Lest we flounder again over misguided beliefs


A business premises at Minuwangoda

by Gnana Moonesinghe

Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of
how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from
another." Ernst Hemingway.

A sinister attempt to destroy the peace and harmony of this country took place during the holy Easter weekend. Bombs boomed, ambulances and their siren competed to down the cries of the dead, the dying and the mangled souls. We thought the end of the 30-year war had removed us from such soul shattering scenarios. But no, tortured misguided humans decided otherwise. The Christians were on their way to church, in prayer or were outside the church when the bombs were exploded simultaneously at pre-planned sites and in the three prestigious hotels in Colombo.

People and tourism, the mainstay of our economy, were targeted to cripple the nation’s racial amity, the development plans and its progress. We, the people are still reeling under this unexpected body blow to us by a few racists from the Muslim community. It is pertinent to ponder if we have seen the last of the violent episodes or if we have to expect more of the same in the coming days. Speculation is rife and to this we have to add the latest news be it fake news or otherwise spreading in the country. It is widely believed that the recent attack in some areas, where curfew was declared, was politically engineered and not a spontaneous uprising against the Muslims who had lived hitherto in amity with each other, over several years in the past. Apart from the ill effects of terrorism yet another feature related to political reality is gaining ground: the reality of the politician under cover manipulating power, privilege and ill-gotten money to create chaos in already muddied surroundings. Witness the corrosive twist of the politician’s warped mind.

To this a third dimension is seen to prevail. The business communities in competition would like to exploit the situation to their favour positing business interests in ethnic colours: Sinhala businesses in competition with Muslim business ventures exploiting the unfortunate terrorist attack of the last few days. For the moment there is the fear that hate and anger can escalate into dangerous proportion that will help neither the Nation nor the people. To date it has been the politician, decrying one or the other group to curry favour with the vote bank, who has come into the forefront. It is in this context that one suspects that there is further cause for despondency over the suspicion that some persons are trying to exploit the situation for their business advantage. It is not pure and simple economic competition between competing interests but a calculated attempt made to create and exploit the racist bias between these two communities. It has been brought to the attention of the public that a list of products produced by Muslim entrepreneurs has been posted on the internet with the caption – ‘list of Muslim trade is given below. Quickly boycott’. At the bottom of the listed items a further mischievous message is given –‘Our capital is for our people’- Who could that be?

Every businessman, Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, contributes through his earnings to the GDP of the nation. If a section is sidelined and made unproductive then it affects national development and in turn it affects all the people of this country. Why should anyone advocate a short-sighted path whatever the antagonisms of the moment may be. Wiser counsel must prevail. As the Buddha said, "No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We must ourselves walk the path."

The consequences of the terrorist attack must be kept in perspective. For the breach of the peace by a gang of terrorists the rest of the Muslim community is in pain. In addition to their personal trauma over the deaths and destruction in the country they also feel captive sinners as they are called to account for the action of the terrorists by many amongst the Sri Lankans. Having gone through periods of violent uprising it would seem fair to expect greater discernment before pointing a finger towards the perpetrators of hate and ill will. But the climate of horror at the moment is such that sanity has departed from one’s calculations so much so that the entire Muslim community is held responsible and are under siege. When the JVP attack was in full swing no one even considered for a moment to charge the entire Sinhalese community to be a part of the movement; so was it during the LTTE conflict- all Tamils were not branded as Tigers. It is therefore vital that a distinction be drawn between those terrorists who inflicted death and destruction on innocent people and on valuable real estate and the rest from the Muslim Community.

It is sad that although we have lived together in close proximity for generations spanning over many centuries our understanding of each other remains very flimsy. Since we do not understand each other in any depth suspicion of the other creeps in and stays put like a parasitic growth at the slightest provocation. The Sri Lankan expert on terrorism cites that this had happened because we have ‘ghettoed’ ourselves from each other, living in mutual exclusivity. These are correctives to be made for the future but for the present the communities must be kept in peace without moving into further conflict situations. Tolerance, moderation and accommodation are tools that need govern our judgment and need be exploited to go beyond ‘ethnic solidarities’.

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