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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2790

Fight smear factor with an open debate

By Philip Fernando

The charged nature of current Sri Lankan politics is fertile grounds for dueling factionalism. Asian Tribune’s Daya Gamage captured the smear factor that prevailed in politics even in USA. Vituperation abounds. Getting over that called for a sober assessment of facts.

Sinhala and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka have co-existed as stakeholders for centuries and any barriers to that must be nipped in the bud. Unleashing venom would be counter-productive. Cronies should not be allowed to have their day. Nor the Ideological chasms that add toxin. Alternative policy choices must be assessed instead of allowing bipolar armies of ideologues, partisan groups and character assassins run amok. Ideas must reshape the political landscape.

Land accessibility

Land is one of the problem areas that must be handled. An all-party conference to assess the critical need for land distribution must be summoned now. With the growth in population, land availability should become an area requiring consensus building. The designation of historical sites as special areas must be considered. The right of a citizen to land anywhere seemed way beyond the means of the average person. There should be affordable land accessibility as a well-thought-out plan.

The current ruling coalition has a balanced representation of Sri Lanka’s diverse sectors with a sizeable majority base welcoming minority participation. Beruwala explosion was an aberration that must be abhorred.

Leaders from the government and Opposition have been in the political maelstrom long enough to know that factionalism would be disastrous. Everyone has enough current history within them to know the dangers of fear mongering. Minds of Sri Lankans are enamored by the urgency of participatory politics and the search for new ideas. They would rise above the fray and the familiar flawed policies that hindered progress.

Equal emphasis on rights and responsibilities, and a focus on democratic values of participation, inclusion, fairness, and justice are the key ingredients for bringing cohesiveness to society. No special entitlements should cloud the issues. Fostering cultural heritage, traditions and languages within the law and free from discrimination must prevail. Sri Lankans have been loyal to the country and becoming self-reliant citizens—again Beruwala was an aberration. Compared with the widespread incidence of unrest that has characterised many countries, Sri Lankan society has been cohesive—that broadly positive picture must be nurtured particularly in neighbourhoods of high cultural diversity and low socioeconomic status.

Building trust

Where low levels of trust prevail, a sense of safety, political participation and Involvement in volunteer work must be brought to play. Community leaders must be galvanized to inject optimism by collective efforts. Higher levels of discrimination within such pockets of doubt specially among the socially and economically disadvantaged groups must not be allowed to fester. Low levels of social cohesion, can have long term implications for productivity, prosperity and community harmony. The opportunity, therefore exists, for a more targeted focus on neighbourhoods and groups which experience lower levels of social cohesion, with attendant strategies to build trust, civic engagement, community resilience and a positive culture of hope, reward and opportunity.

Sri Lanka already possessed place-based programs advancing a broad social cohesion strategy at a grassroots level. These programs and the community organisations that deliver them must become the pivotal point of harmony. They must be funded by a range of sources, including all levels of government as well as community, business and philanthropic enterprises. A national cohesion initiative must begin now. Let us identify supporting productive diversity through education and employment; fostering interfaith dialogue; and targeting youth who must become the vanguard of cohesion.

The Beruwala events are an eye-opener and should never be allowed to recur.

- Asian Tribune -

Fight smear factor with an open debate
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