In a rare display of gratitude to a Muslim police officer who launched a Vesak celebration programme ten years ago, the Wellawa police invited Mr. ULM Mohideen to be chief guest at this year’s grand event. SP Sisil de Silva was called upon by the present OIC Wellawa to hand over a plaque to Mohideen - now OIC Akkaraipattu in appreciation of his services towards communal harmony. If not for the present OIC, Anura Gunawardena, the celebration’s initiator would have once again for the 10th consecutive year gone unnoticed and unsung.
At a time when communal conflagration is chicken feed for media consumption, it is regretful that events of this nature go unnoticed and considered not even least important. To top it all, even the sea of heads present on that day were engulfed in a sea of ignorance over Mohideen’s involvement in the celebrations. Members of the Buddhist clergy expressed their gratitude to Mohideen whom they described as unique particularly because he was a non - Buddhist who saw to it that vesak was celebrated by the Welawa police.
If developmental journalism is to be journalists ‘ forte, it should not be bombs and communal outbursts that necessarily attract newspaper headlines. Many senior journalists’ most fancied and sought after expression is,’ when dog bites man it is not news but when man bites dog, that is news.’ As to who chews what is no one’s concern.
To those that view Muslims against the backdrop of Al - Qaeda and Jameeyatul - islam, Mohideen had more than one message. Such enlightened thinking coming off an ordinary police officer which may not have come off even from a university don, coupled with his Islamic faith makes the attempt of special significance to those media personnel interested in the much heard yet rarely practiced developmental journalism.
Such stories are even viewed as ‘sunshine stories’ because of its inability to satisfy man’s grosser instincts.
The thrill of bombs, the war sirens that virtually tare apart ear drums, the sound of gun fire , missiles and rockets , the heart rending wailing of women and children - these then when projected over stories that encourage attempts into communal peace will not foster societal well - being. In fact internationalising such events, so helpful in diffusing communal tension leading to intercommoned harmony however small that may be and what’s more, held in a far away least known village such as Wellawa may even help prevent the occurrence of what makes news that attracts worldwide media.
That Sri Lanka needs such unbounded enlightened thinking needs to be re - iterated considering the we / they dichotomy that prevails among ethnic groups that ignites sporadic outbursts of communal violence - needless to speak of the burning of mosques and churches.
This universalistic outlook has got to be disseminated throughout the country and the world at large. Restricted lip service calling for national unity would not suffice. Making it a living, concrete reality through pragmatic endevours is the hour’s need.
" If developmental journalism is to be journalists ‘ forte, it should not be bombs and communal outbursts that necessarily attract newspaper headlines '
Commenting on his flexibility, Mohideen recalled his formative years in a remote school in Gałgamuwa where he made friends with Tamil and Sinhala children. Even now we are in touch though we have walked into different professions. Rigidity from whichever quarters it may come will not help. The muslims have from time immemorial have had cordial relations with the Sinhalese and this must continue. Vesak was also celebrated in predominantly Muslim Akkaraipattu.’’ he said beaming with smiles.