Root Cause Alert — Has Sri Lanka Finally Re-Set?
When I came to Vietnam about six months ago on a work assignment, one of my challenges was to find food that was pork free. Pork is a very popular meat here and even vegetarian dishes often come with a sprinkling of pork-related something. My surprised colleagues would ask ‘why don’t you eat pork, it’s very delicious.’ I found myself repeatedly telling them ‘I’m Muslim so I don’t eat pork,’ something I would normally give as a reason. After a few times of politely refusing offers, citing religious reasons, I finally said I was allergic and if I ate it I could stop breathing and die. Only then the offers ceased. I was thinking about this and what I realized was that my religion didn’t matter and what I did or didn’t do as part of religious observances was irrelevant.
Why am I writing about this? Because I want to compare it to an experience we had some years ago back in Sri Lanka. We had an irritating neighbor who would often surprise us with temporary installations and fixtures, blocking our gate and sometimes the road, causing unnecessary unpleasantness. We, as a united neighborhood, tried to address it the civil way, but our efforts proved futile. When it happened again, we decided to lodge a complaint at our local police station so a formal, stern warning could be dealt, and a request made to stop being a public nuisance. We showed photos as evidence and started to explain the situation to a senior police official. To our dismay, the first question the officer asked us was ‘meka Muslim gedarakda? (is this the home of a Muslim). We were shocked. We read between the lines and did the right thing by dropping the case immediately and said we would attempt one more time to resolve it ourselves. That’s a tiny example of how deep-rooted the ethnic divide is (or should I now say WAS) in Sri Lanka, but many others, as you may know, have more horrifying stories.
Comparing these two simple scenarios, I feel that’s why we have failed to prosper as a nation because we have been trapped in racial bubbles, created by politicians, where everything is linked to ethnicity rather than looking at it objectively as ‘acceptable’ and ‘non-acceptable’ behaviors. Sadly, the world has become this way too, but are we as a nation finally resetting decades of emotional damage?
What’s happening right now in my beautiful Sri Lanka is a heartbreaking culmination of what can be termed as decades of divide and rule strategies by successive governments and executive presidents.
It’s sad that it had to happen this way, but finally the penny seemed to have dropped. It has, alas, dawned on all Sri Lankans that a political strategy based on a racist agenda with the sole objective of assuming and retaining power is not sustainable. You can fool, hoodwink and manipulate people only until they’re unable to feed their children — not just in terms of income generation, but a deprivation of basic needs. This has united the country in ways that I have never witnessed before and has exposed the true colors of politicians.
If not anything, the only good that will come out of this catastrophic ‘Arab Spring’ is that Sri Lankans will perhaps finally unite because hunger, poverty, uncertainty and discomfort are forms of discrimination and harassment that’s common to all beings — irrespective of titles, caste, creed, social standing. I hope this bitter lesson will be one that’s learnt for life and all Sri Lankans will respect each other and fight together against any (present and future) political tactics to divide people.
So what’s next and where do we go from here? While there’s a lot that needs to be done very carefully and delicately in making the next moves to revive and restore political as well as economic stability, there maybe some other points to ponder too as we hopefully embrace these developments as the best chance yet to drastically change course and reset as one country.
For starters, perhaps it’s time we stopped classifying people as majority and minority. We are a bunch of citizens who are extremely passionate and emotional, thus can easily be manipulated by dirty politics. But imagine the collective potential we could offer if led by the ‘right person?’ The type of ‘leader’ we need next is one that’s not only ‘qualified’ in terms of technical know-how of running a country, but also one with a heart and soul. We must first do some ‘cleansing’ within the murky political puddle and flush out the impurities and then infuse some new capability that encompasses brains, heart and muscle.
Often, these racist agendas center around heritage, traditions, and customs. But what good are these if they don’t support a progressive culture that fosters peace, respect, and freedom? While there’s many a lesson to learn from the series of developments in the country, there’s also a spiritual side we must consider. You cannot continue playing with people’s hearts and lives without a conscience. And if you don’t have one, this turn of events proves that you will be eventually reminded to grow one … fast.
I might be living and working overseas (but representing a Sri Lankan company who contributes significantly to the country’s economy) right now and I can create a home elsewhere if I wanted to. But I have always come back to what I call ‘home’ and there are many like me. We send our hard-earned USD back to the country to feed our families and invest in property and financial markets so we can eventually come back to our home. You owe it to us to lead the country with that in mind so we can return to our paradise isle and encourage the next generation to do the same.
To my fellow citizens, stay united forever and create an era where we speak up as loud as we can to denounce corruption, poor governance, dysfunctional leadership, injustice, and discrimination. Let’s fight for leaders who are picked based on their capability and integrity. Keep fighting for the right thing, until honest and capable people restore our nation. I feel I can finally enjoy the freedom and rights of a Sri Lankan with a voice and hopefully come back and not ask myself again — why am I living here!