The road to unity and harmony | Daily News

The road to unity and harmony

One major problem pertaining to our political landscape is the sheer lack of bipartisan consensus on many issues. If the party in power proposes, say, to purchase a new power plant, the Opposition parties will oppose it, sometimes just for the sake of opposing. This has been a serious impediment to national progress over the last 70 years.

This becomes especially serious vis-à-vis matters of critical importance such as national unity and reconciliation. But in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks there have been many calls for greater unity among political parties on this issue. Political and ethno religious extremism has proved costly for Sri Lanka over the decades and it is time that we get together to defeat all forces of extremism and fanaticism.

It was therefore heartening to see Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa working together at the Select Committee of Parliament to study and report to Parliament its Recommendation to Ensure Communal and Religious Harmony in Sri Lanka, just a few days ago.

Such political unity is the only way to heal the wounds of a fractured nation. We suffered for 30 long years as a result of the conflict in the North which only ended just 10 years ago. Yes, the Easter Sunday attack was even more horrible than the attacks perpetrated by the LTTE, but that should not be used as an excuse for whipping up communal emotions. This will only result in the country sliding back to anarchy and chaos.

We should avoid such a scenario at all costs. It is in this context that political bipartisanship assumes greater significance. All Sri Lankans will thus be pleased that our political leaders have

commenced the implementation process of the Select Committee recommendations. The recommendations were compiled after obtaining public views on establishing lasting peace in the country.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, Select Committee Chairman and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Opposition Leader Rajapaksa as well as Select Committee members, relevant line ministers, ministry secretaries and other officials participated in the meeting.

Each recommendation in the Select Committee Interim Report was discussed in length, whereby each line ministry committed itself to the implementation plan.

The participants endorsed the implementation plan as a viable process to bring about lasting peace and reconciliation in the country.

The members of the Select Committee and line ministers pointed out that some of the recommendations were already being implemented, some others would be implemented immediately and the rest would be implemented after future discussions. It is noteworthy that the Select Committee members and line ministers showed common consensus in the urgency to implement the recommendations.

Attention was also drawn on the Diyawanna Declaration of the Select Committee, which was adopted in view of the April 21 Easter Sunday attacks.

The Declaration specifically highlighted the role of political leaderships in bringing about sustainable communal and religious harmony while disregarding political divisions.

It is also significant that the meeting brought the ruling and opposition party members to a consensus regarding the Diyawanna Declaration which is a landmark in the country’s political annals. The credit must also go to President Maithripala Sirisena for his blessings on the road to accomplishing communal and religious harmony.

This is indeed a good start to the initiatives now underway to promote ethnic and religious harmony. Ten years following the end of the war, some of the issues that led to the conflict in the first place are yet to be addressed. The events of April 21 have added a new dimension to the mix. Reconciliation used to be a two-way process that involved Sinhala and Tamil communities but in the aftermath of Easter Sunday it is clear that the Muslim community too must be co-opted.

It goes without saying that the Muslim community itself must search for answers on why some of the brightest young minds in their community turned Jihadist and extremist. This sentiment has already been expressed by many Muslim scholars. It is thus vital that they make an effort to block all avenues for such radicalisation in the future. Greater assimilation with the other two communities would be one answer.

In the meantime, there is hardly any talk of the proposed new constitution and other mechanisms that would ensure a truly Sri Lankan identity, which has eluded us for seven decades. Recent events may have pushed them to the back burner, but now is the most opportune time to forge a true Sri Lankan identity sans ethnic and religious labels. There should be a wide political consensus for this process. If there are doubts about certain measures, the political leadership must explain them to the public.

Extremism has never accomplished anything. On the other hand, it can only drag an entire nation down. We have already seen the fate of many countries that succumbed to the forces of extremism. These countries are just vestigial shells of their former selves. It is a fate that we should avoid by all means. With the political consensus that has now manifested, this will certainly be an achievable goal.

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