A welcome proposal | Daily News

A welcome proposal

A Government MP from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Dilan Perera has called for the appointment of a Tamil national as the country’s Prime Minister under an All Party Government and for the Cabinet to be decided on an ethnic ratio. He said this would enhance Sri Lanka’s image internationally and bring the country many advantages. Speaking in Parliament on Friday the MP said: “What is wrong in appointing a Tamil as the Prime Minister, a Muslim as the Leader of the House. We can have a Sinhala Buddhist President. We can give a positive signal to the world if we make these appointments. Extremism has been clearly shattered by the Aragalaya”.

Coming from a member of a political party that was based on nationalism and which was purely formed on a Sinhala Buddhist ethos, this is indeed a welcome transformation and augurs well for national unity, not to mention the easing of racist tensions which was always simmering on the surface. In fact had we had a Tamil Prime Minister prior to this, perhaps, there would not have been a separatist war that raged for 30 years and the unfortunate events of July ‘83. There had been many countries in the world that had leaders that were not from the majority community. They were gladly accepted by the people. India had at its one time President a Muslim -Abdul Kalam. The people in fiercely Hindu nationalist India had no objections.

In fact, before MP Dilan Perera it was former President Chandrika Bandarnaike Kumaratunga who strove to remove all vestiges of racism from the SLFP and make that party a truly multiracial party. She even went further and wanted to appoint Lakshman Kadirgamar as the Prime Minister when the People’s Alliance (PA) won the General Election in 2004. In fact it was the JVP, which too was strongly tilted towards Sinhala nationalism, and jointly contested with the PA to defeat the UNP, at that election, that proposed Kadirgamar for the Premiership which also is an indication to what extent one time fiercely nationalist parties have changed with the times. However, a group within the new Government that strongly supported the candidature of Mahinda Rajapaksa for the Prime Minister’s post threw a damper on the proposal (Mahinda himself threatened to leave the Government and join the Opposition if he was denied the post). Had the JVP’s word prevailed Kadirgamar would have been the first Tamil Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, and, perhaps, changed the fortunes of this country by gaining for it the admiration and recognition internationally, the very thought which Dilan Perera is now harbouring.

In fact there certainly wouldn’t be objections from the majority community if a Tamil became the Prime Minister of this country. The Sinhala voters have time and time again returned minority candidates to Parliament from electorates predominated by the majority community. The best examples are A.C.S Hameed (Harispattuwa), M.H. Mohamed (Borella), M.A. Bakeer Markar (Beruwala), A.H.M Fowzie and Haleem Ishaak (Colombo Central). Not only did they win, but they defeated their Sinhala Buddhist rivals by huge majorities. Who can forget how all Sri Lankans rejoiced to a man when Muttiah Muralitharan broke the world record by reaching the 800 wicket milestone in Test Cricket at the Galle International Stadium and how the firecrackers rang throughout the country. Like MP Dilan Perera observed, the Aragalaya provided ample proof that racism was a thing of the past and no Sri Lankan would want to revisit that ugly past.

Not just racism, but even differences based on religion too have undergone a sea change. It was the Buddhist clergy more than any other group who rallied around His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday carnage and were actively involved in rebuilding the damaged churches. The Aragalaya site in Galle Face too saw clergy from all faiths joining together to make common cause with the agitators with a prominent Catholic priest taking centre stage. That racism and religious bigotry is on the way out in this country is also proven by the increasing instances of corporatism and conviviality displayed by people of different faiths and nationalities in each other’s religious festivals and cultural events.

Certainly, the proposal by MP Dilan Perera is worth giving a try. There is no better time than this to experiment. We are certain that Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena too would endorse such a proposal. Of course, a Tamil Prime Minister should always keep in mind to treat all communities equally and not represent the interests of only one community. As it is we see parties such as the TNA solely speaking only about the grievances of the Tamils in the North. It is such an attitude that has made the majority community harbour suspicions. However, the appointment of a Tamil as the Prime Minister would make the demand for a separate state no longer tenable. Such a demand would also certainly not receive international support and will have the wind taken off the sails of lobby groups such as the Global Tamil Forum. Needless to say, it would also deal a mortal blow on the international fund collection to advance separatism in this country. There certainly will be a lot of advantages that would accrue to Sri Lanka if the proposal of MP Dilan Perera is taken to its logical conclusion.


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