How should a multi-ethnic country respond to ethnic tensions?

9 March 2018 12:00 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


It’s not a good thing to mess with a sore wound and likewise the recent uprisings have made things a lot ‘bitter’ than expected. While many factors contributed to intensify the situation it’s important to note that Sri Lanka, to begin with, is a multi-ethnic country. As we saw the end to a thirty-year ethnic conflict, it’s the duty of every citizen to ensure that such memories are never brought back.

Hence the Daily Mirror spoke to a few people of varied expertise on how the country should respond during incidents such as what happened in Kandy.  

‘Muslims have always worked towards the sovereignty of the state’

We have had a lengthy friendship and small incidents shouldn’t sour this relationship

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka Muslim Council President N.M Ameen said that Muslims and Buddhists have had a long relationship in this country. “We have had a lengthy friendship and small incidents shouldn’t sour this relationship. In fact the MahaSanga should come out at this point and explain the situation. This is a time when all people have to come forward and strengthen the relationship we have had rather than divide us. Our forefathers have always worked with the majority community. Muslims have always worked towards the sovereignty of the state. There would have been certain mistakes, but these could be discussed and solved. As a result these kinds of situations would affect the economy of the country as well. In addition to that it would also affect employment and other avenues of the state. Stop destroying and start a dialogue between both parties and solve

 these issues,”said Ameen.

The hatred established among the people is so much that any time it could be igni

ted as what was seen recently


‘Time to learn from the mistakes we did 70 years ago’

Veteran journalist Victor Ivan said that when viewing the sudden outcome of incidents, the 1983 riots seem to be a smaller matter altogether. “The Sinhala extremists have always wanted to identify a common enemy. They had the LTTE first and now they are looking at the Muslims. It is a known fact that the Muslim community is on the rise and they will become a majority in future. These extremists are therefore trying to spread hatred among the Muslims and Sinhalese thinking that it would be a practical solution. This was never a secret and the educated people in the country were aware of these outcomes. Even journalists were aware of these incidents, but they preferred to remain quiet. In that sense even journalists and the media have actively contributed to these troubles. The hatred established among the people is so much that any time it could be ignited as what was seen recently. The entire media structure is messed up to the point that nobody could figure out how it could be entangled. In moving forward we need to look back at all the failures we have had from the time we became an Independent state 70 years ago. There has to be several structural changes made to the system in order to make it a peaceful state. Why can’t people voice out any issues or injustice that they face today? In order to find a solution, everybody has to contribute during this struggle,”said Ivan. 


‘No development will take place with prevailing tensions’


I believe that I don’t belong to any religion and I only know that I’m a human being

Veteran playwright, poet, author and stage drama producer Lucian Bulathsinhala said that from the very beginning artistes have been working towards promoting reconciliation. “We were always against ethnic conflict. Even though we have different communities we need to identify ourselves as Sri Lankan first. 

We should think alike as one nation in this country. Even in the birth certificate we have been labeled as Buddhist, Muslim or Tamil. As far as these tensions prevail there will be no development happening in the country. Since the past 60 years I have seen this happening and in moving forward there needs to be a change in the system. I believe that I don’t belong to any religion and I only know that I’m a human being,” said Bulathsinhala. 


‘The law should be enforced in these situations’ 

Women and Media Collective founder Kumudini Samuel said that it’s absolutely essential to enforce law and order in simple matters such as these. “It doesn’t matter if it was between two communities like the Sinhalese or Muslims. The law should be equal to all. There are many misconceptions and the authorities need to take an upper hand when such incidents take place. For example, the GMOA could have gotten involved when the Ampara incident took place. 

We need to think rationally and also begin to work together. It’s time that we stood firmly against hate speech

Therefore the civil society, citizens and professionals need to be actively involved in a situation like this. People are also prone to believe fake news and this was promoted via social media. We need to think rationally and also begin to work together. It’s time that we stood firmly against hate speech and see that both men and women are treated equally. The media too has a bigger role to play in picking and choosing content to publish and we all should make sure that another ethnic conflict doesn’t happen,”said Samuel. 


‘Act responsibly,  take decisions wisely’

As a country known for its humanity its quite sad how such incidents occur to distort the unity among communities

The Directors Guild of Sri Lanka (DGOSL) strongly condemned the recent uprisings especially because the country is recovering from a thirty-year ethnic conflict. DGOSL President Bennett Ratnayake said that its quite saddening to see how a carbohydrate lump on food could lead up to such ethnic riots. “As a country known for its humanity its quite sad how such incidents occur to distort the unity among communities. These actions of a few extremists will drag the country and its international presence to lower levels. As artistes we urge the citizens to act responsibly and be wise when taking decisions. We may be different in colour, religion and language, but we all are equal as humans. Therefore it’s important to respect everybody’s ideas and live in diversity,”said Ratnayake.


‘Work towards peacefully resolving issues’

“All Peace-Loving Citizens in this country should consider the heavy price paid for near three-decade war and violence and work towards peacefully resolving issues that are causing these acts of violence which are not in line with the righteous principles upon which this country was founded,” the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) said. 

“We appeal to all Political Parties and other formations to act with restraint and not to contribute further to the destabilisation of an already fragile Government, causing greater harm to the economy of the country and ultimately negatively affecting the poorer sections of our people.” 

The Council further appealed from all Law Enforcement Authorities to act without partiality and to consider their paramount duty is to ensure the security of every citizen of the country and to maintain law and order.

“All Religious Leaders should act together, sustained by their spiritual resources, to collectively work towards resolving all the fear, hatred and suspicion that arises at a time like this.”

The Council reiterates its ongoing commitment to work with any and all Religious groups as we seek to collectively restore peace and harmony for every citizen of this country. 

The statement was signed by leaders of Christian churches including NCCSL Chairperson and Bishop of Colombo, Church of Ceylon, Rt. Rev. D.R. Canagasabey,  Rev. Saman Perera President, Presbytery of Lanka,  Rt. Rev. Dr. Daniel S. Thiagarajah, Bishop of Jaffna Diocese, Church of South India, Rev. Asiri P. Perera, President/Bishop, Methodist Church of Sri Lanka and Rev. Heshan De Silva President, Sri Lanka Baptist Sangamaya. 



  Comments - 2

  • sach Friday, 09 March 2018 09:40 AM

    Why does media promote these NGO wallahs to discuss things in SL?

    Shelton Saturday, 10 March 2018 08:38 AM

    Some Buddhist clergy should be sent to learn Buddhism.

Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment

Two arrested with 12 T-56 assault rifles in Pitipana

Two accomplices of underworld figures ‘Kosgoda Tharaka’ and ‘Gagana’

PM, NP Governor discuss illegal boat arrivals from India

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Northern Province Governor P.S.M. Charle

Not wearing face masks in public Over 1,200 sent to self-quarantine

Over 1,200 people have been sent to self-quarantine for failing to wear face

President to join PM on SLPP campaign on July 3

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would be joining Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaks