28 November, 2022


A Balancing Act: Can Sri Lanka Overcome The Ethnic, Religious & Political Divide?

By Suji Hettiarachchi

Suji Hettiarachchi

Agree, disagree and not disagree less but disagree better 

Watching both the new Governor General of Australia and the swearing in ceremony of the new parliament on 2nd of July this year as well as the tribute to late Prime Minister Bob Hawke by the new Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese inspired me to write this opinion to the Colombo Telegraph.  

What humbling speeches did they make! It was wonderful to watch how learned, balanced, respectful politicians gracefully deliver their speeches. The Australian parliament is where politicians debate, argue and make policies, laws, regulations for the betterment of the Australian community -strong economy and healthy community. ‘They agree, disagree and not disagree less but disagree better’ as the new Governor General David Hurley concluded in his opening speech to the new parliament. The political parties are in partnership to tackle common challenges and create a more connected community.

The government agenda included about 20 plus agendas which spread across all the sectors of the society starting from economy to online crime and safety. The agendas were read out by the newly appointed Governor General to be seen and heard by the Australian community.

In comparison, the high order maintained by Australian Parliament is totally contrasted by legislators in Sri Lanka by using abusive language against their rivals prompting the Speaker to expunge such statements in Parliamentary records. Sadly, this is the rule rather than exception. As an avid viewer of News First Parliament of Sri Lanka live stream, I was dumbfounded to see the atmosphere at the parliament of Sri Lanka on 23rd April this year (The Special Parliament session to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka ), 2 days after the Easter attack and after 2 minutes of silence observed to mark the respect to the people who died and wounded, the Speaker had to intervene to stop the screaming MPs who had no respect to at least to what they observed  2 minutes earlier. I watched the whole session with dismay and disbelief. The Speaker continuously reminded the opposition MPs to secure their ‘status of honourable member’ by having a respectful voice with a respect to the country and the people they represent and watch them live. The Speaker even had to plead not to make the Chamber a laughingstock. Those who may have watched this session would understand what I am presenting here. I would recommend anyone to watch Parliament sessions of Australia and Sri Lanka and compare how the two legislative assemblies are conducted.

Sri Lanka needs a balancing act 

The lyrics of late HR Jothipala and Milton Perera’s song ‘Aiya malli wage’ where they sang that ‘we do not have hatred in our minds, and we argue for fun’ we don’t frown on people we live innocently and happily. Gone are the days where we sang songs about peace, harmony, honesty, genuineness and happiness.   

Abuse of power, radicalisation, extremism and endless forms of social disintegration are visible in every corner of Sri Lanka. Blaming and conspiracy theories are endless. Dealing with the devilby Kasun Kamaladasa in Colombo Telegraph is a good summation of where Sri Lanka stands at present.

What is the ‘balancing act’? An action or activity that requires a delicate balance between different situations or requirements. It is no secret that all three superpowers i.e. India, China and United States keep a close watch on Sri Lanka. It is like a kids’ video game. All three powerful nations are eagerly watching and waiting. Sometimes it seems as if Sri Lanka has no authority to control such powerful observers. It has further deteriorated due to ethnic, religious and political meltdown. 

There is a mismatch of concepts, theories and approaches to all the things happening in Sri Lanka. To counter the ambiguity of such mismatched abnormality, the ethnic, religious and political divisions, fuelled by some handful of citizens have been able to create chaos and havoc. All have ulterior motives behind every act they perform. Such activity when there is an absence of balance could deviate into disastrous situations. Therefore, whatever the decision one may takes needs to be balanced with local, national and global consequences in mind.

Can Sri Lanka overcome the divide?

Sri Lanka has been a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country with a multi-party-political divide for centuries. Such divisions have socially connected and inter-connected people belonging them to a society of rich social norms, traditions, cultural values and value systems. Though to the naked eye, Sri Lanka may seem a divided country, you will not feel this divide once you are within its borders. Such warm hospitality expanded by Sri Lankans are well-known to foreigners. It is sad to see a country like Sri Lanka being overrun by those who wants to destroy it.

The government of today therefore needs to make every effort to successfully maintain this balancing act. It may not be an easy task to do. One thing though, is that the ‘Vairee Desapalanaya’ must see its natural extinction for Sri Lanka to maintain a balancing act.

People are too often reduced to their respective political, ethnic and religious inclinations. The public need to overcome this reduction by virtue of their attitudes, behaviour, social interconnectedness and commitment. Social isolation, ethnic separation, radical and forceful racial hardness will not bring an end to this divide, only the compassion will. Let’s hope the younger generations will have such compassion to make the divide thinner. Let’s celebrate positives rather than negatives in our societies and work harder to build bridges between unreconciled issues. 

To heal the wounds between divided groups, one must take a stern but a balanced approach with an intellectual mindset. Bringing together the hurtful and accepting ever gracefully the achievements we all have made towards the future of the country is the necessity of the time. We all must be determined to unify our nation by our instinctive positivity.

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Latest comments

  • 15

    What a joke to compare our politics with any western countries.
    They have matured democracy and what we have ?
    We have uneducated thugs and monks to rule this beautiful nation.
    So sorry. Today; MR started this thug culture in Sri Lankan politics .
    At Least all previous presidents had some respect and yet; MR started to loot tsunami money and then he built his palaces and his lordship.
    It is not he who did all but his groups .
    Now they want to have power back ..that is cold war between good and bad people.
    If he come back to power; many will disappear from SL

    • 3

      Lanka Tamil
      You didn’t get the message of the article. Boiling with uncontrollable hatred it is people like you who keep the atmosphere constantly inflamed. There are too many of your kind around.
      You hate Rajapaksa like devil while I worship him like God. You worship Prabhakaran like God and I hate him like devil. 50% with you and 50% with me. Satisfied?


      • 0

        You cannot trust the Tamils. Look at the 12 thumbs down the diaspora have given you for posting the truth.

    • 2

      LT: Dead Wrong,
      These so called mature democracies are a Joke with the hearings on the Trump -Ruasia collusion report, Brexit Britain dissolving before our eyes EU is dissaray etc.

      They have cause a global crisis with their greed to loot the resources of the rest of the world masked in fake Human Rights discourse.

      • 9

        Don: Dead wrong
        We don’t need matured democracies of the western world but we need rule of law, equality, jutice that is the fundamentals of Buddhism. No one can touch us if we are true Buddhists or common principles of humanity. Unfortunately Srilankan politicians who lead this nation whether it is Rajapakse or Ranil Wickremasinghe and the Monks who should lead the people are opportunistics and responsible for violation of law and Buddhism. Unfortunately majority of Srilankans are divided and accept the violence as means to live in this island.

  • 5

    If you elect learned, balanced, respectful politicians, they’ll always make graceful speeches. But, where do we go for them. Would you care to send some from Down Under.

  • 6

    At least when it comes to abusive language and vulgar behaviour you cannot blame all parliamentarians. It is just the Sinhala politicians with one exception being when the Rajapaksa sent in Karuna and Dogclass Devananda to do their bidding and harass politicians of other parties.

    • 1

      Yes even in the use of bad language it is just one race that is to blame. Same for violence, corruption, murder, assassination, prostitution, child abuse, money laundering, kidnapping, torture, disappearances, its always and only, the Sinhala Buddhists that are to blame. Even in these columns, all blame is placed on the Sinhala Buddhists and their priests. That is why reconciliation or no reconciliation, you simply cannot trust a member of the minorities.

  • 4

    The question in the title of this article should read: Can Sri Lanka overcome the Weaponization of Ethnic and Religious Identity politics by foreign forces in collusion with local politicians?
    Some of which staged the Easter Carnage, to gain influence and turn the country into a US-NATO base and a gabage dumb for UK and France that are loot Sri Lanka’s marine and fisheries resources..?.

  • 4

    The politicians in sri lanka is forgetting they’ve been appointed. politicians become more self-serving than public servants. Prime minister and president is blame each other to cover up due to the fear of failure

  • 7

    Suji, good article to read. But you are comparing a failed nation to 21st century truly democratic nation. Australia, has its little problems but light years ahead of Sri Lankan politics. Just look at the President, an absolute idiot. The Prime Minister, a laissez faire & morose looking being. The one waiting in the wing is a autocrat and alleged criminal.
    How can the Sri Lankans come out of the political rut?

  • 4

    Can Srilanka overcome the divide?
    Never ever, unless another Prabharan is found. Crimes are not only continued against the Tamils but even against their religion and temples. Hindu Gods are being replaced with Human-Buddha. A symbol of Sinhala Imperialism.

  • 0

    ‘ Vairee Deshapalanaya’ must see its natural extinction , pleasing to imagine !
    That is exactly the essence of our politics ! This politics is what makes us
    modern slaves , sense of love to slavery with fully blown out pride ! During the
    time of colonial rule slaves were shipped to their masters lands and today the
    modern slave , pocket out thousands of dollars to the human traffickers to get
    into the same and more destinations , all for bigger dreams , struggling between
    life and death in deep seas ! Can we even imagine to succeed in thousands of
    years to come, with a generation of unhappy young work force that hates to live
    in their country ? That is just one issue . Communal harmony , one major issue
    politicians have chosen to thrive on by adding more and more fuel to existing
    tensions ! They love new tensions , if none , want to create one ! About the
    recent Easter attack , Senior D I G and the head of C I D and T I D has said testifying
    before the P S C that there’s no evidence to confirm that the attackers had any
    links to ISIS . That should open up a whole new chapter .

  • 3

    The mentality of the Sri Lankan people must change drastically, if we are ever to solve this ugly problem, that is hampering progress, unity, and the harmony of this country.
    First of all the majority must realize that the minority BELONG HERE, and accept them as part of our country, instead of turning on them every time some cries “wanda pethy”.
    As long as the politicians keep playing their stupid, selfish games, pitting one against the other for their own devious agenda’s, this country will keep suffering the consequences of racial hatred and violence.

    • 3

      Tara, Unfortunately the SL People who think Like you have fled the Country, If they could, find a better place elsewhere!

    • 0

      Sinhala and Tamil based Education has become the reason for the Fall of Sri lanka!
      I f Sri Lnka is to Progress it is essential That we go back to English as the Basis of Education!
      We are now cut off from the rest of the Dveloping World by a set of Uneducated Politicians, who have no other way of Earning a Living!

  • 3

    Comparing Sri Lanka with Australia is pointless. There are fundamental differences between the psyches of the people. In fact these differences apply to all former nations of the British Empire.

    Some colonised nations had such a large number of invaders and settlers that they became the majority themselves (Australia, Canada, New Zealand). These people brought with them the democratic values that they had been brought up with and imposed them on their new homelands. These values were not for the natives of course, but over time the native population too was included to create the liberal democracies we find today.

    The situation in the rest of the colonised nations (India, Sri Lanka the African countries) is different. The native population was not replaced so after independence they just continued their former method of Government (monarchy) with a veneer of democracy. India, Sri Lanka and all the African countries are notorious for corruption and bad Government and their people suffer in consequence. Pakistan has for most of its life been a failing military dictatorship as has Myanmar. The examples are endless. The people of these nations still treat their leaders as kings, looking to them to solve all their problems and overthrowing them when they fail. Meanwhile the ‘kings’ and their allies help themselves to the wealth of the nation.

    I can see no solution to this fundamental problem, perhaps you can.

  • 2

    Not in a million years. And as long as these yellow robed thugs are untouchable…SL will always remain a sh.. hole of a lawless “democracy”.

    Ban Buddhist monks and other religions from entering politics.

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