In the aftermath of the Orlando massacre and the brutal murder of one of the British Parliament’s rising stars, Sri Lanka also needs to consider the imposition of tougher laws against extremists. Last Sunday, a week after the massacre of civilians in an Orlando night club, some 50,000 people gathered in the city for a memorial service and the most notable feature was the appearance of a rainbow – signifying the beauty of unity in diversity.
Sri Lanka also last Sunday celebrated Poson, marking the most important turning point in the country’s history, when Arahat Mahinda brought the Buddhist message of non-violence and goodwill to all beings.
Sri Lanka’s National Unity Government – despite the shortcomings and the widespread grievances of the people – has committed itself to work towards the vision of sustainable eco-friendly and all-inclusive development to bring about a just society.
To achieve this unity in diversity is essential. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are repeatedly stressing they would not allow any party, in the North or the South, to again whip-up racism, which was the main cause of the devastating 26-year war, which left hundreds of thousands of people dead or seriously injured, while the material cost is incalculable.
After the silent people-power revolution brought President Sirisena to office on January 8 last year, the defeated President Mahinda Rajapaksa peacefully handed over the executive Presidency and also the leadership of the party. But in the weeks and months after that some members or parties in the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), formed what is called the ‘Joint Opposition’. However, the Speaker has refused to recognise the group because there was already a recognised Opposition, with a leader and a chief whip in Parliament. Several of this Joint Opposition members have been questioned or arrested on various allegations. Over the weekend, one party leader, Udaya Gammanpila, was arrested and remanded .
On the one hand the former president and others in this group are accusing the Government of taking political vengeance. While Government leaders are denying this, most civic action groups responsible for bringing the present government into power are accusing the Government of going slow.
Whatever the legal issues, there can be those who can whip up extremism as well.
There are also apparent attempts to whip up ill-feelings among the security forces, though the National Government is handling the Geneva situation well with assurances there will be no foreign judges in any probe on alleged war crimes.
Whatever has not been done, we see a vibrant democracy in action again with dissent of criticism being expressed freely, even in the State media. But this right to free expression is linked to the responsibility of maintaining unity for the common good of the people of our country. Those who do not act with responsibility cannot be allowed to indulge in hate speech that may lead to angry intolerance or violence. As shown in Buddhism and other religions, the middle path is not only the best, it is also sacred.