- Those who make racial remarks should be punished as per law
- Every citizen must be treated equally, no one should be allowed to suffer from discrimination
I was reminded of the above, when I listened to the excellent speech with special emphasis on this point, made by the Minister of Education, Professor G.L. Peiris at the commemorative meeting for the birth anniversary, of Sri Lanka’s greatest Philanthropist the late Charles Henry de Soysa recently. The Minister spoke with great sincerity, off the cuff without even a note and seemed in reflective mood as he laid a floral tribute at the statue, while listening to the speeches made by the Principals and Head Prefects of Prince and Princess of Wales Colleges.
His speech gave listeners much food for thought; it certainly did for me, which I reflected on later. Prof. Peiris mentioned his visit to the North, when he visited two very old schools, one was Jaffna College at Vaddukkottai and Uduvil Girls’ College - both established as private colleges by the Jesuits. He said it was a great pity that students in the North and South of our beloved nation were unable to communicate with each other, due to being separated into streams according to their respective languages of race. The beginning of racist tensions, he said seemed to have stemmed from this mistake.
"It was a great pity that students in the North and South of our beloved nation were unable to communicate with each other, due to being separated into streams according to their respective languages of race. The beginning of racist tensions seemed to have stemmed from this mistake"
How students who do not know the language of each other can speak to their peers in other parts of the country, he asked. They are unable to build bridges of friendship and understanding, learn about the different cultures or comprehend and thus respect the traditions of each other. I am in total agreement with Prof. Peiris’s views on this subject. This is indeed true and all those on all sides of the political fence must understand this and try to make amends now, although late its better late than never. The Minister went on to say that these children who are our future, whether in the North, South, East or West are looking for an icon or role model. He mentioned the late Charles Henry in this respect and said here was one who they can look up to and emulate, as they reflect on his deeds, done as far back as in the 1800’s. He thought far beyond the peripheries of race, caste or creed. Although a Christian, in addition to Churches, he helped and sometimes built temples and Mosques. Such was his greatness, broadmindedness and vision with a mission. The best known of his benefactions were the De Soysa Hospital for Women and Prince and Princess of Wales Colleges in his home town, Moratuwa. Lesser known are several others, too numerous to mention. Besides his immense public benefaction, there were private gifts to employees, mentally handicapped and the socially under privileged.
"There should be a secular system. The unbridgeable gulf between children speaking different languages through separation in schools, is the root of our troubles causing racial tension that led to the a war by a terrorist group"
I am glad the Minister had the courage to mention this issue of separation by race and language as a mistake made in public. I would like to add my own opinion, which is that English should have been kept on as a third language, and students permitted to study in the language of their choice. There should be a secular system. The unbridgeable gulf between children speaking different languages through separation in schools, is the root of our troubles causing racial tension that led to the a war by a terrorist group, with so many losing their lives; wives left without husbands, mothers without sons and daughters, children without parents. All are citizens of our country. It is sad and to me unforgiveable that racist tension still exists even among those in the educated and privileged class. I am continuously shocked to hear of some who should know better by virtue of their education and privilege making racist remarks belittling others.
"It is sad and unforgiveable that racist tension still exists even among those in the educated and privileged class. Also it is shocking to hear of some who should know better by virtue of their education and privilege making racist remarks belittling others"
There is a law against this but people are unaware of it. This must be enforced forthwith and those who make racist remarks should be arrested. We need unity, togetherness as a nation to progress and develop in any way whatsoever, and each one of us should do our bit to encourage this. Mindfulness of each other, reaching out in whatever way we can to ease these tensions and build permanent peace and reconciliation is the need of the hour, of our time and of our age.
Any multi racial society confers certain obligations on the government in power. Every citizen must be treated equally, no man, woman or child should have to suffer from discrimination in word or deed that is the law. Legislation must be strengthened in this respect and its enforcement ensured to see that all citizens can live, work and practice their respective faiths and cultural traditions in peace.