Communal politics and consequential conflicts in Sri Lanka have a history of over a hundred years. The British for their own well known reasons divided us. But even after 70 years of independence from the British, we are still heroic in our glorification of divisions. We have failed so far to forge a united nation. [...]

Sunday Times 2

Fake propaganda against Muslims threat to national unity


Communal politics and consequential conflicts in Sri Lanka have a history of over a hundred years. The British for their own well known reasons divided us. But even after 70 years of independence from the British, we are still heroic in our glorification of divisions. We have failed so far to forge a united nation. Sri Lanka has more than its share of politicians but is yet to have its first statesman. We seem to live oblivious to the deleterious state of the country that we have brought about and the ugly status Sri Lanka has recklessly earned. Our in-fights have steadily pushed Sri Lanka into the backyard of Asia.

Embers of burnt vehicles after the violence at Digana.

It is no doubt imperative that we recognise our diversity, while forging above it, our national unity. The rest of the world was far away, a thousand years ago or even a century or two ago. We did not need then, the others for anything. But today except for our natural supply of water, we are interdependent with the rest of the world for everything from the unpolluted air we breathe, to our employment in the Middle-East. We need the others to keep the country and our families going.

When we fail to forge a united nation, we must be ready for the alternative – a divided nation. The reality is that we cannot live in isolation in today’s world. We certainly cannot market to the rest of today’s world, religious or ethnic majoritarianism as the platform of our political future. That would mean getting into a theocratic state or running a racist regime. Both concepts will never receive the support of the countries with which we need to co-exist. That would also mean falling into the ‘well’ from a global perspective. That is the mistake that some countries in the Middle-East had been making at tremendous cost to their people. Leaders of some of these countries are far away from their own people, the teachings of the prophet and the realities of today’s world. Some of these countries are not role models even for comparison purposes.

In any event an ethnic or a buddhist majoritarian state will not receive the support of the international community, unlike a state which is recognised as multi-linguistic, multi-cultural and multi-religious. The armed forces of such a sectarian state may come under greater pressure from the UN Human Rights Council to allow international investigations. With only a little help possibly forthcoming from the powerful players of the world, the demand to establish hybrid courts will compound.

Possible sanctions from influential countries can further suffocate the country, already in deep foreign debt. The options available to the powerful nations are multi-pronged. They will ‘float like butterflies and sting like bees’ with apologies for the double twist, to the self-proclaimed ‘I am the greatest’ American, Cassius Clay convert Muhammed Ali!

The options can include prosecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC) through the mechanism available to the Security Council, even though we are not a signatory to the Rome Statute. Sudan is also not a signatory to the Rome Statute but a prosecution was instituted and is pending in the ICC against its President Omar al-Bashir.

Misguided adventures in the political front can cost the country dearly. The events in Aluthgama under the previous dispensation and in Gintota, Ampara and Kandy under the present administration, had spread a disgracefully dangerous image of all of us, worldwide. The damage is tremendous. The negative image has portrayed us as a nation suffering from a deep tribal sickness. The world that matters is still fully unaware of the positive roles and responses of the religious dignitaries, political bigwigs, armed forces and sections of the ordinary civilians of the country to the ordeals that a minority went through. We have to blame ourselves, the silent majority in every community, for getting ourselves black-tarred world-wide!

We cannot also be unmindful of the reality that a century old problem cannot be resolved overnight. Sadly, the district proportionate representation (PR) system introduced by the J.R. Jayawardene 1978 Constitution enhanced communal politics in the country. We cannot, of course, blame that system alone. Every political party since independence has had its racist political missions. Every political party even today has its communal elements. Some political parties representing sections of the minorities are wholly communal in their policies. They assert that they were created by majoritarian communalism.

Unless all political parties disavow racism and communalism in their political dispensation – as distinguished from supporting religious obligations – and ensure transparency, a difficult but possible proposition, the country as presently structured can never eliminate communal politics whether minority or majority. There is absolutely no point in blaming the other. Without the political parties abandoning racist politics and ensuring just and fair governance, this country will remain in the universal backyard, while others go ahead of us. Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand with similar situations had gone ahead of us decades ago. Now we can stand behind war-afflicted countries like Vietnam, Laos and Bangladesh thanks to our racist and communal politics and conflicts.

Presently no one in this country is opposed to giving buddhism a primary place among all religions as provided for in the present Constitution. No sensible person in this country had opposed nor will they ever oppose, state support for the sustenance of buddhism, be it financial or otherwise for the temples, clergy, propagation of buddhism, fostering cultural activities or even providing free electricity for pandals during vesak! Other religions had not demanded similar financial support for themselves. We do recognise that the advancement of buddhism and its universally acclaimed principles of living will be the best guarantee of safety and security for all the citizens of this country. It is the absence or lack of them that is causing the problems. It is the racists hijacking religion which is producing intolerance and extremism.

But the problems also arise from political and official level actions. In matters such as granting state lands, public sector employment, postings, housing, customs, and police, acts of discrimination are widespread, though not limited to ethnic, religious or caste considerations. Acts of discriminations are not limited to majority versus minorities but also between one minority versus the other minority. These are well known amongst people exposed to political realities. It is this category of discrimination that actively sustains communal political parties. Those who hold the spoon are not limited to politicians alone but extend to high ranking public servants as well.

Coming back to the subject of the mob attacks on the muslims, Sri Lankan muslims would wish to respectfully urge the highest echelons of the buddhist clergy to guide the country in a manner that will help everyone to live in peace, safety and free of false perceptions. Meanwhile there are many matters that the muslim community must also address itself.

Muslims must seriously alert themselves to the reality that certain perceptions some buddhists hold of the muslims, though false or exaggerated, need to be adequately cleared, because there are amongst them some people who genuinely believe the accusations are true and others who want them to be believed as true.

Examples of such fake propaganda and also misconceptions relate to muslim population growth and related issues such as the alleged abuse of contraceptive drugs, in food packets, multiple marriages allowed for muslim males but prohibited to buddhists and alleged child marriages, that muslims are the prime dealers in marketing dangerous drugs that are alleged to target Buddhists, that the full black covering of muslim females of recent origin are proof of islamic extremism etc.

Some of these matters need to be cleared by muslims, some by government authorities such as the Director of Census and Statistics, Registrar-General, Police Narcotics Bureau etc. and some by the buddhist clergy, whose perceptions are often widely believed.

It is also important for the muslims to be mindful of international developments ever since the collapse in the 1980s of communism, the west’s declared global enemy for over three-quarters of a century. The issues that are confusing some sections of the Sinhala buddhists of Sri Lanka vis-a-vis the muslims here are identical to the issues deliberately spread across the globe after the collapse of communism. The neo-cons, the arms industry and the zionist media relentlessly lobby against the muslims everywhere with false accusations and fake news, ever since ‘islamic fundamentalism’, later ‘extremism’ and lately ‘islamic terrorism’ were hoisted up as the new enemy of the west. The whole exercise is to sustain the extremely powerful arms industry through conflict creation. Agents of this rich lobby will find it easy to operate in Sri Lanka, now that residence visa conditions have been relaxed and hence the need for eternal vigilance and cooperation with the State authorities.

Another issue that muslims need to be mindful of, is the community’s relations with the Tamils in the north-east, where one-third of the muslim community live, in greater security than outside. Referring to the recent violence against the muslims, TELO parliamentarian Govindan Karunakaran had said that it is in the ‘merged’ north-east that the muslims can live peacefully. The muslims view-point presently is that it is for the government to decide on the merger and not for them to support or oppose the merger. During talks that preceded the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds of the war, the muslims did not support the merger. Hundreds of muslims in the east got killed thereafter, properties including mosques were attacked by the LTTE terrorists. Northern muslims were driven out from their homes in Jaffna and Mannar, because they did not support the terrorists. These were massacres that will make Aluthgama, Gintota, Ampara and Digana et al, all put together, pale into insignificance. Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, Chief of Defence Staff in a timely statement referred to the outstanding contribution the muslim community made to the country’s successful war on terror. The Island of March 12, 2018 quoted the admiral, “We are alive today because of brave muslim military officers… some of whom got killed by the LTTE”. The tragedy is that no government had appreciated the need to resettle the muslims in their original villages in the north from where they were driven out. The villages are presently covered by overgrown shrub jungles, while claims are being made that the original villages are part of the Wilpattu sanctuary.

Muslims at present will have to act with great care, considering all the circumstances. We need to remember that India has become the world’s biggest buyer of powerful weapons mainly from Israel. Its projected the budget for military weapons and equipment during the next ten years is a whopping US$233 Billion according to It has the fourth most powerful armed force in the world already, next to USA, Russia and China according to defencenews-India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the UN Vesak day gathering as Sri Lanka’s chief guest at the BMICH on May 12, 2017 said, “….whether it is on land or in the waters of the Indian Ocean, the security of our societies is indivisible”. India which has already drawn a red line with Sri Lanka on its right to ensure the security of the entire Indian Ocean both on land and water and can soon flex its muscles depending on who will be promoted by the western arms industry as India’s prime minister in the next decade. All Sri Lankans, particularly muslims from the north-east, might note that with the new found strength of the Israeli weapons at India’s disposal, the merger of north-east may be conceded by a helpless Sri Lankan government as it was then forced by India on the five-sixth parliamentary majority-strong powerful leader of Sri Lanka’s President J.R. Jayewardene in July 1987, ‘temporarily’- but permanently according to TNA leader R. Sampanthan.

(The writer is a former ambassador of Sri Lanka to Iran and can be reached on

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