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Sri Lanka: United we stand, divided we fall

The standing Challenge to our divisive politics!


by Fr. S.J.Emmanuel

After the Easter Sunday bomb blasts in the Christian churches and tourist hotels, we took time in identifying the evil forces behind the attacks as well as trying to see why they targeted Sri Lanka.

But we all were united in shock and grief and our arms went wide to embrace one another in grief.


Although the government and the security forces shamefully started searching and blaming one another for lapses, the people as a whole with their religious and civic leaders of all color showed a massive solidarity and compassion for one another. We are all proud of this momentary peoples-power that cried out – United we stand, divided we fall.

Warning of our 1st Prime Minister

During the 450 years of colonial rule different sectors of our population may have suffered many forms of injustices or were disadvantaged. Hence one can easily imagine the resurgence and enthusiasm in 1948 among all sections of the population at taking complete control of themselves and their destinies. It was in understanding the mood of the people that Mr.D.S.Senanayake , the first Prime Minister and popularly acclaimed Father of the Nation, gave the solemn warning – United we stand, divided we fall.

Temptations of egoistic majoritarianism

This wise principle of survival and prosperity for Ceylon as one nation of a multiethnic multi-religious communities was soon forgotten or was marred by an evil principle of egoism – Ceylon only for us- us meaning, only the Sinhala Buddhist majority! The other ethnic groups and religions had to survive as sub-ordinates!

The evil doer was not a foreign element as happened on Easter Sunday. It was we ourselves setting aside the good of peaceful-coexistence, which would have brought strength and prosperity to all, giving into narrow selfish politics of division.

Politicians take over the game of divisive politics

Dreams and hopes of a bright new future were in the hearts of all people as people. But evil intentions have entered first into the minds of the English educated elite politicians who shared power with the whites during the penultimate phase of the colonial government. Replacing the white regime was for them an internal settlement between whites and themselves. Nevertheless the majoritarian democracy started well even with a divisive national flag and disfranchising of the Indian Tamils. No protests and no terror!

But soon it became a mobilization of the grass-roots of our population by Mr.S.W.R.D. Bandaraniake, who in 1927 proposed Federalism for Ceylon, but now to rise to power with his ape anduwa and Sinhala only within 24 hours- a call well responded by the monks, veda mahatyas and ralahamys of the grass-root population!

Nationalism of the majoritarian democracy.

Let us not be short-sighted in our reading of Sri Lanka’s post-independence history and identify only the LTTE terror, forgetting/overseeing the many mob-terrors and the state-terrors which preceded the birth of the LTTE. They were all connected as actions and reactions. After every divisive move by the majority and its governments, there were the non-violent protests of the Tamils, met by mob terror and military terror from 1960s. Finally state-terrorism gave birth to Tamil-terrorism of the Tamil youth which culminated in the 29 years old war between the government forces and the LTTE,

Even after ten years cries of victims not heard

Now that the war ended ten years ago, with heavy casualties to our population and left thousands of victims crying even today for restoration of normal life, the efforts of the two governments from 2009 till now, towards healing of wounds and restoration of peace and reconciliation are very minimal. And this shows the mutual suspicion of divisive politics has not ended.

Fulfilling accountability and responsibility

We who seek international assistance not only for prosperity but also for war, should also welcome international help for reconciliation. 27 donor-countries gave finance and weapons to the then Government for the war against the LTTE. They have repeatedly called for post-war accountability, reconciliation and peace. But we reject their call as interference against our sovereignty.

Seeking prosperity of the nation

All along Sri Lanka and its leaders have sought prosperity of the nation at the expense of national unity, forgetting the fact true prosperity can thrive only in a robust unity of the population. Neither the selling of our geographical strategy to the super-competing powers US-China-India, nor the island’s touristic resources to the world of tourism will bring true prosperity and happiness unless top priority is given even at this late stage to accelerate our efforts at building a united nation of Sri Lankans.

Passivity of religious and civic leaders had helped divisive politics

Although it is the minority, even within a majority of the population, which takes up extremist views, unfortunately the majority have been passively following the sad events. Because the Easter attacks targetted a places of worship, the religious leaders came in full force to the front. But in the history of very sad events in our history, they too remained passive and distanced. Politicians can only whip up the weaker sections of our people by emotional slogans. But it is the religious and civic leaders who have the potential and the organs to enlighten people and warn them of the dangers of divisive politics.

Going beyond mere expressions of “United we stand” to reduce divisions

Let’s hope and pray that the shock and grief of Easter Sunday, be not limited to mere expressions and meetings of solidarity, but give us the courage and wisdom to shift our paradigm of thought and action from a divisive style of thinking, language and decisions to one of uniting all as a multiethnic and multireligious people, enjoying the richness in each and healing the wounds of one another.

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