By 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 devil” by 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.