“While respecting the richness of our diversity of different ethnicities, religions, regions and languages, with the firm objective of making National Integration a reality in Sri Lanka,
We all solemnly pledge in this manner: We are members of one and the same human race.
We will strive resolutely with determination to foster peace among all citizens and communities in Sri Lanka with understanding, mutual trust, and a boundless sense of unity and compassion among all of us. We pledge that we will join hands with one another to achieve this noble objective,
and build a prosperous nation with a Sri Lankan identity. With clear understanding and recognition that, to achieve sustainable development and prosperity, national integration, reconciliation and lasting peace are essential. We hereby pledge to act and work towards making these objectives a reality.”
This solemn pledge, given by the staff of Sri Lanka’s embassy in Washington DC, needs to be given from the heart and mind by all politicians, public servants and the people of Sri Lanka to mark the ongoing National Integration and Reconciliation Week from January 8 to 14. Our ambassador in Washington, the widely respected career diplomat Prasad Kariyawasam, speaking at the oath-taking ceremony called for full implementation of the pledge by the staff in carrying out official duties and in personal interaction also. He said that a Sri Lankan identity that respected individual rights as well as dignity and diversity of the people of Sri Lanka could help achieve national integration and reconciliation, essential for sustained social harmony and sustainable economic progress of Sri Lanka.
Wise and practical words indeed. All people especially political leaders and public servants, need to not only take the pledge but also live it so that in the coming years Sri Lanka will make rapid progress towards sustainable peace, justice and all-inclusive eco-friendly development.
In Colombo, President Maithripala Sirisena, who significantly is also the National Integration and Reconciliation Minister, took an important initiative to mark the week. A special budget provision of Rs.180 million was granted to the ministry to facilitate and undertake programmes aimed at improving peace and harmony among Sri Lanka’s different ethnic communities in consultation with the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC). In line with this noble venture the SLRC will start a special reconciliation channel to hear unity speeches made by political, religious and other leaders and also watch special feature programmes on the theme of unity in diversity at the grassroots level. A project concept document and a memorandum of understanding were signed by the Ministry and the SLRC on January 8 to mark the second anniversary of President Sirisena’s historic election to this high office.
The President and Prime Minster Ranil Wickremesinghe have repeatedly appealed to all communities to come together in a spirit of unity in diversity. While respecting and practising our own cultures and traditions and religious beliefs, we also need to respect the ethnicity and religious beliefs of others. It is essentially a meeting or accommodation on the hallowed middle path for a peaceful resolution of conflicts that may arise and find a solution on a win-win basis. Extremism, from whatever side it comes must not be allowed and tough action taken against those who try to score political points by promoting extremism or cheap populism.
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, who is now playing a major role as head of the Presidential Task Force for National Unity and Reconciliation has also launched a number of activities to facilitate understanding among communities during Reconciliation Week. She also expressed concern about extremism and called on the national government to act firmly against such parties.
It is the first time since independence that Sri Lanka is marking a week of national reconciliation and integration. We urge other electronic and print media groups also to start reconciliation programmes if not channels while the print media could have weekly pages dedicated to this mission where we join hands to reach a noble vision.