he National New Year beginning tonight is perhaps one of the most important in recent decades. For the first time, the two major parties have come together to form a National Government and pave the way to build a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural Sri Lanka where we see deep and sincere unity in diversity.
Since Independence in 1948, and especially after 1956 when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike proposed the ‘Sinhala only’ policy for personal or party-political gain, the two major races -- the Sinhala and the Tamil people -- have built artificial walls similar to the wall that the Unites States political entertainer Donald Trump is threatening to build.
What is happening during the US primary polls for the presidential election in November, has important lessons for Sri Lanka and the faction or clique supporting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa needs to give special attention to it.
When Barak Obama was elected in 2008 as the first Afro-American President of the US, the white supremacists -- mainly ultra-conservative supporters of the Republican Party -- were apparently bitter or resentful if not revengeful. Virtually the whole world hailed the election of President Obama, but the conservative white America apparently could not change its mindset that only white is right and white is might.
We need to remember that the legendary leader who rebuilt the Republican Party and the United States was none other than Abraham Lincoln. He led the civil war to end slavery and for the emancipation of the Afro-American people. But this republican party today -- largely because of its bitter resentment to President Obama’s election -- is likely to implode ideologically with the anti-establishment Donald Trump far ahead in the race for nomination though most republican analysts believe he is unqualified, vulgar and crude while some even believe he is mentally not balanced, largely due to self-admitted chronic sleep deprivation.
During the Ronald Reagan years especially, the Republican Party had stood for solid principles such as less government, more private enterprise and free trade. But the anger or hatred against President Obama gradually saw the growth of the ultra-conservative ‘Tea party’ within the party in 2012. Now we see the perhaps unavoidable implosion of the party with the mainline Republican National Committee strongly opposing presidential candidate Trump with many of them describing him as a fiddling buffoon trying to be a statesman. What will happen at the Republican Party’s nomination convention in July is not clear, but some 155 years after the famous PresidentLincoln, the party will have to look for someone of that calibre to maintain the two-party democracy in the US.
As we celebrate the National New Year this week, the new government is taking practical steps to rebuild a united Sri Lanka after a devastating war of more than 25 years. The main task will be undertaken by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to the legendary Nelson Mandela’s brainchild in South Africa, though twelve years after he left office the country he liberated has again been plunged into corruption. The Commission to be set up here will also consider matters relating to compensation and non-recurrence, while a wide-powered office will be set up to handle another major problem relating to people who have disappeared.
While the National Government hopefully handles these and related issues in a selfless and sincere manner, we urge the Sri Lankan people also to make some important New Year resolutions. For instance, we need to see ourselves essentially as human beings, not as Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher people or as Buddhists, Hindus, Christians or of the Islamic faith. When filling documents and even when speaking on different issues, we need to refer to ourselves as Sri Lankans and not on a racial or religious basis. Starting with words, we could then go deeper into our minds and hearts, thinking and caring for others as Sri Lankans and human beings, not on racial or religious terms.
To achieve this accommodation on the middle path, extremists on all sides need to be marginalised. If we do that, though the Republican Party is dying, the immortal words of its legendary statesman will live on in Sri Lanka and we will have, as he wished, a democracy that is of the people, for the people and by the people.