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Sri Lanka: Happy Birthday to CBK

CBK entered politics at a time when many important political events were taking place globally. When she got into politics, the old world was crumbling. People were struggling for new world order. 

Editorial

Former President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s (CBK) 75th birthday falls today. She has ruled the country two terms and engineered some of the most required constitutional reforms such as introducing independence commissions to usher the principles of democracy. As usual, unfortunately, most of the mainstream media outfits selling extremism and racism for survival paid less attention to celebrate her birthday. 

CBK ( File photo)
In the last seventy-five years has been a turning point in Sri Lanka's modern history. Her role as a distinguished politician is very important. Her contribution to the development of society as a whole is highly commendable.

The former President is a critical figure in the social system of the country. First of all, her personal life was an example of genuine rebellion against the old social order. Her decisions in personal life were very radical. Secondly, as a politician, she has proven herself to be a leader who has for decades sought to address the causes of the social crisis.

CBK entered politics at a time when many important political events were taking place globally. When she got into politics, the old world order was crumbling. People were struggling for new world order. At the same time, the global political power swinging between the two major parties was pushing into one camp. Her mother, the former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was a part of a massive political campaign to make the South Asian region a peace zone, one of the most successful humanitarian missions in Global politics.

By the early eighties, however, the situation in Sri Lanka was worsening due to rampage of communalism. Although the government was able to systematically suppress the youth uprising of 1971 with international support, the situation became more complex after the eighties. The socio-economic problems of the country were becoming more and more confusing. This situation has been exploited by various people for their benefits. Like today, there were opportunist people who have sanded the eyes of leaders and misled them. Consequently, most of the humanitarian operations launched by many leaders were disrupted.

Sri Lanka, which has been branded as an Island of racism, is being isolated from the international community. There was a false notion that the Sinhalese are the people who would not tolerate the opinions of the minority and trample on the rights of minority ethnic groups. Under these circumstances, the turmoil in Sri Lanka gained international attention. It was interpreted by many as an international problem, not just an internal issue in Sri Lanka. As a result, Sri Lanka was becoming a victim of racist, extremist and terrorist practices maintained by various interested parties.

On the one hand, Tamil communalism was nourishing and the social reformers and real intellectuals living in the Tamil community were eliminating prematurely. Islam extremism, on the other hand, was silently swallowing society like cancer. In the meantime, some Sinhalese gangs have reacted to this situation with the utmost carelessness.

CBK's politics are more important because of her skill in understanding this social disorder. First, she apologized to all the victims of the communal riots launched by various parties in the country as the head of state. Thereafter, she laid the foundation for a strategic program to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country. One of its main strategies was to mobilize Tamil political parties and social groups that were under threat from the LTTE. Thereafter, an intellectual of Tamil origins like Lakshman Kadirgamar was asked to join politics to educate the world about its foreign policy. 

This is how then the government headed by CBK gained the Sri Lankan reputation. She has led initiative to re-engineer the strategic diplomatic relation with states such as Israel. It was a major step in strengthening the military power of the country.  The services rendered by people like Mr Kadirgamar in dealing with foreign affairs are priceless. In many cases, CBK has chosen the right people for her political strategy.

Then the US First Lady Hillary Clinton (L) shares a joke with then the Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga during their meeting at the president's official residence.
After a brief absence from active politics, she returned in 2014 as the majority of the countries identified her service as a much required national call. Her work for reconciliation during the period was very important. The Office of National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) was established and it is serving as a peace bridge between the communities to have lasting peace. The ONUR used a multi-layered strategic approach to identify and address the causes behind the social disorder.

Introducing the concept of brotherhood schools ( Sahodara Paasal) to bring together children of all ethnicities in one place, celebrate cultural events together, create a common platform for NGOs to advocate for various causes in the country, are some of the remarkable steps taken by the ONUR. 
Several activities were undertaken by the ONUR to provide basic facilities to uplift the living standards of the people who were displaced and disrupted due to the conflict. ONUR has identified ex-LTTE cadres and facilities them to create long term self income opportunities. The main objective of the ONUR was to liberate the country from the viruses of racism and extremism and to create an environment where everyone could live in dignity.

For many years, she has observed very carefully that the country's Muslims are becoming victims of opportunists and extremists. She was well aware of the brainwashing of innocents by these Islamic extremists through a method such as some of Madrasa schools. The only solution is to create a long term programme and create an environment where Muslim children can coexist with the rest of the kids in the country. The concept of Sahodara Pasal originated as a result. Unfortunately, empty critics do not understand the social impact of these activities.

Fortunately, current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has proven himself to be a leader who understands this. It is a positive move. What the country needs are leaders who have the vision to identify and treat common social issues without party politics. If such leaders and sincere people come together to support them, it will become a thriving state. Then the citizens of the state will be proud and united. That's what we desire for. It is, we believe, the political goal of CBK.

We Wish You Happy Birthday to You, Madam CBK!

 Āyubōvan!

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