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The outpouring of grief and solidarity with Sri Lanka over the Easter tragedy

We need to criticise ideas, not individuals or their religions

by Victor Cherubim

Sri Lankans like every other small island nation people are a happy go lucky people, want to live and let live, with a Buddhist way of a life of tranquillity and inner sereneness. We have been blessed with beautiful golden sandy beaches,with fauna, flora and an idyllic sunny climate all year round. This is the envy of the many who visit our shores in their thousands, in search of an escape from troubled waters and times.

But over the recent many years, our paradise isle has been the scene of civil war, the tsunami,the drought, the flood of drugs and imported debt mountain and a wanton destruction of everything we have aspired.

Having had the resilience to overcome most of our man made difficulties with the wisdom of following in the footsteps of the Middle Path of The Triple Gem and with the courage to lead our way out of trouble, we have now stumbled into becoming embroiled in international terrorism, due to our genuine innocence of understanding the machinations of international power rivalry.

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka?

What have the recent atrocities in New Zealand committed against humanity got to do with what happened days ago on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka?

Not long ago,I was in a discourse with a friend of mine about my childhood in Sri Lanka. He said, " you never had it so bad when you were growing up in Colombo,did you?" "You see", he said, " was it not peaceful". So what has really happened to make this sea change over the last fifty odd years, I contemplated.

I can remember my mother buying China silk from the Chinese merchant peddling down our lane on his bicycle on a sultry afternoon.

I can remember the Indian Shastri wanting to read my palm,to see if I would ever get rich?

I can remember the Seer fish monger and the "elo wollo" ammah selling their produce to my Mum, with accounts scribbled on a Note Book.

What has changed?

Have we,as Sri Lankans changed,or has the world changed? "We might live in an age of moral outrage, but plenty of research shows that calling someone a terrorist, someone racist,homophobic, sexist or any other label does nothing to change people's beliefs. This is because naming,shaming,or blaming people will automatically put them on the defensive".

It is extremely difficult to change the world or even our workplace.This is because bias is a human condition. Stereotyping and unequal treatment persist, because when bias motivates an unlawful act,it is considered a hate crime. Hate today around the world wears many faces,not only under burquas and hjabs. Hate is an open attack on tolerance and acceptance of people as human.

How much has changed and how much as remained the same?

Experience shows that no country in the world is an "island", able to create opportunities for its population entirely within its own geographical boundaries. To succeed in this open environment Sri Lanka will need to improve its skills base,better understand the supply and demand chains as well as produce higher quality goods and services.

We have remained the same as an agricultural export nation. We have remained the same depending on our tourist trade to bring in the revenue. We have exploited our scenic beauty and at the same time invited trouble. Yet as someone who visited Sigiriya recently stated, there are no proper tourist toilets available as yet.

How can a relapse into violent conflict be prevented in our land, if we tell the whole world that our Police were privy to intelligence given to us in advance of the Easter massacre,while our Security Services were kept in the dark. Was there a conspiracy hatched by interested parties for self gain?

Besides, winning the peace remains a much greater challenge.Many of the underlying issues remain unresolved,making our Opposition Leader,Mahinda Rajapaksa, reported to have stated, that if he is returned to power, he will release all the Tamils detained without trial, languishing in prison for nearly ten years at great expense to their families and to the economy.

We run to the international community for help in conflict resolution, but we all know in our hearts that it is not the international community or society involved in conflict prevention. We as a nation must stop the infiltration of international hate crime in our island.

Sri Lanka we say, has experienced improvements in political rights and civil liberties since 2015. However, the Government is divided and slow to implement "transitional justice" mechanism needed to address the ongoing issues.

What must we do now?

We speak of encounters in our churches, in our hotels, in our streets. No matter the location, or relationship, the stories echo each other. After eight incidents leaving the nation in a state of shock as well as an outpouring of grief and solidarity worldwide, we need to act immediately to restore confidence in our people for their safety and security.

We need to criticise ideas, not individuals or their religions. We need to commit to learning, not debating in Parliament. We need to share information, to maintain focus and flow. We need to be inclusive rather than exclusive

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