Communal politics has proved to be the bane of Sri Lanka. It had encouraged fissiparous tendencies among the people and divided them in to different camps.
True, the majority community had all the right to assert themselves and give rein to their pent up national sentiment which were suppressed under long years of colonial rule, in post independent Sri Lanka.
In fact, this national renaissance was only to be expected after it was perceived, not without reason, that the majority community was being left out of the national mainstream by the colonial masters. But it is equally true that this became a convenient slogan for power hungry politicians who thought nothing of exploiting this nationalist awakening to further their ends.
On the other end of the spectrum, there were the Tamil leaders who were spouting fire and brimstone making various demands bordering on secession, matching the intensity of majority campaign.
The result was an exacerbation of the division that ended in communal strife. Sadly, this took away the focus from nation building in the post independent era eventually plunging the country into turmoil, conflict and conflagration.
It is in this context that the call by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to all his countrymen to shun communal politics assumes significance. Addressing a public meeting in Akkaraipattu the President observed that it was not appropriate to practice such divisional politics in the country in future.
This accords with his sentiments expressed at the victory speech in Parliament that henceforth there will be no majority or minority communities in Sri Lanka but only those who love the country and those who don t.
The President no doubt is cognizant of the heavy price paid by the country as a result of communal politics. It is now his fervent wish to wipe the slate clean of that sad chapter and start anew on a path of reconciliation. The President s gesture is all the more commendable as it comes in the teeth of unprecedented popularity he enjoys following the vanquishing of terrorism.
It would have been politic for him to swim with the tide of nationalist sentiment and reap the rich dividends it entails. But rather than giving into populism, he has taken the statesman-like stand of accommodation that has gone a long way towards tempering the triumphalist mood among the majority following the victory.
Saying that, the President should also put in place the necessary structures that would foster togetherness and harmony among the major communities and conversely pull down the barriers that have been thwarting the integration process. To begin with, he should order that all Government business and correspondence do away with the practice of identifying oneself by race and community.
There should be no column or space anywhere in a state document where a person is required to state if he/she is a Sinhalese, Tamil or a member of any other community. India has a huge diversity of communities, creeds, races and dialects but the populace at large take pride in their Indian identity and is always referred to as Indian. This should now be the credo here too with the President no less opening the doors for the transformation.
Besides, today globlization has broken through all artificial barriers rendering things such as community, creed, race and religion redundant.
This is not to say that we should divest ourselves wholesale from our cultural roots and heritage. Only that these should no longer be the dominant features in national life and we should reach out to accommodate and adapt to the evolving scenario in the new order. In a rapidly shrinking world, there is no room for parochial mindsets. While holding onto the different beliefs and cultures, there should always be room for larger unity among the communities. The President has set the tone for the change.
In this regard, a proposal made by a Government Minister to de-list all political parties carrying a communal and religious tag should be the first step in this de-communalization process advocated by the President.
True, even certain Western countries have political parties with a religious identity viz. The Christian Democratic Party of Germany. But these parties do not make a fetish of the religion in their political campaigns and they are only mere party name boards that have come to stay.
On the contrary, here we have certain political parties carrying religious tags strictly targeting only their religious groups and communities with no national agenda. This naturally gives rise to division negating the lofty one community concept advocated by the President. What is needed today are political parties and movements that can bring the people together, not set them apart, the consequence of which the country had witnessed to her great cost.