Sri Lanka, an island nation state re-born, living and growing together in a post executive presidency era.
———– a Sailan Muslim Foundation of Canada perspective.
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, a cliché that sadly rings true with all Sri Lankans today, a statement that defined the recently usurped rule of the Rajapakse regime, a monarchial type reign that almost destroyed the underpinnings of democracy through its ruthlessness and steeped in nepotism, cronyism and unbridled greed and abuse of authority that was surreal in thought but very real in its evil manifestation.
The defeat of this hegemonistic government and the promise to restore a democratic parliamentary government sans the ominous shadow of the all-powerful executive presidency is a tribute and a testament to the resilience and courage of the majority of Sri Lankans that goes beyond race, religion or political affiliation. The new president His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena has amply demonstrated that he is a person devoid of hubris and his gracious promise of abolishing the executive presidency within the first one hundred days of his presidency says it all.
As Sri Lanka stands today poised to enter in to a new era of liberal democratic governance, enshrinement of civil liberties and the assurance of social justice, it also faces tremendous challenges as this country emerges from over four decades of continuous socio-political and politico- ethnic trauma no less the crippling political authoritarianism of the last government.
On the positive side Sri Lanka has a rich history of ethnic mixing and religious tolerance; in fact Sri Lankans are authentic members of one of the most hybrid nations on earth. A profuse fusion of culture and rituals embedded in the daily lives of ordinary folk and evidenced in the color and diversity of its festivals and aesthetic expression. We are in our pure form a nation of pragmatic, outgoing ethnic bridge builders with a heritage of harmonious living as part of a single nation state and the evidence of this goes back over a thousand years.
How can Sri Lankans work with the grain of what is best in the country’s past – ethnic mixing, religious tolerance, the warm embrace of Sinhala culture, the Jaffna Tamil work-and-education ethic, Muslim trading flair, the worldly entrepreneurialism of tiny Indian trading castes? How can they overcome the worst of the recent past – religious bigotry, ethnic self-isolation, complacency, the parlous state of the political class?
We identify five critical areas or fault lines to address and the SMFC wishes to voice its complete support in all forms towards this end:
Unshackling the country from the debilitating politicisation of everything and restore proper governance at all levels within a framework of liberal and political democracy that includes responsible economic liberalism.
Ensuring and working towards elimination of collectivist ideologies and race-religious supremacy and nationalism. This would encompass religious bigotry and extremism. Empowering responsible community leaders and organizations at home and abroad to overcome such negative forces in a spirit of diversity and inclusiveness would be paramount in achieving progress in this respect.
Sound responsible foreign policy that reaches out beyond its neighbouring countries especially to the liberal and progressive instruments available in western nations with a view to establishing a sense of balance and non-alignment in its core precepts. The role of the diaspora should be enhanced in terms of transfer of ideas, expertise and resources.
Implementation of economic assistance and development work at the micro level that addresses the needs of displaced people, dis-illusioned and dis-enfranchised youth and a exploited mass of women who return from menial foreign work, to engage in sustainable economic activity. This program would extend to all sectors of society and transcend communal boundaries to ensure socio-economic justice.
Promoting and enhancing inter- faith and inter-community relations and understanding through multi-cultural mechanisms to foster and nurture the building of a cohesive and productive nation state.
We have learnt many hard and bitter lessons and no right minded Sri Lankan would want to repeat the mistakes of the recent past and Sri Lanka is full of promising people who want to contribute to their country’s regeneration, young professionals; humanitarians who do sterling voluntary work without show; the religiously devout who are passionate about a plural, multi-ethnic Sri Lanka; those in the diaspora who want to come back and contribute; minorities who are willing to do more than their share in a free and equitable society. We have to break through and take Sri Lanka to a brighter and prosperous future.
Sailan Muslim Foundation of Canada is a forum for a unified Sri Lankan Muslim voice in Canada that has a vision to engage in community development both nationally and globally with a view to sharing the best of Canadian values and ideals across community borders. We operate as a “community catalyst” in harnessing the resources in the community and outside to focus on areas of priority development that ensures the ultimate growth of vibrant, integrated and balanced communities.
The SMFC’s current programmes of priority is the formation of the youth forum to provide support, counselling and mentoring to Muslim youth in Canada and to engage them in aspiring for leadership and activism in socially beneficial projects that contribute to the larger Canadian ideals of multi-cultural development. Other initiatives presently pursued are events that foster multi-cultural and inter-faith understanding between communities and diaspora relations and mobilization on a global scale.