In a historic first official visit Down South to Matara, Opposition Leader and Tamil National Alliance MP R. Sampanthan talks about the connection between Buddhism and Hinduism and the importance of Sinhala-Tamil unity. Following are excerpts from the speech he delivered at the passing out ceremony of vocationally trained younth of the Sammadhi Community Development Foundation started by UNP MP Buddhika Pathirana.
Matara is an ancient District and a historic city in our country. During ancient days, it was a part of the Ruhunu Kingdom when it was captured by the Portuguese. Then it was taken over by the Dutch, then by the British until 1947, when Sri Lanka became independent. accompanied by Matara District parliamentarian Buddhika Pathirana, I went to a pirivena last evening. The chief prelate of that pirivena told me about an ancient temple of Lord Shiva some distance away. But it is apparently now in ruins.
According to one of our famous historians Sir Peiris, there were five ancient historic temples of Lord Shiva in Sri Lanka. Thirukoneshwaram in Trincomalee, Thiruketheeswaram in Mannar, Munneshwaram in Chilaw, Naguleshwaram is Jaffna and Thondeshwaram in the South. I had a strong feeling that this old Shiva temple now in ruins is believed to be the Thondeshwaram. I also visited the Vishnu Devalaya and the Kataragama Devalaya. The Poojas were conducted for us and we received the blessings that were invoked upon us. It showed me how the Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus have been interwoven in history, culture and tradition.
Unfortunately, after we were granted Independence, we had issues, and as a result of those issues, we were not able to achieve the progress other countries achieved world over. For example, take Singapore. Its Premier Lee Kuan Yew intended to develop Singapore the standards of Sri Lanka. But we lost our way and became stagnant. However, Singapore saw massive development. Today, the average Singaporean earns 100 times his/her Sri Lankan counterpart. Singapore is one of the most advanced countries in this region in all aspects. Several countries in the world have had conflicts from time to time. Be in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and so on.... But the people of those countries learnt their lessons and wanted to put an end to those conflicts and came forward to develop their countries, thus those nations become prosperous and self-sufficient.
Parliamentarian Buddika Pathirana, referred to the insurrections in both the North and the South. The insurgency in the South has come to an end and once the rebel leaders are currently playing major roles in Parliament. The Northern insurrections have also been brought to an end after almost three decades. Now we are trying to find a permanent solution for the people in the North and East.
Parliamentarian Buddika Pathirana pointed out that unfortunately, there had not been a Constitution in this country framed with the consent of all the people. We are now endeavouring to frame within the consent of all. This Constitution is going to be framed one with the framework of a united, undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka. An indivisible country that cannot ever be divided. I convey that message to you as the Democratically-elected Leader of the Tamil People.
We do not want this country to be divided. But the people want power to be devolved within the regions. The power that is required to maintain the unity and territorial integrity of the country, Defence, the Army, Navy and the Air Force will be under the control of the Central Government. Foreign Affairs Currency and Finance, Immigration and Emigration to be under the central government. These powers need to be kept at the Centre to ensure the unity and the indivisibility of the country.
Other powers will be devolved to the leaders. The Southern Province will have their Provincial Council with enhanced powers. The Sabaragamuwa, Central Province will have their Provincial regions with extraneous enhanced powers. Similarly the North, East and Central Provinces will have their own areas with enhanced powers. The slogan is “No division of country but the devolution of power”. Through this, people would be in a position to exercise power in their respective areas. There would be much more effective and participatory democracy. Your leaders elected at the local level would be in a position to exercise those powers on your behalf.
Consequently, you would be able to obtain more effective and much quicker service. So now for the first time we are trying to frame a Constitution to keep Sri Lanka as a united, single, and undivided country and enable it to develop through a national consensus of all the people.
The Parliamentary Steering Committee comprises of all political parties such as UNP, SLFP, JVP, JHU, ex-President Mahinda Rajapakss’s Joint Opposition and the TNA. We are discussing and it is time to evolve a Constitution that is acceptable to all citizens.
This is the first time a serious effort is being made to evolve the Constitution, based on the consensus of all the political parties and people. If we bring about the Constitution in this country, there would be major changes in the next ten years, the country would be on par with Singapore and Switzerland.
Samadhi Foundation founded by Mp Buddhika Pathirana is doing an excellent job. They teach English, Tamil, electronics and screen printing. They offer vocational training for the youth to find jobs and it would see more productivity during the development process.The Prime Minister spoke about one million jobs, the PM solicits cooperation from China, America, Singapore, the EU, Korea and other countries. If Sri Lanka is developed, all of you would be well trained and would find job opportunities. Everything would be done within the framework of a united, indivisible Sri Lanka. The rights of the people, whether they are Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims or Burghers will be safeguarded.
We practise Buddhism, Hindusim, Islam and Christianity in our country. These are the four major religions in the world. A thin veil separates Buddhism and Hinduism. You go to Vihara or Kovil, you will see Vishnu, Ganapathy, Saraswathy and Murugan. Had we followed the Buddha’s teachings, we wouldn’t have had issues in this country. He taught kindness, justice, forgiveness, equality and cohesion. Buddha was born as a Hindu. We all must think differently; must forget the past and look towards the future.
We don’t want our children and grandchildren to suffer the same way we did. They must live a better life in this country.
That is the goal of the Samadhi Community Development Foundation. We all must endeavour to bring better prospects to this country. We must abide by the teachings of the Buddha. Other religions too preach the same. I want to congratulate the Samadhi Foundation. Its programme is becoming very popular and it gives a great benefit to the youth. The Samadhi Foundation is in touch with the local and international NGOs, countries and their citizens.
I want to congratulate the Samadhi Foundation, particularly its founder Buddhika Pathirana.