By Jehan Perera –
There are indications of political maneuvering behind efforts to disturb the peace in the country and to bring ethno-religious nationalism to the fore. The rising number of incidents of hate speech and local level acts of violence that appear to have communal undertones has prompted former President Chandrika Kumaratunga to issue a strong statement that received national coverage. In her statement she noted the rise of hate speech in Sri Lanka in the recent past, which challenges the initiatives being taken by the government to heal the country after decades of bloodshed and destruction. She said that “Hate filled expressions and actions by groups with vested interests, resulting in demeaning, denigrating and inciting violence against fellow citizens of various ethnic, religious backgrounds has no place in Sri Lankan society.”
Video footage of religious clergy engaging in vitriolic attacks on those of other ethnic and religious groups has gone viral on the social media. Ethno nationalist organizations have been engaging in hate campaigns and intimidating those of other communities at the local level. Most notably in the North and East, there are clashes being reported on inter religious grounds. There are many incidents of religious clergy getting involved in expansionist projects, such as religious conversions, destruction of ancient sites or building places of worship in areas where they are less numerous. It is important that the government acts without delay to utilize the law to mete out legal sanctions against those who seek to gain political advantage by accentuating the divisions in society.
President Maithripala Sirisena has publicly stated that anyone who violates the law would be dealt with by the law enforcement agencies. On the other hand, there are also tensions that arise between the communities due to a failure of communication. A different approach is required in these cases. The Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation A H M Fowzie is making arrangements to hold programmes to promote national reconciliation. Minister of Justice and Buddhasasana, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has said that all ethnic and religious groups are welcome to participate in the dialogue. He said various groups, including the Bodu Bala Sena and Ravana Balaya, had agreed to participate in the effort to resolve issues through dialogue.
In July this year there was a clash between Tamil and Sinhala students at Jaffna University. The immediate cause of the conflict was whether a Sinhala cultural dance could be added to a welcome ceremony for incoming first year students. The student association decided against it and opted for the traditional Tamil cultural dance only. This led to a violent clash. One of the outcomes was the temporary closure of the university and departure of Sinhala students from Jaffna due to their fear of further incidents. However, the quick intervention of the government, and notably President Maithripala Sirisena who got the student leaders on both sides to meet with him, enabled the restoration of normalcy.
In addition the university administration decided to ensure that the healing of relationships between the Tamil and Sinhala student bodies should be of more sustainable nature. Therefore they organized a relationship building exercise for the approximately 600 students of the science faculty who had been involved in the clash. They sought the services of external facilitators who were from the National Peace Council and Centre for Communication Training. I was one of the team of facilitators. It seemed to be a daunting task as the student body was a large one, and there could be hardliners amongst them who would scuttle an effort at reconciliation. The prospect of this large number of students, who had already clashed before, turning hostile during an event meant to promote healing of relationships was a possibility. Students with their energy and idealism can both be a constructive force for change or, if they get suspicious or provoked, can be disruptive.
However, this worst case scenario did not materialize. The students did not show any sign of aggression. The 500 or so students who did attend the programme came in good spirits and left the same way. About half of them were Sinhala students, with almost the same number of Tamil students and a lesser number of Muslim students (in the ratio of 4:3:1). As part of the day’s events the students received a crash course on non-violent communication and thereafter were divided into 45 groups of 12 students each. In order to ensure a maximum of interaction between the different communities, they were assigned to the groups that were mixed by ethnicity (Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim) and by their years (first year, second year and third year).
It was clear that the students appreciated the opportunity to interact with each other in a structured way. If they had been left to themselves, they would probably have interacted only with their own community members. But when they were put into mixed groups and asked to discuss between themselves they did so with interest and zest. They were asked to give answers to three questions: what were the burning issues they faced, what could the university authorities do to address them, and what could they as students do to help resolve those problems. As most courses in universities are now conducted in the English language, the discussions took place in English. Each group was asked to choose one member of their group to come up onto the stage and present the outcome of the discussions to the rest of the student body and to the members of the university administration who were also present.
The main issues highlighted by the students in their group presentations related to the need for better infrastructure facilities for their studies. They asked for free Wi Fi facilities to enable them to access the worldwide web, which is available in universities such as Moratuwa University. They asked for a study hall for science students. They asked for a second canteen to purchase their meals as there is currently only one canteen in the university to service over 5000 students and 1000 staff members. They asked for a gymnasium that is available in most other universities and for a swimming pool as found in Sri Jayawardenapura University. They asked for better hostel facilities, and that these hostels should accommodate students of all years, and not only first year and final year students.
In addition the students asked for improved language training facilities so that they could bridge the language barrier. They asked for more intercultural and social activities so that they could interact more with each other. They asked for more interaction with students from other faculties through sports. They also asked for spaces in the university in which those of minority religions in Jaffna could worship. None of the ideas put forward by the students were immoderate or unreasonable. They were not confrontational or hostile. This suggests the value of engaging in dialogue with others and consulting with them before problems become aggravated. It is important that the university authorities are responsive to the needs of the students and to their dreams. Even a swimming pool is not too much for the state to invest in students who will form the backbone of a plural, educated and cultured nation.
BBS Rep / November 28, 2016
” “Hate filled expressions and actions by groups with vested interests, resulting in demeaning, denigrating and inciting violence against fellow citizens of various ethnic, religious backgrounds has no place in Sri Lankan society.””
Correction. Now read on ….
” “Hate filled expressions and actions by groups with vested interests, resulting in demeaning, denigrating and inciting violence against fellow citizens of various ethnic, religious backgrounds has top place in Sri Lankan society thanks to Politicians and the Sangha.””
And then we wonder why this ‘Wonder of Asia’ is in the bottom of the pit. CB’s dad started the rot and others have blindly followed the lead camel.
Don Stanley / November 28, 2016
Bob Marley sang:
“A hungry man is an angry man”. The poor and majority of Sri Lanka University students often are hungry and malnourished.
When students have substandard education facilities and have to live like animals (in over crowded hostels and dorms ), they will behave like animals..
At the roof of the so called ethnic conflict is the ECONOMIC WAR. Even the most perfect Constitution will not end the economic war the root cause of which is CORRUPTION of the politicians who are looting and destroying Sri Lanka while distracting people from the politicians corruption and criminality with Hate Speech.
DIVIDE, DISTRACT and RULE is the policy of the corrupt caste of politicians who are destroying Lanka but foolish civil society groups follow the western HR discourse and forget Economic Causes of violence.
Dodo / November 28, 2016
Don, You are quite right. The firsts and biggest problem in Sri Lanka today is the CORRUPT AND UNPRINCIPLED POLITICAL CULTURE with impunity for hate speech.
Changing the Constitution while this first and biggest problem in Sri Lanka magnifies under Ranil-Sira Jarapalanaya regime with its Bond Scams is a case of putting the cart before the horse!
Anura Kumara is the only Sinhala Political leader with principles and he should contest the next Presidential elections. He will win. People are desperate for an alternative to the corrupt Ranil-Sira, MR, CBK generation of politicians. AK is from the missing middle generation in Sri Lanka too.
Janaka Fernando / November 28, 2016
Recently, Race and Religious extremism including Hate speeches, acts of threat and violence against minorities have escalated in Sri Lanka (mostly by the clergy men) and the government (similar to the previous one) is keeping silent and watching like a bystander/spectator, even the policemen are standing and watching like zombies without any action. This was one of the cause for the fall of the previous government and this one is no better.
Race and Religious extremism including Hate speeches, acts of threat and violence against any particular race/religion, etc. should be banned by law and those guilty should be punished. This is an urgent requirement and the Yahapalana government should enact new laws to curb such criminal activities.
If every citizen in Sri Lanka is considered equal, then no particular race/religion should be given first class status. State Religion, foremost place/priorities and first class status for a particular Race/Religion/majority, etc. which was the bane (main cause of downfall) of our country in the past has to be removed not only from the constitution but also from the minds of the people. Is the Yahapalana government also going to repeat the same mistakes that all the previous regimes did? We elected this President to see a change in Sri Lanka.
Amarasiri / November 28, 2016
RE: Deal With Problems Before They Escalate
“She said that “Hate filled expressions and actions by groups with vested interests, resulting in demeaning, denigrating and inciting violence against fellow citizens of various ethnic, religious backgrounds has no place in Sri Lankan society.”
Who are behind this? A section of the Sinhala “Buddhist” Para-Politicians and Para-Sinhala Racist Sinhala “Buddhists”.
So, expose, expose and expose.
1. Clearly publish and say that they are Para-Sinhala are Paras on the land of Native Veddah Aethho, just like the other Paras they are agitating against.
2. Buddhism in Lanka is Para “Buddhism”, different from Pristine Buddhism. Sinhala “Buddhism” is an insult to Buddhism.
3. Para Sinhala do not have an exclusive right to Buddhism.
1. What About the Original Natives, Native Veddah Aethho? It is their Land. They Came 25,000 Years ago, before any Parasdeshis came. Who is speaking for the Veddah Aethho?
The Vedda Tribe
2. Through a comparison with the mtDNA HVS-1 and part of HVS-2 of Indian database, both Tamils and Sinhalese clusters were affiliated with Indian subcontinent populations than Vedda people who are believed to be the native population of the island of Sri Lanka.
Journal of Human Genetics (2014) 59, 28–36; doi:10.1038/jhg.2013.112; published online 7 November 2013
3. Mahavamsa- An Insult To The Buddha!
4. Is Religion the Opium of the People?
Karl Marx famously said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” But what did he mean by this? Sinhala “Buddhism”?
S.Modaya / November 28, 2016
Open your eyes Jehan Perera: it is none other that Ranil Wickramasinghe’s Minister of InJustice, the corrupt Avant Gard Wjedasa Rarapassa who is indulging in Hate Speech!
Why has this corrupt clown not been SACKED for Hate Speech?!
Why is this racist clown the Minister of Justice in this true Miracle of Modaya?!
CBK instead of issuing silly statements should get Ranil to remove the corrupt UNP clown he appointed as Minister of Justice and Avant Gurad corruption. Now the Avant Guard ship has been release and tommorrow AG’s office will say evidence has been destroyed! Justice is upside down and backwards in Miracle of Modayas!
Hate Speech is coming from the Top where Mahinda Jarapassa and his corrupt brothers rule the roost with Ranil Wickramasinghe’s PROTECTION and support to counter balance Sira.
Micacle of Modayas indeed!
Kalupahana / November 28, 2016
CBK is part of the problem and not the solution – as is her entire generation of politicians who have ruined Lanka and should be all sent home.
These corrupt politicians – CBK, Ranil, Sira, Mahinda jarapassa and cronies are blocking innovation and social change, that only a new generation – the missing middle generation of Sri Lankan the best of whom left the county because of war, can bring.
The missing middle generation would do a better job of finding real solutions to burning problems, but are blacked as long as these corrupt politicians and their cronies hog all jobs in policy making institutions and block innovation and new ideas.
CBK tosay heads so many useless organizations – ONUR, SAPRI, various Bandaranaiyake International Centers, and they all do very little to bring real change. NO INNOVATION. No real understanding of problems or POLICY EXPERTISE on how to address culture conflict.
No creative PROFESSIONALS and EXPERTS are in these institutions, only CBK’s old deadwood cronies – also in the foreign service. No Tamils either. NO multicultural policy direction.
New ideas are and approaches from the next generation – the missing middle generation, majority of which migrated from Sri Lanka are blocked by CBK and Ranil and Sira and MR who together promote a political culture of corruption, impunity and divide and rule forever, while pretending to do inclusion.
Mindless reconciliation for the consumption of foreigners is what there is today.
Dr.Rajasingham Narendran / November 28, 2016
I appreciate you efforts.
However, there has to be a way to target the handful of hot heads/hardline elements who seed, cultivate and provoke hate related violence in this country. The law, should be applied in an even manner and be blind to professed identity and politics. All incidents of identity related group violence should be nipped in the blood. This requires clever intelligence work, pre- violence. There should be community trust in the police to be prewarned.
The police should be independent, better trained and ‘Educated’. They should be given a freehand to carry out their duties within the ambit of our laws. Interfering with their duties by whoever it may be, should be an offence.
You are trying to convince the converted, which is non-targeted and hence wasted and ineffective.
The media needs to be educated on ethics and social response. ‘They should be held responsible to uphold truth- facts. “Facts are sacred, cooment is free”- a dictum that should be driven into them.
This intervention of your’s has revealed the fact that the oroblems/issues of the Jaffna university students are quite mundane. It also exposes the vulnerability of the free education system. It cannot afford to provide everything the students need and desire. This should be explained to the students. A system to generate income for the universities , to complement what the government gives ‘ FREE’ ( a much misused word) has to be developed. Nothing comes free in life.
I think we have to learn as a nation to think and act in terms of specific issues. We generalize everything and hence never really revolve problems. Rumours and lies become facts in these circumstances and assume calamitous and explosive proportions.
I will explain the above in more personalized and specific terms. The night before the anatomy examination in my second year at Peradeniya, I started thinking about the subject in general terms as ‘Anatomy’. I thought that I did not know a thing and panicked. Then I decided to take a walked and went upto the bridge near the railway station and sat on the wall there. Something within told me to think specifically in terms of each topic within anatomy. lol and behold!, I knew what I thought I had to know. I was exhilarated and went back to my hall to have a good night’s sleep!
jehan / November 28, 2016
Wijedasa rajapaksa should be removed first for racist speech in parliment. factually incorrect and misleading.
Gnanasara has to be arrested for aluthgama.
why GSP linked to muslim marraige law. what does EU have to do with muslim marraige law? This is basically to cause friction.
note: UK/EU children start having sex by 11year, oral sex is not considered sex in UK/EU AND Some american stated. UK has one of the highest abortion rates. when marraige is spoken off, its not ok. sex without commitment is ok.
in canada anal sex has been legalized for 12years and above.
Western values are topsy turvey
Kumar / November 28, 2016
The President says, as a Buddhist he will make sure that Buddhism is given the foremost place/first class status in the constitution. Sri Lanka is a multi-racial/religious society where the President (irrespective of his own religion/race) is elected by all Sri Lankans to represent all the Sri Lankans regardless of race/religion. How can a President who represents a multi-racial/religious society/country say in public that, since he is a Buddhist he will make sure to give Buddhism the first class/foremost status?
concerned citizen / November 28, 2016
The die is cast of this country, it can never be unified as one nation again, the politicians have let the monks take over the mass; and the level of hatred that has taken root is unimaginable; I was surprised to learn that a leading school in Borella, Colombo which was accommodating the requirement of the students from different communities and had such a high reputation until now are allowing the teachers to exploit the minds of the students and spread hatred from such a young age, they are teaching them not to buy things from shops belonging to certain ethnicities and flooding their tender minds with all kinds of unwanted lies.
Either this is a well orchestrated plan by the state or done by some others with vested interest to ruin the country, but the state is keeping mum and doing anything about it.
Now the only solution is either chase away the 5.2 Million minorities out of the country or allow them to live separately in their own administrative states, these minorities are living in this land for more thousand years, so there is only one solution left, and this will happen sooner than later.
AJ / November 28, 2016
If people in Sri Lanka realised this 40 years ago we could have averted a war. Tamil’s primary concern at that time was a university. The government didn’t want to provide it at that time. The frustration of graduates who couldn’t enter university due to cut out system ( which was disadvantage to Tamils) had resulted in uprising of the LTTE. ‘Oppression always breeds’.
Manel / November 28, 2016
You are right. The Tamils did have their grievances and it should have been addressed the proper way so that terror groups have no reason to form and cause havoc in the country. It is up to the leaders in this country, and the majority, to not act arrogantly and pretend the minority do not exist. Listen to the people who have no voice, be fair to all, and make everyone feel they are treated the same way. When will our leaders ever realize that prevention is better than cure? What the LTTE did was not acceptable, and innocent people suffered the consequences, but to prevent another bloodbath in this country, trouble makers (from all ethnicities) must be dealt with severely, and there must be a special body to reach out to minorities and address their grievances. Is that too much to ask?
Mallaiyuran / November 29, 2016
Jehan PhD these days meddling a lot in the North. This illiterate PhD who cannot understand one word of Tamil is convulsing hard to become the NPC Governor to sit on the head of CM CV.
Greed drive you anywhere and everywhere. Isn’t it why Buddha too came to Lankawe three times, like Jehan, the agent of Old Brother prince, going to North. Buddha the PhD came to Lankawe to convert the Hindus Eelam into Buddhist Lankawe and preserve his preaching for 5000 years. Now the Jehan the Sinhala Buddha is travelling every week to ensure Sinhala Buddhist ruling in the North is ensured.
Douglas / November 29, 2016
Mr.Jehan Perera: You want to: “To Deal With Problems Before They Escalate”. With that statement and the request, I find your are far behind time. We see that the problems have not “Escalated ; but MOUNTED and had become INSURMOUNTABLE.
Mallaiyuran / November 29, 2016
All what Jehan PhD attempt is to distract the Students whom he think if revive LTTE, then the war has to pawn more part of Lankawe with China to buy arms.
Nobody is interested in ensuring the students will be having a reasonable education and equal chance for job opportunities. How these guys who nationalized to destroy the Northern superior school system, brought standardization and barred Tamils from entering to University, and brought in Sinhala Only only to deny them jobs and keeping 150,000 army in Northern Schools buildings(Most important is the Palali Training College is not handed over) is they have still gone through these hurdles would be genuine when they go North.
Here Jehan PhD is telling how he made Modayas out of the Jaffna University Students. ” The prospect of this large number of students, who had already clashed before, turning hostile during an event meant to promote healing of relationships was a possibility. Students with their energy and idealism can both be a constructive force for change or, if they get suspicious or provoked, can be disruptive.However, this worst case scenario did not materialize.
I ask a question, if Jehan PhD has used sincere methods to convince an average person’s thoughts to achieve this result and control the students, yet he has not tried this with the Ayathulla Groups who are standing on the roads and Ganunkarunuwa because is it ok or needed or safe for Lankawe they behave like that and it will be dangerous only if Jaffna Students behave violently? Is it suggesting Jehan PhD used lot threats and shadow techniques of army rehabilitations to control the students?
Arasan / November 29, 2016
Former Deans (Prof Kandasamy and Prof Srisatkunaraja) ruined the faculty for their benefits,
Bensen Berner / December 1, 2016
Very well said and more aptly:”Video footage of religious clergy engaging in vitriolic attacks on those of other ethnic and religious groups has gone viral on the social media. Ethno nationalist organizations have been engaging in hate campaigns and intimidating those of other communities at the local level”. This has also revealed the priest’s addiction to dope and his sexualism. The Buddhist clergy must do something about it. Bensen