Thursday, February 05, 2009

Unity in Diversity

Listening to: 'Suddenly I See' by KT Tunstall [Eye to the Telescope]

Some would say that there's no point in looking back, and that apportioning blame is counter-intuitive to progress. Others would say that retrospect is essential in order to understand the bigger picture. What do I think? I think that retrospect is needed, but not as a means to apportion blame. It should be with a view to learn from our mistakes and avoid them from recurring. If there's anything I'm sure of, it's that history cannot be allowed to repeat itself.

It's been 61 years since the Brits gave up in the Indian Ocean. I remember reading about our quest for independence during O/L History. It didn't strike me at the time, but it is now more than apparent that we were not a 'united', or rather, 'unitary' Ceylon, even then. We learnt about the founding fathers of our nation - Senanayake, Dharmapala, Gunawardena, Arunachalam, Ramanathan, Siddi Lebbe (and others, whose names I forget) - who all campaigned for their own kind. Did we ever try to fight our common enemy together? Not in the books I read. We were too busy ensuring the progress of our own ethnic groups to be concerned that we were falling into the very trap that the Brits themselves had set - 'divide and rule'.

There are more recent examples of this phenomenon in action. It is rumoured that the Prabha-Karuna split was due to differences between Northern and Eastern communities within the LTTE. It could also be said that the reason the LTTE still exists is that the mainstream political parties have been too busy slinging mud at each other to address the situation properly.

So as we commence our 62nd year of self-governance, I have one main wish. That when our soldiers finish doing what they set out to do, we stop thinking as Sinhalese, Tamils, Moors, Burghers and so on, and start thinking as Sri Lankans. This should not mean a watering-down of our cultural identities or a suppression of our history. We should be proud of our cultural heritage, but not use it as a weapon against our fellow countrymen. The cynics would say that 'unity in diversity' is an unattainable Utopian concept, but the cynics have been wrong before.

1 comment:

Speak now, or forever hold your peace (well not really)!