By Sharmini Serasinghe -
“….In wisdom and strength renewed,
Ill-will, hatred, strife all ended,
In love enfolded, a mighty nation
Marching onward, all as one,
Lead us, Mother, to fullest freedom.”
These are the mighty words Lanka’s National Anthem ends with, which has no relevance today!
Perhaps it should now read as-
“….In ignorance and strength reduced,
Ill-will, hatred, strife all begun,
In hate enfolded, a once mighty nation
Marching backwards, all as one,
Lead us not, Mother, to perpetual hell.”
How many of us, especially those of our political leaders pay heed to the significance of our National Anthem when they so proudly stand up and pay lip service to it? Where is the “wisdom” in their leadership? Where is the “ill-will, hatred, strife all ended”? Are we a “mighty nation in love enfolded marching forward as one”? Where, Oh where is the “fullest freedom”?
Doesn’t our National Anthem sound hypocritical today? But yet we stand and salute it, uttering its words that hold no relevance today.
Had there been such a thing as a forthright political leadership with “wisdom” in Lanka today, we would be seeing all attempts at healing the wounds of our aggrieved brethren of the North, caused by mistakes of the past, that have plagued this nation for so long. This ought to have been the single most important action of such “wisdom” had we had it, upon ending a protracted and bloody civil war of 30 years.
Instead, in the absence of such “wisdom”, Lanka continues to stand today with open and gaping wounds camouflaged by bandages in the form of new infrastructure as in roads, highways, airports et al in the name of ‘development’- what better example of placing the cart before the horse!
To expect our political leadership to have such qualities as wisdom, vision and direction would be asking for too much. To them, warmongering appears to be a lucrative hobby, while kindling and keeping the embers of disharmony among the populace glowing and alive. After all, peace, unity and harmony in the country don’t bring in the filthy lucre. Wars do!
Not satisfied with polarizing us by our ethnicity alone, we now see a focus on widening the divide with a religious flavour as well. To them, our elected leaders, nothing is sacred. So we now have the sacred Saffron Robe being wielded to silence the ‘other’ into submission in the name of Buddhism, thereby paving the way for renewed “ill-will, hatred and strife” of a much greater magnitude.
Hot on the heels of an erratic group of unorthodox ‘Buddhist monks’ questionable by repute hitting the streets, spewing hate and venom against the ‘other’, there rises the ‘Aranthalawa Massacre Memorial Museum’ in the predominantly Muslim populated Eastern district of Ampara. The scenes are depicted through gory sculptures of the massacred Buddhist monks in their death throes in a bus.
This tragic and unfortunate incident in Aranthalawa in 1987 indeed sent shock waves throughout the nation, but there were equally horrifying massacres that took place throughout the 30 years of war. Therefore, will such memorial museums be set up in each of those places where such horrific massacres took place, so we will keep bumping into them at every corner, keeping us constantly reminded of their significance and thereby keep the flames of ethnic disharmony permanently alive?
How can reconciliation ever be possible with such massacre sites being turned into permanent ‘reminders’? However if the objective of such, is to portray and preserve for posterity the evils of a ruthless terrorist outfit as the LTTE never to be repeated, then shouldn’t there be a balance in this exercise, by setting in motion the likes of the LLRC recommendations? Wouldn’t this prevent the need for such ‘memorials’ to sprout in the future as well?
It appears the only vision the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and its cohorts have is to ‘divide and rule’ no matter the cost. First we had the father of the SLFP SWRD Bandaranaike setting the trend with his infamous ‘Language Act’ that divided the Sinhalese and Tamils ad infinitum, the results of which we still suffer today. And now we have his successors taking his ‘policy’ to the next level by using religion to drive the citizenry further apart.
One need not be endowed with too much of a vivid imagination to compare our current set of ruling politicians to a group of bad actors. They appear to have been thrown on to a stage and asked to perform without a script. As a result they seem to think only the gallery comprising the SinhalaBuddhist vote base must be kept entertained with cheap gimmicks and other such, they like to see and hear, so they the actors with no talent could remain on stage for ever.
Why do we need to hold expensive elections to choose such leaders? The law of the jungle would have sufficed. Therefore let our bankrupt rulers not lead us up the garden path. Let us not get caught up in their vile schemes that will once again end up in chaos of blood-letting proportions. Lanka is not the playground of our elected political leaders and we are not their puppets.
If Lanka is supposed to be a Buddhist country based on the argument that the majority are Buddhists, then it is the bounden duty of the ‘majority’ sans the politicians to live and lead by example. The ‘majority’ must earn the right to call Lanka a Buddhist country if they must. Therefore it is up to the ‘majority’ to nip the mistrust that is being gradually made to take root amongst us in the bud.
The ‘majority’ if they are true Buddhists must display their magnanimity by showing a sincere willingness to accommodate those of other faiths as well and not denigrate them. Therefore if Lanka is a Buddhist country the ‘majority’ should be propagating peace, harmony and unity amongst all as portrayed through our National Anthem.
There are of course a handful of those who are willing to prostitute themselves, and be led by their noses by their so called leaders. We also find quite a number of them spewing their venom and hatred of the ‘other’ in the comment threads of the likes of the Colombo Telegraph, so why look further. These are the sycophants who see all of the Emperor’s New Clothes, even when he’s stark naked, and cheer him on.
All of us Lankans have suffered enough by being branded by our ethnicity and religion for too long. We have all had enough of being used by politicians for their own ends. We have all been labeled as this and that ad nauseam for what purpose? Time to wake up Lanka!
Let us start living up to our National Anthem even at this late stage. We have the golden opportunity to realise this, even though symbolic, in the form of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawning in under a fortnight from now. It is a good place to start, so let us all Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims from this day forward, celebrate this event as one, as the Lankan National New Year. At least that way, when we next sing our National Anthem, we will know that we are not lying through our teeth!
*Sharmini Serasinghe was Director Communications of the former Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) under Secretary Generals Jayantha Dhanapala and Dr. John Gooneratne. She counts over thirty years in journalism in both the print and electronic media.