Plus - Letters to the editor

Let’s be united, while rejoicing in our diversity as a ‘rainbow nation’

By Sharadha de Saram, Author- One Country, One People

There was a new buzz between people of all colours in the streets. "Viva South Africa Viva" was in the air as we cautiously reached out over the colour barriers that had ruled life in our country for too long. The New South Africa was hailed as an example to the world. We had forgiven each other over the past and were birthing a new nation together.

Taken from a South African blog "News and opinions from South Africa and around the world”
Ever since President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his recent speech remarked on the word, minority and advocated the removal of the word from our vocabulary, many have been discussing the statement's interpretation and significance. It is in this context that the article "No more minorities"- translating the concept into reality" by Dr. Srimal Abeyratne which appeared in the Sunday Times of May 21 makes important reading.

While for some, the remark made by the President was a welcome suggestion for others it was perceived differently. It is therefore important that such sensitive words are remarked on with a supporting explanation so that Sri Lankans who belong to minority communities do not feel marginalized or threatened and the feelings/sensitivities of the majority are not harmed.

To me, the term minority has a positive connotation. Being born into a minority community, I have been able to embrace a cross-section of cultures. Not having to depend on one identity has helped me understand and experience far more than if I had only one cultural identity. The diversity of a mixture of cultures can broaden a simplistic cultural outlook. In-spite of this I have felt Sri Lankan.

The debate can go on and can be interesting but it is important that we prevent misunderstanding on the interpretation of the President's remark. For this, as Dr. Abeyratne quite rightly suggests, "it is necessary to translate this idea into reality rather than keeping it as a concept for the sake of avoiding conflict".

What is more important is not to remove the word, "minority" from our vocabulary, but that minority groups should have equal rights as other groups and feel part of the whole. Furthermore the Sri Lankan identity should be inclusive and not defined solely in terms of the majority ethnic and /or religious group. Simply removing the word from our political discourse will not stop us from belonging to a minority group.

Can Sri Lanka not follow the defining moments since the days of Nelson Mandela when he suggested that South Africa be a Rainbow Nation where each group's identity is distinct and celebrated while remaining part of the Sri Lankan nation?

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