Text of a Lecture given to the Masters Course at the Kotelawala Defence University

June 15th 2013

Ethnicity and Religion are perhaps the most obvious elements through which people distinguish themselves from each other. They are not the only ones, and sometimes elements such as caste and class become even more important in the emergence of reasons to limit association with others.

Fortunately we in Sri Lanka do not have too much experience of this, though we should constantly be aware that the phenomenon exists, and needs to be guarded against. What we do have, which keeps people apart even where there is the utmost goodwill, is barriers created by language. Sri Lanka is perhaps the only country in the world where those who have school leaving qualifications are not required to know a second language. The result is that many of our people are trapped in a monolingualism that stops them communicating, and hence associating, with others.

It was language that first led to the ethnic tensions that later erupted in terrorist activities. At the same time we should not forget that the only major crisis government faced between the communal violence of 1958 and its re-emergence 19 years later was because of caste and class resentments. The JVP insurrection of 1971 was about many youngsters who shared religion and ethnicity and language with those in power feeling that only violent revolution would resolve their problems. And though the JVP violence of the late eighties had wider political reasons, the areas in which the movement was strongest suggest continuing perceptions of caste and class discrimination.

To return to the language problems, they arose because Tamils felt that they had been reduced to second class status when Sinhala was made the only official language, through an Act that simply asserted this, without making clear how it was to be implemented in practice. That would have required explaining how those who did not know Sinhala would function, and clearly those who drafted the Act did not expect that it meant that those who did not know Sinhala would be rendered dysfunctional. But their carelessness and their callousness meant that nothing was spelled out, and the result was that an obviously unfair measure led to – and was used for the purpose of exacerbating – ethnic tensions.

There are two ironies about this which we must understand. The first was that the determination to make Sinhala the official language sprang initially from resentment of English – the language that was generally used previously for official purposes, in a context in which many people had no knowledge of it. However, when Mr Bandaranaike made this point, and it became obvious that it was politically popular, the UNP decided to jump on the bandwagon.

That in itself would not have been a problem. But in order to emphasize their own nationalist credentials, they turned the debate from whether Sinhala was to be made the official language to whether it was to be Sinhala Only.

This controversy arose in part because of deep political divisions within the UNP itself. The Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala had succeeded to the position on the recommendation of his predecessor, Dudley Senanayake. Senanayake in turn had become Prime Minister on the death of his father because the then Governor General favoured him instead of Sir John, who was the most senior Minister. When Senanayake resigned suddenly, his chief lieutenant, who had been instrumental in getting the party to support him when his father died, expected to be recommended. This was J R Jayewardene, and he was not pleased when Sir John took over.

The language issue gave him his chance to put pressure on Sir John. The latter had, during a visit to Jaffna, committed himself to making Sinhala and Tamil both official languages. Those opposed to him and to this then ensured that, at the sessions the UNP held in January 1956 in Kelaniya (Jayewardene’s electorate which was later inherited by his principal ally in the party, Cyril Mathew, the root cause of much ethnic tension in this country), the party passed a resolution to make Sinhala the Only Official Language, and also decided to have an early election to seek a mandate for this from the people.

That spelled disaster for the party as well as the country. With this being the issue before them, a majority of the people naturally voted for Bandaranaike who had, as it were, got there first. But the minorities, who had tended to vote for the UNP, transferred their allegiance to the Left Parties, which is how they ended up with the second largest number of seats and took over the Leadership of the Opposition. The UNP was decimated, while this in turn created problems for Bandaranaike, who found people of little capacity, whom he had nominated to seats from which he had never expected they would be elected, getting into Parliament.

I should add that this happened in 1977 too, which is why we saw such a decline of standards in Parliament in those two periods. With Jayewardene’s introduction of the preferential voting system, the seal was set on the total destruction of both the legislative and the oversight functions of Parliament, and it became a mere tool for the Executive.

Bandaranaike, on election, in a Parliament in which some of his members understood the importance of little else, felt obliged to rush through the Sinhala Only Act, in the ridiculous form of a single sentence. Though he tried later to make amends, through agreeing both to what was termed the reasonable use of Tamil, and to measures of devolution to ensure that government could respond more readily to the needs of the people, the forces he had unleashed proved too powerful, and he gave in readily, and with a theatricality that was disgraceful, given that he did not inform the Leader of the Federal Party, with whom he had signed an agreement, that he did not feel in a position to go ahead with this.

It should be noted though that the UNP in opposition was implacably opposed to compromise, and that Jayewardene organized a march to Kandy to protest about the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact. Since Bandaranaike also felt beleagured by his own extremist wing – led by Jayewardene’s aunt by marriage, Vimala Wijewardena, the Minister of Health – his worries are understandable, though his total submission, with no attempt at compromise, was inexcusable.

Ironically, it was Jayewardene who had proposed the initial changes in education that made Sinhala Only so impractical. The resentments felt about English by the vast majority of the rural population was because, before the thirties, they had no access to English Education. However the visionary C W W Kannangara, as Minister of Education, had set up Central Schools all over the country, which provided English medium education to bright youngsters from rural areas too. Unfortunately in the early forties, Jayewardene, having entered the State Council after a campaign in which he used religion to denigrate his opponent, proposed that Sinhala Only be the medium of education in all schools.

He changed this when the Chairman of the Board of Ministers, D S Senanayake pointed out how unfair this was, to Sinhala and Tamil. But no provision was made for learning both these languages. And though in theory English was a compulsory second language, it was not compulsory to pass in it, and no mechanisms were devised to ensure that it was taught effectively.

On the contrary, the pool of potential English teachers was reduced, because the Central Schools no longer functioned in English. Though in the forties Jayewardene’s proposal was amended to make the mediums of Sinhala and Tamil compulsory only for primary education, obviously, since children growing up had little familiarity with English, in the early fifties secondary education was included. Science – which was not available in many rural schools – could be taught in English but that too was changed in the early sixties. Interestingly enough, Muslim schools were permitted to continue with English medium, for which there is no good reason, but doubtless the fact that the Minister of Education for many years from 1956 onward (and from 1970 to 1977) was a Muslim who had been an educationist had something to do with this.

I have dwelt at some length on this topic because it is necessary to understand how a measure, initially intended to provide relief to those who had felt themselves discriminated against, turned into a tool of discrimination against others. The changes were made in accordance with principles that seem perfectly acceptable, viz

  1. The administration of a country should be in the language best understood by the people of that country

  2. The right to education in the mother tongue must be upheld

But they ignored other vital principles, viz

  1. If some people in a country do not understand the main language of administration, alternative provisions must be made

  2. It is essential that common languages be developed to ensure that people in a country can communicate with each other, and also with administrators, and so that translation is facilitated where essential

  3. The right to education in the mother tongue should not be made a compulsion when access to knowledge and skills essential for productive employment requires competence in other languages

Incidentally, those in the Ministry of Education who want the status quo to continue, even while ensuring that their own children are competent in English, claim that education in the mother tongue is essential to ensure learning. This theory has been contested, though obviously children faced with a teacher who cannot communicate with them will learn nothing, which is why ensuring usage of a language children understand is essential. But certainly, once basic competence is reached, the question of mother tongue becomes irrelevant, which is why a more suitable model to adopt is that of mother tongue based multilingual education.

This will not be a problem in Sri Lanka, unlike in countries where there are multiple languages used by very small communities. But the sheer incapacity of our Ministry of Education to think outside the box will ultimately destroy this country both politically and economically.

I say this also because the recent tensions that have arisen, with regard to ethnicity and religion, can be traced also to the separatist tendencies, if I might use that phrase, exaggerated but not entirely wide of the mark, entrenched by our educational system. I propose later in this talk to discuss this problem at greater length.

***

Having noted how there was a genuine problem about language, where the vast majority of people in this country felt discriminated against, and where remedial action was essential, I have shown how the remedy actually applied created further problems. The Council for Liberal Democracy has in fact explored this phenomenon, how actions meant to solve a problem create further problems, in a volume called ‘Causes and Consequences’, the first book to be published in this country in all three languages. In addition to other matters, we look also at electoral reform, and I believe it can be shown that many problems in Sri Lanka arise from a lack of planning, with ad hoc responses to particular crises leading to further and more serious crises later.

But the salient factor now, with regard to ethnicity and religion, is that there is in fact no crisis based on these issues, except in a few minor areas that can readily be addressed. And the problems there are affect only the minorities, whereas now we have a situation where drums are being beaten, as it were, on behalf of the majority ethnicity and the majority religion, which have, on any statistical analysis, never had it so good.

If we take ethnicity, while earlier it was noted that the Sinhalese had a smaller proportion of government jobs than their numbers warranted, the opposite has happened now. The failure of successive politicians to address this issue suggests that in fact the initial response was based, not on principles, but simply on getting votes. The disgraceful manner in which government employment is seen as a tool of politics, with no regard for either efficiency or effectiveness, is clear from the manner in which those who get ministerial office promptly provide jobs for people in their own electorates.

I cannot enough draw attention to this phenomenon, exemplified for me by the response of the security guard at Oluvil University who came from Galle, at a time when Richard Pathirana was Minister of Education and Higher Education. The Galle Port, he said, was full of people from Oluvil, which came within the electorate of Mr Ashraff, who was Minister of Ports and Shipping. Unfortunately neither this phenomenon, nor what makes it worse, the expansion of the area in which Ministers have to seek votes because of the District based Preferential System, has been analysed by the political scientists in our university, which indicates how such institutions have no idea about the advisory role intellectuals are meant to play in society.

Given that the vast majority of the Cabinet are Sinhalese, and that government feels its majorities depend on Sinhalese, what I would call the artificial spurs with regard to government jobs are designed to benefit only the Sinhalese. When you add to that the natural reasons, namely the language policy that means most government business is conducted in Sinhalese, you can understand why there are comparatively few Tamils and Muslims in government jobs.

Unfortunately the Tamil politicians who see this problem probably do not want a solution, since it adds to their argument that equity for Tamils is only possible through at least full scale autonomy, if not a separate state. But sadly those government politicians who wish to eradicate separatist tendencies do nothing about the problem themselves. The failure of government to ensure adequate development of Human Resources in the North, to accompany the successful programme of infrastructural development it has implemented, makes clear the incapacity to plan of government in general, and its continuing insensitivity to the actual needs of the people. Content with pursuing its own vision of development – which as always with government activity in the world involves much construction, for financial reasons as well as the ready publicity such work can command – government ignores the actual needs of people on the ground.

An example of the sheer absurdity of the way government proceeds came home to me through complaints of those who attended the Vavuniya South Divisional Reconciliation Meeting I was at last month, when they claimed that the forthcoming intake of Samurdhi Development Officers would be entirely from Anuradhapura. Vavuniya South, I should note, is a Sinhalese area, but in addition to asserting that their youngsters should be given priority for government appointments in Vavuniya, they noted the absurdity of appointing youngsters from Anuradhapura to Vavuniya North, where they would not be able to communicate with the Tamil people of the area.

They also mentioned another example of positive discrimination in favour of the ethnic majority, in saying that there was a colonization scheme for Vavuniya North, which brought in people from the south of the country who had had no previous connection with the area. Their point was that such schemes should first benefit people from the area like themselves, given their natural increase since the time when terrorism prevented developmental measures in the North.

Two days later the same point was made at a seminar by a speaker from Jaffna, who also drew attention to what he saw as excessive acquisition of land by the forces in the North. In that case I have always believed that government has a right to acquire what it thinks necessary, but it must make sure that this is decided on grounds that are objectively justifiable and which must be communicated to those who are affected. I believe there has not been enough of this in Jaffna, and this will contribute to unnecessary tensions – whereas I believe that, both in Mullaitivu and Mannar, the adjustments made by the forces to the area they originally planned to acquire, and the rapid and relatively generous compensation provided has helped to reduce tensions.

The problem is clearly made worse when there seems to be a privileging on the ethnic majority elsewhere in the Province. Again I do not subscribe to the homelands theory idea, and I believe land grants should be given where possible to any citizen of the country. This is why I have no quarrel with the settlement in the Wanni of several people from the hill country in the seventies and the eighties, when they faced real problems in their areas of origin. This incidentally is a strong argument against the idea that the North is the traditional homeland of the Tamils, and I am surprised – though I should not be, given endemic incapacity to think – that government has not pointed this fact out, and ensured a thorough statistical analysis of the facts.

But, given the current situation, government should first settle the problems of the existing citizenry in the North, before embarking on new schemes. It is only when, first, all those who were displaced are settled in their original places of residence or else in satisfactory alternatives when return is not possible, and second when equitable arrangements have been made for their natural increase as possible (where the Muslims have perhaps the greatest claim for expeditious action given the circumstances in which they were displaced and the time that elapsed before proper attention was paid to their difficulties), that plans should be implemented with regard to others.

My argument then is that, in the current context, if there is any deprivation, it is on the part of the minorities. For government then to engage in measures that seem to shore up the privileges of the majority with regard to employment and other economic and social opportunities is an egregious error that could foment resentment.

I should add that government’s failure to engage in positive measures with regard to education is perhaps the most worrying factor at this time. Forty years ago it engaged in what amounted to positive discrimination with regard to education when it introduced standardization for university entrance. This was not a racist measure as the benefits to rural Tamil and Muslim students showed, but unfortunately the hardest hit were the students of Jaffna, apart from those in Colombo. And whereas the students of Colombo had alternative occupations, given both the comparatively flourishing private sector in Colombo and opportunities and the wherewithal to go abroad for education, those in Jaffna had few alternatives.

Sadly government had ignored the fact that, where positive discrimination if introduced, there is also a parallel private network that allows alternatives to at least some of the able who are deprived of government positions. The sense of deprivation then amongst Jaffna youngsters was intense, and insult was added to injury when the UNP government, having abolished standardization, reintroduced it in another form shortly afterwards in response to Cyril Mathew’s claim that Tamil examiners were cheating to overcome the standardization scheme, and so excessive numbers of Tamil students were getting into university. This claim was proved to be false but Jayewardene had already reacted, which increased bitterness and I believe contributed to the increase in terrorist numbers in the North after 1979.

In this context, let me note the continuing injustice to students of all communities because of the continuation of positive discrimination with regard to university admissions over the last forty years. If it is felt that schooling in particular areas is inadequate, allowing students from those areas to enter university with fewer marks provides compensation only to the few students who get it, and the vast majority of students in the area continue underprivileged. The solution to inadequate facilities and teachers is to improve them, but because of standardization that problem has been allowed to fester for decades.

In particular, no efforts have been made to ensure an adequate supply of teachers to rural areas. This can best be accomplished by training teachers from such areas, but the Ministry of Education cannot put in place mechanisms to promote this, and Provincial Ministries have also failed to think outside the box to find solutions. As we all know, the problem exists everywhere, but it is particularly acute in the North, and given that policies are made elsewhere, the feeling exists that such continuing neglect is, if not deliberate, the result of culpable callousness.

I fear then that, while I believe many of the problems that ethnic minorities face are not because of adverse policies but because of continuing incapacity and unwillingness to plan coherently, they could soon contribute to political unrest. But currently the discourse in the media is more about the historical deprivations the Sinhalese suffered. The fact that these have been set right is forgotten, and those whose voices are loudest engage in advocacy for the majority.

On the contrary we should rather be promoting equity with regard to educational opportunities and employment in the state sector. In particular we should encourage enlistment in the armed forces, because the impression is widespread that our armed services are the preserve of the Sinhalese. Though police recruitment of Tamils has increased in the last few years, numbers are still inadequate, given the need for better community relations in particular in the North. I should add too that too little is being done, and too slowly, about ensuring that police officials stationed in the North and East know Tamil and can communicate with those they serve.

With regard to the armed forces, whilst obviously there is no reason to increase numbers now, more strenuous efforts should be made to enroll Tamils and Muslims in the officer cadre (which is also something the police should concentrate on more, since for proper integration positions of authority must also be held by the minorities). I should add that the forces should, even on a token basis, enroll more Tamil and Muslims, as happened recently in Kilinochchi with regard to women soldiers. The efforts to criticize and stop that programme on the part of those who still hanker after separatism make it clear that such attempts at integration are a sure method of reducing the reasons separatists can cite.

***

Let me now turn to the most worrying phenomenon in Sri Lanka currently, namely the religious conflicts that have suddenly come into prominence. Last year there was the attack on a mosque in Dambulla, which was accompanied by attacks on mosques elsewhere in the country, though these were not often publicized. This year there has been the phenomenon of the Bodhu Bala Sena, which not only ran a campaign against halal produce, but also attacked some business establishments on grounds that were not entirely clear, though it was claimed that this was because they were engaged in surreptitious tampering with the health of Buddhist customers (though it was not clear whether only Buddhists were being targeted or whether other non-Muslims were as well, and if so how those engaged in this practice identified the religious beliefs of those they were tampering with).

It should be noted however that there had been some attacks on other religions in recent years, most notably Christian churches of sects that it was alleged engaged in anti-Buddhist propaganda and practices. Sadly some Buddhist monks too were involved in violent activities, whereas were there evidence of such propaganda, it should rather have been laid before the police and investigations conducted. I should add that, in the one incident in which, I was asked as Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, to get involved, I found that the police and the local administration were conducting themselves fairly, and they were unanimous in declaring that it was a particular monk who was at the root of the trouble, for reasons that were not at all religious.

This does not mean that that is always the case, and the police must be firm about any efforts to denigrate any religion. It is perfectly possible that there are still some Christians, as there are those of other religions, who believe that celebrating their own religion – which should be perfectly acceptable to anyone – involves insulting other religions, which is something that should not be accepted or encouraged. But in most cases where violence has occurred, there has been no evidence of misconduct on the part of the victims. It is a pity therefore that, in some instances, the police seem to have dealt with situations tension in a manner that suggested bias.

This is a new phenomenon, and has to do with increasing perceptions that government supports the idea that this is a Buddhist country. That may seem self evident, but there is a big difference between the fact that this is a Buddhist majority country – which is what it is claimed is meant by the assertion that it is a Buddhist country – and the assertion that it is a Buddhist country, which is then taken to mean that Buddhism should dominate at the expense of other religions.

I came across a particularly worrying example of this recently, when I found that the Department of Buddhist Affairs justified some illegal instructions it had issued on the grounds that Article 9 of the Constitution declared that Buddhism should be given the foremost place and should be fostered. The official, who was relatively junior, who issued the letter, had ignored the fact that Article 9 had to be read in conjunction with other articles of the Constitution, one of which affirmed the right of other religions to be practiced.

The issue was with regard to the Thiruketheeswaran Sacred Area, where a Buddhist statue had been set up in what was private land. The argument for doing this was that it was an ancient Buddhist site, but this has not been established as it should be in accordance with the law. In fact the law has been violated, because new constructions have been put up before an archaeologican investigation was conducted. It is utterly irresponsible of the archaeological department, if they believe this is a historic site, to have permitted such constructions, but sadly they seem to have abandoned professionalism in order to promote a particular religious agenda, that also has political overtones.

Worryingly, the Archaeological Department, again in the form of a junior official, has got in on the act of trying to pressurize the local authorities to permit the illegal constructions on the site. They wrote to  confirm the letter of the Department of Buddhist Affairs, after that letter was issued, whereas the Department was using archaeological claims – not evidence – to issue its instructions.

The irony is that the military has been blamed for this, whereas the military has done its best to ensure action in accordance with the law. It is civil officials who, whether under pressure or because of inadequate understanding of the law and the procedures required for acquisition of private land, have encouraged actions that violate the law.

The same I should say is the case with another example of blatant abuse of archaeology by a monk, which the army has tried helplessly to control. I refer to a Buddhist temple put up near Murunkan, at the side of the Madhu-Mannar Road, in what used to be a Hindu shrine. The claim was that this was a historic Buddhist area but in fact the archaeological site – which seemed to me indubitably old, and which should be safeguarded and explored thoroughly, is a short distance into the interior. But that would be inconvenient to look after, and so the monk in question has settled himself in a much more convenient location.

Unlike in the Thiruketheeswaran case, this individual is seen as violating the rules of his order by almost all the servicemen I spoke to, though one of them noted that he falls out in turn with all the services and then seeks support from one in which senior officials have changed, so they do not understand the actual situation. He also claims to have been responsible for the transfer of a very competent army officer in the area, which may not be correct, but it is a grave mistake for the army, criticized as it is on what I believe to be generally erroneous grounds, to allow such denigration to take place.

What is a potentially inflammable situation is exacerbated by the Deparment of Buddhist Affairs citing the Constitution to support its improper letter. This made me understand for the first time why minorities have resented that clause in the Constitution ever since it was introduced. Previously I had thought that obviously Buddhism would have the foremost place because it was the religion of the majority, and though it was unnecessary to put this down in the Constitution, it was understandable that this had been done because of the sense of deprivation Buddhism had felt during the colonial period. However, this seems to be again an example of a remedy causing further complications, when officials interpret this as meaning that Buddhism should be fostered even at the expense of other religions. The fact that that was not intended, and that the rights of other religions should also be safeguarded by all state officials – in this instance the fact that Thiruketheewaran is a Sacred Area (and in the other case cited that there was a Hindu Temple which is now being usurped) must be stressed, and inculcated in all as entrenched official policy.

Unfortunately, because of the emotions that arose because of the conflict, these principles are sometimes forgotten. The situation has also been exacerbated by the fact that the majority is largely a Sinhala Buddhist army, a phenomenon that began in the sixties when there was an attempted coup which was led, not by the minorities, but by Sinhalese, of whom the most influential were not Buddhists. The Civil Servant who was the chief instigator of the coup was in fact Buddhist, and a close associate of J R Jayewardene, certainly during the time of the government elected in 1977 if not before. But that was not considered salient, and the practice began of encouraging domination of the forces by Sinhala Buddhists – which economic considerations also meant that the vast majority of rural recruits were Buddhists, since the Catholic areas were relatively prosperous.

The tragedy though is that the vast majority of army officials in decision making positions are not at all negative about other religions. But, especially following the shock the government received by virtue of the Presidential candidature of Sarath Fonseka, and the feeling that it needed therefore to consolidate its Sinhala Buddhist base, political considerations have taken over in some instances, and the more practical and inclusive approach of the majority of the army has given way to what seem selective interventions.

I should note here also the failure to understand the need to publicize other interventions. I suppose the reason for this is that talking about what the forces do for Buddhism is encouraging support for the government in general as well as the forces by its main source of electoral strength, but government should also realize that stress on the good work it does in other areas, such as refurbishing of kovils and churches, and I hope mosques (though of these I know no specific instances) – including controlling excessive incursions by individual monks into areas which are the traditional preserve of other religions – would help with winning hearts and minds, which is such an urgency now.

It would also help with getting rid of the notion that government and all its agencies are promoting an exclusivist Buddhist agenda. This is obviously not the case, but showcasing what has been done would also help to make the general public, and also government officials who now think that they have to take up sectarian positions to please government, aware that government believes in encouraging and supporting all religious activity.

This is the more important, because we live in a society which is divided across ethnic and religious lines, and therefore there must be proactive efforts on the part of government to encourage knowledge and understanding of others. Earlier in this talk I noted that the sheer incapacity of our Ministry of Education to think outside the box will ultimately destroy this country both politically and economically, and its failure to develop mechanisms by which young people can learn together is a major part of the problem.

Fortunately now it has realized its mistake, and the latest proposals for educational reform note the need for schools in all areas where people of different backgrounds can study together – instead of being isolated in Sinhala and Tamil and Muslim schools. But predictably the reforms, having been discussed for three years, now seem to have been forgotten, and there is no sense of urgency about promoting the many good ideas they include. Conversely, the University Grants Commission now seems to have decided that ethnic mixing is not a priority, at least as far as I can make out from what has happened at Sabaragamuwa University where we used to get many Tamil students into the Arts Faculty, but where, just before I stopped teaching there, admission seemed to be confined to people from nearby areas.

The mindset of educationists in decision making positions seems clear from the manner in which they destroyed the concept of Amity Schools, which was the initial name for schools where, in 2001, we reintroduced the option of English medium. The concept paper, which I prepared, noted the need to develop schools in which students of different backgrounds could study together, which would also have helped with teacher shortages, since one English medium school in each Division for instance could have catered to children of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Certainly this should have been started several years ago with regard to Advanced Level classes, but instead of planning sensibly, the Ministry allowed things to drift, so that often those who do well in the English medium at Ordinary Level have no school to go to for their Advanced Levels where they can continue to study in the English medium.

Indeed, separatism is entrenched where possible, as for instance in the school in Matugama I was told about, where the Sinhala medium and the Tamil medium occupy the same set of school buildings, but in what are treated as two separate schools. The appalling situation of education in the hill country could also be remedied by allowing children to study together, but this is inconceivable to the Ministry officials who make decisions.

A couple of years back I was told that my name had been considered for the position of Minister of Education, but it was thought that I was not a popular figure, and so someone supposedly much more popular, as the Secretary to the President put it, had been selected. This did not cause me any grief, because in any case, as I had said at the time of the Parliamentary Election, if the President wished to use my services, what I was best at was Reconciliation. Now that I am no longer in a position to be considered for Ministerial Office, I can say freely, without it being alleged that I am seeking such, that it is a pity the Reconciliation agenda was not included more actively in educational policies as well as elsewhere.

The need to build up a national identity, so that ethnicity and religion will not exercise destructive ideological and political influences, can be best achieved by a more enlightened educational system than we now have. People must not only be encouraged to understand that their similarities are more important than differences, they must also feel this, and that can best be achieved by working together and playing together. Such a process must begin in school, and unless it happens soon, we can easily fall prey again to those who want to emphasize differences rather than the common heritage all those in this country share.

Part 1 – Island 19 June 2013http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=81583

Part 2 – Island 20 June 2013http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=81692

Part 3 – Island 21 June 2013http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=81748

Part 4 – Island 22 June 2013http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=81832

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