Unity in diversity: A vision for Lanka | Sunday Observer

Unity in diversity: A vision for Lanka

Vision for a united Sri Lanka has been cited as the topic this time for the commemorative speech on Al Haj Bakeer Markar.


I believe organising the commemorative speech on Al Haj Bakeer Markar along a topic that paves way for some productive dialogue, which is done by the Bakeer Markar Centre for National Unity started under the guidance of former Minister Hon.Imthiyaz Bakeer Markar, sets a very good example.

When we consider the content of many programmes implemented by the Bakeer Markar Centre within the last few years, it becomes obvious that backdrop for today’s topic was formed through them. Specially, I believe that the “Weligama Declaration” published by the Bakeer Markar Centre several years ago, is a very important declaration. I am convinced that the dialogues that later took place at district level based on this declaration compiled by erudite monks like the late Ven. Aluthwewa Soratha thero, chief incumbent of Kirivehera who was also the Chancellor of Uva Wellassa University, together with media personnel, were very timely.

The key objective of the Bakeer Markar Centre is to build unity within diversity. The attempt taken by this centre including Imthiyaz Bakeer Markar to mobilise the country towards the creation of a people who identify diversity within our Sri Lankan society which resembles a rainbow and respect such diversity, is not an easy task. It is a process faced with many challenges.

Efforts of leaders from the recent past like Mahathma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, provide precedence to us for such a purpose. Study is of utmost importance to identify these properly. I believe the Bakeer Markar Centre should form the foundation for an attitudinal change in society by initiating an interfaith dialogue, a dialogue on exemplary characters of the world who were committed for social justice against racism.

Because the mind is the ultimate cause for everything. The verse in Dhammapada, “Mano pubbangama dhamma” teaches that mind precedes all dhamma. If we don’t subject ourselves to a shift in our minds, a united Sri Lanka will be a challenge.

All founders of religions tried to develop human mind. With religious teachings we have been taught the way to gain control over ourselves by developing the mind.

Within the spiritual life, it leads us to great achievements. In today’s society where physical expectations are given prominence, why is it necessary to develop people’s minds for such development?

That is because we are all human beings. Irrespective of race, religion or caste, because we are one, in terms of biological factors. As a result of one race being considered superior than another, conflicts have been created all over the world. When factors like politics and greed for power are added to this, huge destruction is caused.

That is why it is very important for the Bakeer Markar Centre to plan its programmes within its mission with due consideration to these matters.

Subsequent to a brutal war that lasted three decades, what is the crisis we are faced with in Sri Lanka? It is actually the topic placed before us. It is creating a vision for a united Sri Lanka.

Could we have achieved this victory after the end of war in 2009? I believe that we missed it. Core teaching of Buddhism is causality. According to it, everything happens due to a cause. Cause results in an outcome. War, is the outcome we experienced and reaped. The cause behind this war has to be understood and eliminated if we are to ensure non recurrence of war.

Why did a war start in Sri Lanka? Analysing this may be a complex task. Simply put, one of the main reasons behind the war in our country is our inability to create a socio political vision that could include all groups.

Through his address on the day of independence an invaluable lesson on this reality is taught to us by Sri Lanka’s independence the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, D.S. Senanayake who was the leader of the Sri Lanka’s independence movement.

He said that from this day forward we must all be Sri Lankans whether we are Sinhala, Tamil, Moor, Eurasian, Buddhist, Hindu, Islam or Christian.

Therefore an appropriate foreword to the topic at discussion today has been provided by the Rt. Hon. D.S. Senanayake in 1948. Unfortunately we were not able to comprehend it. At least after the end of the three decades long war, we should have followed his lesson.

But what really happened? A course of action based on power politics set aside the objective of bringing people together and created a division between perceived victors and losers.

With this, not only were we isolated from the international community but also subjected to various international pressures. I do not intend to analyse that in detail at this point.

In order to overcome this challenge a change had to happen in Sri Lanka politics. Hence, for the first time in history the people of Sri Lanka lined up in the name of social justice when the presidential election took place in 2015.

A course of action to achieve this objective has to be drawn by those who govern the country. It is a responsibility that falls on the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. Amendments to the Constitution, discourse for a new constitution, need for independent commissions, and consolidation of the right to information and protection of human rights are all relevant to realise this vision of an inclusive Sri Lanka.

The course of action we follow to achieve this, needs to be humane. We cannot act disregarding well established principles and the commitments we have made when dealing with the international community. We cannot overlook our relations with other countries in the region and our diplomatic fraternity with other friendly nations.

We have to be effective in our diplomatic relations with organisations such as the United Nations, Human Rights Commission and the European Commission. Maintaining our integrity is crucial when dealing with such international organisations. We cannot be an isolated nation. We cannot act with a poor mentality as well. The manner in which these matters were approached before 2015 is rather unfortunate. Ultimately we had reached the cusp of being subjected to economic sanctions and foreign travel bans.

A complex issue of this nature cannot be addressed with words such as ‘patriot’ and ‘traitor’. I too used to be a member of the Army. As an officer of the Sri Lanka Army I too was deployed to help end the riots when the 1971 insurrection which was the first civil insurrection began.

Loss of life is unavoidable in a war. However, disappearances, abductions and killing the abducted while hiding behind the pretence of war is not acceptable. It is against accepted principle of engaging in a war.

At present, certain allegations of this nature have been leveled in relation to the civil war that lasted in our country for three decades.

Clearing these allegations would bring honour rather than dishonour to the Army which has a track record of discipline and prestige.

The role of the leaders who lead this kind of processes is really important with regard to their implementation. They must have the capability to get adopted to a general agenda, leaving their personal agendas behind. We should think about the country not the self. We have to be far sighted in order to understand the results that can be accrued by the country and not by individuals, at the end of such programmes. There should be a capability to realise that something more important than a personal gain can be achieved through such a commitment. People should understand that such a recognition gained from an important commitment would bring them long standing respect which is more important than the respect given to a temporary position.

I think that the foundation required to act in a powerful scope has been created by the Bakir Makar Centre on National Reconciliation.

You have great strength and good support for this. This institution was founded by Al Haj- Bakir Makar. His vision will guide you. He was a faithful follower of Islamic religion but was never religiously biased.He was a sincere Islamic national but never was a racist. He was a lawyer by profession and never earned money through fraudulent means. As a politician he has set many examples to the field of politics. He always considered people as an asset. He faced challenges with an undisturbed mentality and according to his conscience. He was never prejudicial. His political life is a reflection of commitments.

We have to think about these things in depth. The prolific features that Al Haj- Bakeer Makar had, can be seen in Imithiyas Bakeer-Makar too. We have to appreciate the service rendered by Imithiyas- Bakeer Makar through running this centre focusing on the reconciliation and peace which are the major challenges encountered by our country today. He initiated this centre in an era where people were even reluctant to talk about the term ‘ reconciliation.’ It was an era where people were influenced to think that everything has been addressed along with the war victory.

However, he identified that the real issue still remains and we have to pay tribute to the endeavour made by him through this centre in creating a vision for a united Sri Lanka.

As Mao Tse Tung stated , it is really important to light at least one lamp instead of cursing the darkness. I would like to invoke blessings on the the Bakeer Makar Centre on National Reconciliation which is engaged in an effort to build national unity.

In conclusion, I would like to state that the answer to this problematic topic is in the close proximity. This is the answer. I would like to conclude my speech by emphasising that all the activities that support to realise your goal and your objective of achieving unity in diversity , are the guidelines towards envisioning a united Sri Lanka.