can be seen to a reasonable extent in Korean, Vietnam, and Chinese societies. The rapid economic growth in those Asian societies was supported by the uniformity of the ethnic base of citizens.

In Western societies, the uniformity in skin colour of people has contributed to economic and social progress because it was a factor to a reasonable extent in maintaining ethnic harmony. This may be a critical point because there were serious wars such as the Norman invasion and Nazism between white people in the Western society, so the uniformity in skin colour would have not contributed to avoiding wars or social problems. Even in the modern world, there are conflicts between the West and the Middle East despite both groups having the same skin colour. However, when there was a shortage of labour for economic development, Western society allowed black or brown-skinned people to enter their countries as the white majority needed the black and brown skin’s labour for their economic growth and prosperity. Because of promoting ethnic mix in Western society, discrimination mentality in the Western society was supported growing discrimination feelings, but the government policy process supported to control such negative feelings.

In such a situation, Western countries introduced anti-discrimination laws to tackle the problem rather than dividing their countries by power-sharing by constitutional reforms. White people positively tolerated ethnic entrance as it supported their economic well-being. The Western example proves that, when people are economically in a better position, they are ready to ignore ethnic or religious differences and intolerance for justice. The best examples from Asia for this argument are Singapore and Malaysia, where most Chinese and Malays tolerate the entrance of other ethnic people such policy created jobs and business for them.

Why Sri Lanka didn’t develop a homegrown solution to ethnic and religious problems rather than listen to the ill advice of Western countries? The Sri Lankan government needs to analyse the historical background of ethnic and religious issues without bias. Written historical evidence of Sri Lankan society provides information that, in spite of Sinhala, Tamil, and Muslim names they have a uniform ethnic base and three differences are not related to biological or anthropological factors but they are based on languages or religions, which were created as a result of adaption to the environment after the birth.

In history, Sinhala people were discriminated against and abused by invaders such as Indian and Western. That is how discrimination and hate began between the communities. Regrettably, many Sri Lankans believe that religious differences, social discrimination, and physical abuses of South Indian invaders massively contributed to ethnic problems in the country. It is a belief; we have not seen such abuses or discrimination. According to historical evidence, administrators in history were dictators who haven’t had mental abilities or lateral thinking power to manipulate effective solutions and a positive approach for problem-solving. They tried to control the society in iron pits. Religious leaders and administrators in history fuelled the issue and ignorance of them without skills for problem-solving, ethnic and religious issues expanded from generation to generation.

Although Mahavamsa attempted to interpret those ethnic issues in Sri Lanka began with South Indian invaders, before the embarkation of Vijaya, Sri Lanka’s society was divided as an ethnic or religious basis as Yakka, Naga, and Devas in the history before Vijaya embarked on the country. The differences in that society were based on religious or ethnic reasons, which were unknown to the present. We have no written historical evidence on the society before Vijaya, but the story of Lord Buddha’s visit to Sri Lanka reasonably proves that Sri Lanka had violence between communities and got outside mediation before the embarkation of Vijaya.

The other significant point concerning history is that Sri Lanka was under Western rules for about 500 years and the western rulers did not challenge the country’s unitary status and Portuguese supported King Senerat to crush so-called the Jaffna Kingdom and unite Sri Lanka in a unitary status.  They never allowed annexing Sri Lanka to India.  In Sri Lanka 75% of people are Sinhala and only 25% consist of all other ethnic groups.  The responsibility of the government is to protect all ethnic groups not only minority groups looking for their votes to be in power.

In this historical background, Sri Lanka’s government requires to identifying root causes for ethnic problems.  Many independent thinkers look at this problem from the point of view of discriminatory feelings of people among minority and lack of economic opportunities to them in the current society.  Usually, the government’s analytical point of view is based on policies of political parties, which are quite biased towards the majority because their existence is determined by the votes of the majority. The government should look at the independent point of view because the ethnic issue is not like short-term politics; it is an issue that is moving forward from generation to generation, making massive destruction to the country.

Why does the minority have discriminatory feelings? In the past, political administrators introduced laws discouraging discrimination of minorities for purely own political advantages. When compared to Western society, Sri Lanka’s political system always was not concerned about the discrimination of minorities. The laws and religious leaders always fuelled the issue supporting discrimination, which is against their religious philosophy. For example, Buddhism is against the discrimination of minority and Lord Buddha stated that nobody gains the status of highness or lowness by birth. Politicians wanted to create power bases rather than build ethnic harmony. Religious leaders wanted to take revenge rather than achieve Nirvana by the practice of good things. Tamil and Muslim political parties in Sri Lanka are equally racists like Sinhala people and they are promoting racism to attract votes. Therefore, racism-related problems, especially current problems, are created with the participation of the minority.

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