Amidst developments in the Constitutional Reforms front, Sri Lanka witnessed a somewhat disturbing scenario where Tamils and Muslims were up in arms against each other in Kiran, Batticaloa early last week. The situation was so severe that Muslim traders were not allowed to bring their goods to Kiran.
Time and again, the importance of unity between communities have been written, discussed, and explained over and over again. The Constitutional reform process is of paramount importance in terms of reaching a durable solution to the country’s longstanding ethnic strife. However, corrections on paper will only heal part of the wound. The issue at hand needs a remedy which is beyond Constitutional reforms. It needs a pragmatic approach where understanding is built between two communities in the ground.
Everything boils down to man-to-man relationships. Proper and effective interpersonal relationship makes part of the solution to the country’s ethnic crisis. The 30 year old conflict did divide the country. But many focus on the division created between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.
The conflict was between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan forces. But there were others who were victimized by the conflict, namely, the Muslims. The conflict separated the Tamils and the Muslims. The separation was fuelled by the forcible eviction of Muslims from the North in 1990. Even though political representatives of both communities have had healthy relationships over the years, both have failed to address the core problem of the Tamils and Muslims, especially in the East.
Last week’s situation is partly due to the failure of the politicians of both communities to resolve their issues simmering underneath the surface. The TNA stated that it would look into the matter and take actions accordingly. Many politicians, including those within the government have acknowledged that the current environment is the most suitable phase for the country to go for a durable solution. Opposition Leader, R. Sampanthan in his statement to Parliament said Sri Lanka’s situation would worsen if it continued as it is.
The responsibility does not lie with politicians alone. You do not need politicians or leaders to ensure unity. It has to come from the people. The main thing is to focus on the similarities and work on them, instead of harping on the differences.
Published in the Nation on November 4, 2017