Thirty four years after ‘Black July’, Sri Lanka today has many good reasons to believe that what happened in 1983 will not happen again. Though extremists, critics and cynics emphasise the negatives and divisions in the national unity government, the positive reality is that for the first time since independence, the two major parties are working together towards all inclusive eco-friendly sustainable development and national unity.
Earlier this month, the divisions erupted publicly when President Maithripala Sirisena expressed grave concern that some United National Party leaders were working in a manner that protected the Rajapaksa family and its close associates. The President, whose Sri Lanka Freedom Party parliamentary group is split down the middle between the Sirisena faction and the Rajapaksa faction, implied there may be hidden agendas in the long delay in probing multimillion dollar corruption charges involving former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his family members, top officials and associates.
Last week a UNP delegation headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met the President to explain the issues concerning these widespread allegations and delays in the prosecution process. The premier said he had only advised the Attorney General’s Department to make sure there was substantial documentary evidence before any case was taken court. He points out that in a court of law, allegations need to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. If the evidence is insufficient and cases fail, it would be a further blow to the national unity government and cause further erosion in public support or confidence.
Whatever the circumstances regarding the major corruption allegation and other disputes between the two parties in the ruling coalition, both the President and the Prime Minister have regularly reiterated their commitment to work together for ethnic and religious unity in diversity. The President is also aware that in his historic January 8 election victory, the key role was played by Premier Wickremesinghe and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Furthermore it was the minority people’s vote that brought about his victory because the pattern shows that majority community vote was split between the two parties.
Not only practical events. Even nature shows us that the deepest unity is in diversity. Take the human body for example. Almost every part is different and plays a different role. The eye cannot say it is more important than the nose and even the fingernails and the toenails are important. When one part suffers the whole body does. Take even the case of a flower garden.
Though roses are beautiful, the garden would not be so if it was filled with roses alone. The beauty comes from the diversity or variety of flowers and trees.
In Sri Lanka, while Buddhism has rightfully been given the foremost place, there are also followers of three other major religions - Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. In ethnic terms, a majority are from the Sinhala community while there are substantial numbers of Tamils, Muslims and members of other communities.
In terms of religion, while we practise our own, we need to develop a spirit of respect for the faith and beliefs of others. We may not accept those beliefs but we need to respect them. The same is true in ethnicity while we have our culture and tradition which we practice; we need to develop a spirit of respect for the culture and traditions of other communities. This is the vision and the goals, political, religious and other leaders need to promote, so that Sri Lanka could become a peaceful, just and all inclusive society with deep unity in diversity.
Daily Mirror, July 24, 2017