Sri Lanka is at the cross roads of a possible new beginning after a
disastrous 30 year conﬂict which did bring much suﬀering and pain to
all our people of every race and religion, the eﬀects of which are sƟll
being felt and causes the emergence of many new challenges. In post 5
independence Sri Lanka a resurgence of nationalism by a legiƟmate
desire to redress peacefully, historical wrongs done especially to
the Sinhala Buddhist majority under the long colonial rule resulted
unfortunately in the failure to address issues aﬀecting the Tamil
speaking minority for no fault of theirs. This situation led to repeated
communal violence and ﬁnally rebellion and open warfare between
the two parties of the Divide. The repeated failure of our poliƟcal
leaders, both Sinhala and Tamil, to be magnanimous towards the
other community led to the accentuation of the conﬂict. A political
will to settle outstanding issues and to search for a new national
identity on the basis of the philosophy of unity in diversity was not to
be found. Often times we did not hold out suﬃciently our religious
beliefs as indicators on the basis of which solutions to the problems
that arose could have been found, and so, missed an opportunity.
As it was once mentioned by one of our elder statesman, Dr. Colvin
R De Silva: “two languages one nation; one language two nations”.
This preference accorded to the Sinhala language and culture over
the culture of the other minorities severely strained national unity.
The sad result of all of that was a violent conﬂict which cost the loss
of thousands of lives, the destruction of property, displacement of
entire communiƟes, economic stagnation and the wastage of a huge
amount of resources of the country on a meaningless war.
9. In their Pastoral letter of 1984 the Bishops did state that “the diﬀerent
peoples of this country can form one modern nation inspired by
the best in all our religions and cultures” [P3]. Infact the Bishops
warned that “conﬂict and division will be harmful to all, will invite
foreign intervenƟon, making all groups lose not only freedom but also
our civilized and human way of living” [ibid]. This, exactly is what
Unity in Diversity
10. It is our view that even though the war ended the terror activities of
the LTTE , a satisfactory political solution to the issues facing the Tamil
community in the North is yet to be found and a sense of simmering
unease which continues to prevail needs to be addressed with a sense
of urgency. It is true that all races and religions in this country need to
live in harmony and peace with one another. Indeed in some areas like
the South and the hill country this trend is laudably visible. But that
does not necessarily connote that integration requires abandonment
of one’s traditional territories or their organized colonization by others.
Peace can also mean diﬀerent racial and religious groups living in their
own traditional areas of residence and still identifying themselves as
part of one country. While it is true that anybody should be allowed
to move in or move away from a given area in any part of the country,
there is nothing essentially wrong if someone were to claim a given
area as his or her own traditional habitation. The Muslim Community,
for that matter, has lived in harmony with others in all these areas.
Both options are possible. Human life could be very much linked to
a given territory or occupational orientation which helps to cultivate
a series of relationships and these become part of one’s identity.
Besides, such identity can be achieved in a mixed setting too. Neither
of these options need be a cause of worry or fear. Once again the
guiding principle in all of this should be “unity in diversity”.
11. And so, we feel that considering the North and East as the area in
which traditionally the Tamil community has lived can be accepted
and the administration through democratic structures of this area
by their own leaders need not be considered a hindrance to peace
and integration or unity. It has to be a two way track too which
welcomes others while being linked to one another through family
and other ties. What would cause a nagging sense of irritation on the
Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim communities at that would be any attempt
to change radically and substantially the ethnic composition of any
area through organized colonization. Unfortunately the introduction
of a large number of administrative and security personnel who
have come from the other areas into the North and East seems to
have been understood as that kind of attempted colonization by the
Government. We feel that this policy could be counterproductive to
true integration and unity and should be changed. If not, it could
only lead to further tension and future violence. Such intermingling
indeed should take place, but in a gradual and natural way as has
happened in some areas in the South already..