Do Sinhalese and Buddhists have a future in Sri Lanka

Tamil politicians can speak for the welfare and rights of the Tamils, Muslims can demand rights and privileges for Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Catholics can demand their rights but why is it considered taboo for Sinhalese to speak about the future of the Sinhalese or for Sinhalese Buddhists to exercise their rights in a land where Buddhism is enshrined in its constitution? Everyone is allowed speak & demand their right but the Sinhalese especially the Sinhalese Buddhists cannot do so as every time they do so, they are promptly told that demanding rights of Sinhala Buddhists is likely to upset fellow ethnic groups or other religious sects. Something is radically wrong in this equilibrium and this argument has nothing to do with exerting the majority status of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka or to undermine other religions above Buddhism. It is simply raising the question desiring to know why does it have to be the Sinhalese that has to all the time compromise & be cautious of upsetting the Tamils, the Muslims, the Hindus, the Christians or the Catholics especially when the political leaders are expected to only uphold the rights of the minority ethnic groups putting aside the needs of the majority? Are Sinhalese Buddhists only good enough for election time propaganda? Sinhalese Buddhists have seen little advance in their economic or social status since independence and statistics prevail to prove this.

While the world celebrates war anniversaries, holds commemorations pays tribute to those paying the supreme sacrifice and even gloats over the killings of unarmed terrorists without putting them on trial ”Sri Lanka is told not to indulge in triumphalism” and even when the only country to have eliminated terrorism celebrates that fete unaccomplished by even the US or NATO, Sri Lanka is chided and that celebration is twisted to project that the Sinhalese are attempting to show their might over the other ethnic groups. These are all psychological operations to make Sinhalese feel small.

The problem at hand is that whilst all Sinhalese in general desire the country to think as Sri Lankan the minorities especially its political leaderships prefer to take the line of projecting minority rights as being suppressed or discriminated for their own advantage and to hide the differences that exist amongst them. This worked perfectly in the past and proves why over 1m Tamils now live overseas a large number of whom to continue their clandestine operations that contributed to USD300m are crying out for a separate Eelaam to which they are unlikely to come to. To continue their clandestine activity, they have artfully engaged foreign politicians who do not hesitate to cry eelaam” if it brings him/her to parliament. So much for ethics in democracy in the West!

Needless to say, this has resulted in a false notion of belief amongst the international community that ethnic tensions exist in Sri Lanka and provides a perfect excuse to set their strategic agenda in the region. However, when both minority groups enjoy better lifestyles than the Sinhalese this argument does not really hold true. Even after eradicating terrorism and urging the people to be united as Sri Lankan there is foreign involvement to continuously divide the people.

What is happening is that not only is the country being divided but the Sinhales are being divided as well and so long as the Sinhalese are divided it is advantageous for all players attempting to take a piece of Sri Lanka.This is not helped by local politicians who are simply walking into the traps clueless as a result of not devising a strategy on how to take the country forward or how to protect the future of all citizens.

India is attempting to all the while through statements and through diplomatic channels fund only  Tamils, roads only to Tamils, homes only to Tamils, infrastructure only to Tamils, educational facilities only to Tamils which automatically questions India and clearly makes the other communities feel that India is once more upto no good. Whilst other nations are continuously trying to promote the need to devolve powers without knowing anything of the dynamics that prevails in Sri Lanka. The same happens to funds channeled from Muslim nations. The West & its faith promoters do same. Who gives funds to Sinhalese & Buddhists?

Thus, the world has come to make the Sinhalese feel that every move, every decision and every act has and will be considered according to an ethnic dimension leaving the Sinhalese with limited or no rights to be proud of their heritage and are made to feel shy to uphold their culture and identity.

Should we continue to be so naive and bend towards these nuances that are slowly but surely disintegrating the Sinhaelse and disuniting them politically, socially and even religiously? Why should the Sinhalese be ashamed to call themselves Sinhalese / Sinhalese Buddhists?

Caught up in this scenario the likelihood of the Sinhalese not cherishing their roots, identifying with their roots and protecting those roots is of great concern. The overall plan to make Sinhalese feel small is to subtly remove the Sinhala Buddhist identity. This is a well-planned & well-funded psychological operation!

Why is it that the world does not want even our children to know the great achievements of our ancient systems the hydraulic civilization” developed by the Sinhalese kings? What significance has been given to the centuries old systems that provide a lifeline to agriculture even today? How many of us know the achievements of the kings – the constructions, the canals, the tanks, the rainwater reservoirs that made Sri Lanka be referred to as the Granary of the Orient? Does enough promotion of our great achievements get publicized enough or do we prefer just to promote our beaches? Is there a plan to sweep Sinhala Buddhist ancient successes under the carpet?

Sri Lanka has a history dating back to 543BC, the remains of these ancient kingdoms in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, the ancient citadels of Sigiriya, medieval kingdoms of Kandy cannot deny the presence of the Sinhalese race and intermittent invasions from South India through 161BC-1236BC existed. Despite invasions from South India there is enough evidence to prove harmony between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. No Sinhala or Tamil historical data speaks of any wars between Sinhalese & Tamils.

It was only around 237BC when Sena and Guttika usurped the Sinhalese throne and in 145BC when Elara took over Anuradhapura that the islands stability became affected.  Invasions by Pandyan and Cholas forced the Sinhalese to migrate southward but returned to the dry zones to revive the irrigation systems. The unity was further distanced by the colonial masters. Yet it does not erase the fact that the people of Sri Lanka would have been far more united had the island nation not been subject to divide and rule policies of the colonials that divided people economically, socially and ethnically.

The very countries that have been dictating to Sri Lanka are today openly declaring that multiculturalism has failed and that immigrants must learn the majority Language. There is no arguing against this. In middle-east countries if non-Muslims must cover their bodies when entering their nation, they must follow the traditions of other countries as well. When people can learn foreign languages to survive as refugees why cannot they learn Sinhalese? No one’s human rights supersede that of the other.

The Spirit of compromise must come equally and naturally and it should not have to be always the majority to compromise.

The politicization of ethnicity must cease and it must start with all political parties and all politicians. Party manifestos must clearly promote Sri Lankan identity which entails the election commissioner to relook at all ethnic based political parties as they are all a hindrance to unity. It should not be only the Sinhalese politicians who have to desist from speaking on behalf of one ethnic group as leaders they are all bound to protect the entire citizenry of Sri Lanka.

All these measures need to be taken but as long as there are calls coming from all corners of the world which aim to set up Eelaams & Jihads then it behoves the majority Sinhalese to start demanding from their politicians what they are doing to protect the future of the Sinhalese. For it is unfair to always expect the Sinhalese to make compromises and be held to ransom claiming that if minority demands are not given they will turn to extremist options (terrorism).

Tamils must now understand that policies of the colonial rulers ensured a privileged group of Tamil English educated elitist class who together with a handful of Sinhalese English educated elitist enjoyed pre and post-independence and it was these groups that decried the educational reforms so that lesser-privileged children would not obtain education and enter universities. Now we have a new form of extremisms blooming via madrassas & self-segregating cultures promoted from overseas.

We are all in a quandary on how to take the country forward.  Trapped by economic loans, politicians unable to run their ministries, officials unsuited for their role, a public service that is falling to pieces and productivity at all time low, spiraling cost of living burdening the masses, the dangers of accepting assistance” by foreign nations with large influx of foreign residents acquiring key jobs and labor, foreign intelligence forging their presence across the island – we simply continue the ride of luck for lack of strategy and national policy planning with strict implementation policies.

Tamils should realize that India would never create an Eelaam either in Tamil Nadu or Sri Lanka, otherwise they could have done it just as Bangladesh was created. Moreover, Tamils need to decide once and for all whether they are Indian Tamils or Sri Lankan Tamils because India and Sri Lanka are 2 sovereign countries and we desire to remain so. Muslims too must see how they lived peacefully prior to the advent of extremism enveloping their lives and forcing them to adopt new cultures and follow a path that is only brewing doubt and animosity amongst all.

What we see is that the world wishes to encourage extremism in minority community for it helps their goals. The minorities think the outside world their best friend because it helps them gain a leverage over the Sinhalese – ultimately when things go wrong, it is not the minorities who come forward to defend the nation but the Sinhala Buddhist majority who not only sacrifice to defend the nation but will also defend the minorities as well.

Sadly, Sinhalese Buddhists are not fortunate enough to even have their ancient heritage protected as that too becomes a global headache!

But, Sinhalese who have only Sri Lanka to call their home must never shirk from their duty to protect their nation whatever anyone says! More importantly, the voice of the Sinhala Buddhists must also be heard. They too have grievances like all others. They too have dreams like all others.

Shenali D Waduge

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