By Suji Hettiarachchi –
What Is Happening To Sri Lanka That Was Once The “Pearl Of The Indian Ocean”? Post Easter Sunday Attacks; Diminishing Trust Or Distrust?
I left Sri Lanka on the 4th of March 1982 on a Monash University Postgraduate scholarship to do my Masters Degree and having met my husband to be at the University, I decided to make Australia my second home. It has been over 37 years since then. Sri Lanka, the country I was born, studied, worked and spent my younger years still remains the only country on earth that I could call home. Australia of course, will remain equal to my first home; the home of my choice. Though I departed my academic career at the University of Colombo in 1990 unwillingly, I have been interested in research and have wanted to engage in academic writings. It was through Sri Lankan news that I was able to maintain my bond with my motherland.
Since the 21st of April this year, when the Easter Sunday bomb attack put Sri Lanka under the spotlight in the world media, Sri Lankans around the world were shocked to their core. I too was disturbed. For 2 weeks, the headline was Sri Lankan Easter attacks. I focused on reading all the articles published on Daily Mirror, Daily News and Colombo Telegraph and my analysis below is a result of my understanding of the situation in Sri Lanka.
At the outset, most media writings point to the fact that the “nations interest” is the need of time? Almost everyone currently believes that what the country needs is a fresh start, fresh ideas, a new beginning, new perceptions, politics free from racial hatred and sectarianism.
Some believe that attitudinal changes are necessary at wholesale starting from the grass roots to the top and vice versa. Who will save our country and bring about the attitudinal changes necessary to see some light at the end of the tunnel?
My reading of what has been written about Sri Lanka by intellectuals, its people, institutions, education, health, religion etc. since the Easter attack, can be summarized this way. There are 3 concepts that I am focusing in this article. Trust, diminishing trust and distrust. What we see in the world today is diminishing trust leading to distrust among people. This is an analysis of what people have written about our country, people and the institutions in the frame of trust.
Trust is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “To believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you, or that something is safe and reliable” or “to hope and respect that something is true”. It means something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another. This definition insinuates that trust depends on confidence. The trust these days is in dwindling supply and diminishing trust – less appearance of trust, challenges almost everywhere and everything. The distrust at the other end of the trust means “the feeling of not trusting someone or something or relied upon”.
Listed below are some of the reactions of Sri Lankans, which portrays the diminishing trust/distrust among the Sri Lankan community. The list has further been categorized under three broad headings i.e. political, race/religion and community that were discussed in the media since the attack.
|People’s lack of faith in the political leadership||Unnecessary dissensions and mistrust||Collapse of public confidence|
|Being away from peace, truth and justice||Negative thoughts of hate, animosity, revenge, suspicion and cynicism||Rise of ethnic divisions|
|No national harmony||No mutual respect, fairness or trust||No sense of belongingness|
|Abuse of power||Disunity and divided nation by race, religion, caste and creed, faith and belief||People’s collective cluelessness|
|Ultra-Nationalism||No compassion, tolerance and reconciliation||Suspicion is the order of the day and everyone suspects everyone|
|No transparency||Plunging into dark age of fear and uncertainty||No sense of togetherness|
|Endemic corruption and graft||Completely immoral and broken down systems||No peaceful co-existence|
|Factual inaccuracies and bogus claims||Racial inequality||Ethnically prejudiced perceptions|
|Absence of empowerment||Diseased minds||Lack collective responsibility|
|No cohesiveness||Racial and religious bigotry||Self interest on overdrive|
|No progressive common goals||No decency and moral integrity||Communal disharmony|
|Self interest on overdrive||No faith in culture and religion||No respect to each other|
|Disunity and differences||Racism is rampant||Gone through enough pain and misery|
|Despicable behaviours||Malignant thoughts and provoking ideas||Divisive trend|
|Dishonour and dis-honesty||Disappearance of ethical and moral values||Misconceptions|
|Misappropriation of public property||Propagating false information|
|Deceitful and dishonest rule||Frustrations emanating from different ideas|
|No relevance, integrity, shared values, commitment, affinity and follow through actions||Negative psychology|
And the list goes on. This is only some of the ideas discussed in the post-Easter attack.
Tharaka Kodippili in his article (Colombo Telegraph May 17, 2019) “Self-Interest, An Ostrich & A Sri Lankan” wrote, “The Self-interest has become the de facto moral compass of many Sri Lankans. It gradually began as an “I don’t care for others but my own best interests” routine. Practised by a few feckless (or did you mean reckless?) individuals – over the past few decades – has now spread like rampant wildfire and has internalized throughout most Sri Lankan individuals and communities in the country”.
Lying is the number one behaviour that diminishes the trust. Most of us would like to perceive as trustworthy. We want to work in a trusting environment and operate with trust. Trust can be sabotaged by trust diminishing behaviours. We can diminish trust without even knowing it. Being blind about self-awareness could make a trusting environment untrustworthy.
How can we solve these problems? Each passing generation adds more (unsolvable) problems to our society than the other did.
Where does this end?