“It is praiseworthy that the editor has highlighted a burning issue with the above title in “OUR THOUGHT” in the DM issue of Tuesday 11th September. As stated quite rightly, the lack of trust on the peace efforts of the government during the past four decades is the principal cause of failure. Two Parliamentary Select Committees, one in 1984 and the other in 1994 failed in their task, despite the huge expenditure incurred.
The year 2015 saw the birth of two ministries, targeting national harmony. Three years has passed and are we anywhere near the target?
Apart from these two more bodies namely, the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) and Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) have been established for the same purpose.
Creation of entities will not serve the purpose unless the masses are mobilised. There should be mass scale activity towards reconciliation and every opportunity must be grabbed and availed of. It must be remembered that many an activity goes on at grass root level with the active participation of all nationalities and religious groups, hardly known to those at the helm of those entities created by the government. Those manning the government entities may not be very knowledgeable of the subject, as often they are selected not on their expertise but on other considerations and hence doomed to fail; being government entities, large sums of people’s hard earned money are allocated, which go down the drain. Not achieving the target jeopardizes the future of the nation too.
One such voluntary activity started about 35 years ago by Messrs Yogendra Duraisamy and Bogoda Premaratne, when on the occasion of the National New Year, people of all faiths and nationalities assembled at the Vajiraramaya Buddhist Temple in Bambalapitiya, after offering flowers and lighting lamps they march to the Kathiresan Hindu Kovil in Wellawatte, participate in the Pooja and disperse after fellowship; a tremendous show of harmony in society. This annual activity has gone on uninterrupted, to date. These should be encouraged in other parts of the country as well.
Big peraheras in Buddhist temples are organized and held colourfully with the help of people of all faiths in the respective areas. It is the same with big feasts in Christian churches. These activities need enhancement and encouragement from the government. We have even seen Muslims in certain areas organizing and participating in Danselas during Wesak and Poson.
The year 2015 saw the birth of two ministries, targeting national harmony
Even local temperance societies (amadyapa saba) with membership of all nationalities and faiths have existed, spread throughout the country, functioning for over half a century. If these are encouraged and empowered they would create a big impact. Instead what happens is that entities such as ‘Mathata thitha’ and Presidential Task Force for drug abuse are created and stuffed with lackeys who lack sincerity and have no direction or vision pertaining to the task in hand, resulting in their failure and even abandonment midway, with loss of large sums of money voted for such activities. Our National Holidays too can be utilized meaningfully to achieve National Harmony. Of the 25 declared National Holidays each year, 23 are connected with events of Religious and National importance. If these holidays are re-structured and activity encouraged to enable everyone to participate in the commemoration of each other’s events, it would be a big leap in achieving harmony.
Language teaching/learning goes on in a big way, supposedly with the intention of creating harmony. What have we achieved? Sinhala people learn Tamil and Tamils learn Sinhala as stipulated by the government, in order to pass the proficiency bar; the matter ends there with them earning their proficiency and related salary increments. The language is forgotten soon after and does not in any way promote harmony. Instead there should be incentives for people to use the language in conversation; conversing in a language makes its study easy and brings the people closer too.
Let’s give serious thought to build National Harmony. In this direction, no stone should be left unturned, lose no time, for it is only National Harmony that will ensure a united Sri Lanka, and a contented people.