15 August, 2022


Post Easter Sunday Attacks; Diminishing Trust Or Distrust?

By Suji Hettiarachchi

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. 

Political Race/Religion Community
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?

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Latest comments

  • 5

    We create problems which we can’t solve. Hence we call upon China, India and America to solve our problems, either jointly and severally or individually. When the problems are solved there wont be a Srilanka to speak of. Finally, only CIA (China, India, America) will be left. Hurrah!

  • 6

    Misappropriation of lands and homes,
    by the military is a major problem. No politician dares to question it.
    Bhikkus misappropriate shrines of other religions. No one dares to question it.
    Men in jail for twenty or more years without trial. No government is bothered about it.
    Rule of Law is more the exception than the rule, by those who should enforce it.
    Many have acquired riches during past decades. Inland Revenue ignores.
    Politicians have ‘officially’ enriched themselves. Those who question are threatened.
    MPs who attempted to assault the speaker in parliament, have not even apologised.
    People vote for persons who do not have basic educational qualifications – this does not happen in other countries..

  • 4

    A good analysis of the prevailing situation in Sri Lanka. The root cause are the politicians. They are corrupt. The Muslim politicians have taken an upper hand and place the country under chaos. These politicians have similarities with Diapers. If diapers are spoilt, then those diapers discarded and look for new ones. Likewise if politicians are spoilt on account of corruption, then those politicians have to be ignored and new suitable and efficient politicians have to be chosen. There is no transparency. The writer is from Australia which encourages Federalism. Why can’t the writer suggest that the only remedy to solve this clumsy handling of affairs in Sri Lanka is to experiment with a Federal constitution. The writer should be aware that Federalism is not separation, but keeps a check on unwanted activities of terrorism. Even racism has no place in Federalism. There will be unity in diversity but will not allow Sharia Law to creep into the legal systems of Sri Lanka. Now because of the lack of transparency, Sri Lanka’s sovereignty is in crisis because of some Islamic terrorists who are engaged in destruction of lives, properties, places of worship and even in hospitals. There are some more.

    • 1

      Federalism is the last solution in such a highly polarized society where animosity between ethnic groups prevail, and there is no loyalty to a common cause. Federalism can function only in societies where there is trust and loyalty between the different groups or individual states. Tamils are always out to hang out the Sinhalese as rapists, murderers genociders etc etc.- just look at what the Tamils are writing here. There will be no end to border disputes and stories of harassment, discrimination, colonization, resource disputes especially in regards to water etc. etc. And what will be the situation for the Muslims and the Plantation Tamils? Should they also be granted separate federal states?

  • 1

    Sri Lanka is said to be very educated and Intelligent. If so, why Sri lanka can not grow up. Because, with respect to the people is the parliament is filthier and dirtier than Welikada or any other prison. the system is made up to recycle those. This system is strengthen by the policies of the Western countries. all these minority problems and others are created by the political system and the western demands. Otherwise, even Australia has minorities. Australia is a large continent but why minorities are not asking homeland there/

  • 1

    What Is Happening To Sri Lanka That Was Once The “Pearl Of The Indian Ocean”

    All Educated is leaving the country no one is transferring the knowledged/tempering heat of experience and maturity. The people with talent is locked the door to personal excellence.

  • 0

    Except for the eye-catching title, I must say that there is nothing scientific in this essay! How could the collective feeling among a large number of people against (Muslim) extremism ( among Muslims as well) be explained if the mistrust among individuals is growing? How about 6.2 Millions stood in 2015 as one to defeat the most corrupt & inhumane Gvt SL ever had.
    I don’t know what Suji’s academic field is but, I can say, with certainty, that it is not related any subject about human behavior; for, scientists who study human behavior know that individuality as well as collectivity are equally present among all thinking organisms; human included; and that the feeling of collectivity (altruism) is only an extension of feeling for individual interests. Commonly known civilized social norms backed also by religious teachings mostly emphasize the feeling for others in a community. But, Darwin following the argument raised by Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations) struggled mightily to explain why some species likes wasp behave as unit if individual competition brings success. On the other hand, Karl Marx built his whole theory on the concept of collectivity. If Marx’s communist revolutions or any other models of ideal communal living proved anything it was that people always are willing to rally around socially ideal models & that they all fail during practice b’cos individual interest tend to take dominant role during normal times. in other words, everybody run to help in case of scream of “fire” but once things are settled, everybody go by their own ways. People in SL is no exception. There is nothing to worry about it.

  • 1

    Madam, only after leaving Lanka I truly understood the meaning of Trust, as same as I, understood the meaning of democracy, rights, elections and leadership. What we currently have in Lanka is totally dysfunctional failed state presenting them self to world as so called democratic, socialist, republic country. People who have experienced living outside of Lanka knows well, it is nothing but a SHAM . The truth is our President lies as regular as Trump, the cabinet is just a name sake and toothless, parliament is filled with criminals , religious extremist exert immense pressure on governance and majority are selfish and self serving.When I went through the chart you presented, I could tick YES to each and every issue you had addressed in it (political, religion and community). Unlike some countries which are in same situation but yet has hope, we are left with no options. You just joined the club of Tharaka, Kasun, Suranimala and Grusha , who are young, vibrant and trustworthy.

    • 0

      No, Sl is not dysfunctional state. It is true that, compared to countries like Australia, SL economy & certain aspect “rational” thinking of its citizens are in a form of fledgling state but it doesn’t mean that the nation is no moving forward. If there is a problem, it is the negative media which is trying to scare of the public in order to bring back the corrupt regime under which the media owners prospered.
      Democratic Gvts by nature appear somewhat chaotic superficially b’cos everybody is trying to make their voices heard by various means. The appearance of dysfunction for some is the result of not having being used to democratic system of Gvts. Can’t you see, for example, how British state is functioning among constant threats of terrorism one hand & the BREXIT debate on the other hand. Political controversies are & must be the hallmark of democracies while the state function smooth;y based on rule of law. That is why Churchill once famously remarked that, “Democratic system is the worst form of Gvt but it better than everything else the world has tried so far”!

  • 0

    DP, I will share few of my thoughts with you. The human behavior, psychology, psychiatry including science related to human brain is evolving subject. For that matter even the diagnostic criteria are reviewed every few years ago . So with time and given different degrees of religious and political influence the impact on the state will change. The comparison between countries are like comparing patient,s severity. Lanka is unique in that after 30 years of disturbance they seem to be preparing for next cycle of uncertainty. This happens only because of the reasons the author has provided here. Dysfunction is a broken down state and countries are in wide range of severity. Lankans currently debating in picking a better criminal and not a good person as their next leader(less stolen, less murdered, less criminal????)alone is a clue, how bad we are dysfunctional. Knowing about Easter and allowing it to take place will be another.Knowingly picking a murder will be our “new normal”. I appreciate the author for giving time and thought in coming up with this article instead of forwarding a known study/research/statistics, that too years years ago , from which time our pathology has evolved so far. The causes she tabled here may be her own observations but no one can deny that Lanka and Lankans fit into most of what has been provided. Obvious that she cannot be that far from facts.

  • 0

    DP, to clarify my view further I will provide a simple analogy. Before in Medicine /Psychiatry there was alcohol/nicotine abuse and dependence. But with time we had newer “street and prescribed drugs” hence new diagnosis. Soon we will have newer diagnosis for internet/social media dependence and other such issues. What is known for years as Bipolar disorder patients who were too happy are now too angry , hence the diagnostic criteria has changed with evolving pathology. So in general the science of human psychology is evolving with time and with that psychology, pathology and diagnosis criteria keeps evolving too. Dysfunctional means unable to deal adequately/rationally with normal social relations. Who can deny that in Lanka, politics and religion has had nothing but, an extremely negative impact on our future. No one is claiming that other countries are immune but in a scale, no one is at the bottom below us. As I mentioned else where “in Lanka there is light at the end of tunnel, but the tunnel never ends. Irony is that our sick public tends to like living in the darkness.

  • 0

    DP soon after writing my comment I see an article today written by Dr. Janapriya from Lanka.It gives a clear picture on how we Lankans came to such dysfunctional state. This was triggered soon after independence and the down hill never stopped until we hit the bottom. Irony is the public has accepted this as our “New Normal”. What is obviously abnormal , today in Lanka is “NEW NORMAL”. They are working hard on “setting the bar further down” as possible.

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