By Deneth Karunarathne
Since the defeat of the LTTE Sri Lanka as a whole has been looking forward to marching forward. Slowly but swiftly things have started to fall into place. During the ceremonial opening of Parliament on May 19, 2009, President Mahinda Rajapakse declared that the LTTE had been militarily defeated. He further went in to say that “There are only two peoples in this country. One is the people that love this country.
The other comprises the small groups that have no love for the land of their birth”. Literally sound, but are the masses ready to accept this. That there are only two groups of people those who love and those who don’t?
In the time of war the frequent attacks of LTTE, how brutal they may have been reminded us, the majority of the Sinhala community, that, there was a small but distinct ill-treated Tamil community and there was a genuine problem of recognition, acceptance of political freedom. Nevertheless, since the defeat of the LTTE the majority of the Sinhalese finds themselves in a dilemma of both satisfaction and insecurity. The suspicion is of a re-occurrence of yet another brutal war or conflict where their claim to the island will be questioned.
This attitude is by several factors. The first being the existence of the Sinhalese race, which is mostly limited to the geographical boundaries of Sri Lanka. This adds up to the claim that srilanka belongs to the Sinhalese, the descendants of Vijaya. In addition the population growth of the Sinhalese which is barely 1%, which questions the existence of the race in the coming future. The political turmoil in the south where a family regime rules but not governs the country, plus the known drug kingpins are known associate of leading ministers. The factors as cost of living and lack of opportunities even to best educated has made it even more frustrating for Sinhalese who expected better than the past 30 years.
Against this backdrop we have a new set of problems emerging. The most crucial of all has so far been the religious tensions between the Sinhalese Buddhist and the Muslim community. Why the Muslims but not the Hindus? Theoretically, it should be with the Tamil community. But if someone was willing to remove the Hindu shrines close to Buddhist temples they would end up removing 90% of the Buddhist temples. So why the Muslims? Is the Dambulla incident just one isolated incident?
How much they say about the interaction between the Muslim community and the Sinhalese community amounts to the truth? The truth is far from what is being told! The truth is that the Sinhalese are generally are more open and more harmonic towards the Tamil community even after 30 years of war. Why is that?
The problem is there is a general concern from the Sinhalese and Tamil communities about the population growth of the Muslims as Islam itself influences to have more children. While most of the Sinhalese and Tamil families will settle for two children the Muslim families will have at least four. And the general concern over the years have been that this will change the demographics of the country in the long term. The example form Germany about the Turkish community provides an insight.
In addition most Muslims traditionally are involved in trading while the service sectors of the country are run by the Sinhalese and Tamils. The general perception is the hard earned salaries end up in the hands of Muslims. This has oiled a huge anti-Muslim campaign in the country.
Even the fellow Sinhalese who does not accept the dambulla incident willingly participate in these movements. One of the most famous has been not to buy clothes form NO LIMIT an infamous chain garments shop. The claims of the organizers of these movements have been that these shops hire young Muslim boys but never a Sinhalese or a Tamil.
But is always willingly hires young Senegalese and Tamil girls allowing them to meet the Muslim boys and finally wed them and later convert to Islam. One of the other major claims has been that poor Sinhalese and Tamil girls are married by rich Muslims and then converted Islam and become breeding vessels. And the vice versa does merely exists.
As we all know srilanka is a cricket loving nation. During the dark times it was one thing that kept hope for many srilankans. And even the least racist sinhalese is pissed when they see a srilankan born Muslim supporting Pakistan when srilanka is playing against. In the eyes of a Sinhalese just been a Muslim nation seems enough to gain support.
If there was something that kept cordiality with the Muslim community this surely blows it away. In addition when the Muslim MP s request for representation quota for the cricket team based on the nationality and requests to practice sharia law in the eastern province these fire up the Sinhalese Buddhist extremism. Even the moderate keeps silence in order to nullify the Islamic influence.
Since the incident of DAMBULLA the writer had a chat with one of my Muslim friends who is no extremist but a faithful follower of Islam. While the discussion went on I asked him whether he see himself first as a srilankan or a Muslim. The obvious answer was a Muslim. Indeed he was proud to say so. And true to be told most Sinhalese see them as Sinhalese Buddhist.
Sinhalese believes and are thought that they are the decedents of price Vijaya who took the kingdom form the Yakkas and the Nagas. And believes king Dutugamunu fought a religious war. To establish the Buddhism and took 500 monks with him in his conquest. Even though this contradicts with the foundation of Buddhism it is accepted. Though the Buddhist teaching says that the soldiers who die in the war does not go to heaven it is believed otherwise by the general Sinhalese Buddhist mindset. Therefore in srilanka the Buddhist monks can gather the masses and more importantly drive them.
The alternative history of srilanka says that it was processed by four races. The Yakkas , Nagas, Devas and the Rakshas. And after the Vijaya the king Pandukabaya (437 BC – 367 BC) the true srilankan king established the sihalese race with which was the mixture the four previous races and the new settlers. The truth we never know but it is high time the island nation of srilanka should look for a new Srilankan identity which and accommodate the set of all races while keeping their identities intact. And how we achieve that is one of the biggest challenges which is faced by all srilankans today
(Deneth Karuanarthne is from the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka University in Osaka, Japan)