“You fight for your rights when your rights are being denied. When the building is on fire, you don’t stand by and let the building burn down and say we’ll fight the fire another day.” – Richard Gilbert
It is indeed a healthy sign that at least the intellectual sections and civic leadership of the Muslim community in particular are now slowly but surely awakening to the fact that Muslims can no longer afford to live solely on the sympathy and goodwill of the rulers, and further relying on certain political personalities to safeguard or win their rights is just a futile exercise and not a long term solution. This stark reality and their imperative need to lead the community to come out of the ‘victim-minority’ mentality and think and act as equal citizens may well and truly would have been catalysed by the bitter experiences of the replay of the ‘dark days’ of the Post-war MR era , in an increased tempo in recent times, even after a regime change in January 2015 which promised a ‘Yahapalanaya’ and fair treatment to all communities. Perhaps this regime change is proving to be a case of changing the pillow to cure a headache’( to borrow a Sinhala adage). However, how the ‘Presidential candidate’ Sirisena boldly made assertions then to be a leader for all communities and how two years later as ‘President’ appear to be meekly submitting to the diabolical plans of the racist lobby to ‘govern’ the country as they deemed fit, are nothing surprising if only the trends of governance in Post- Independence Sri Lanka are closely studied!
Muslims/ Moors in their history of more than 1000 years, majority of whom live outside N&E Sri Lanka, have found Sinhala people great and tolerant and have found them much amicable to live with and there have been no major issues in such regard at the grass-root level. However, many scholars have argued that ironically, the competition among the Sinhala ruling classes, for acquiring state resources and political capital, sadly turned nationalism into the ruling ideology and the state ideology of Sri Lanka, while the rise and institutionalisation of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism in post-independent Sri Lanka bear much responsibility for today’s ethnic conflicts between the majority Sinhalese state and the minorities. Nira Wickramasinghe, an author in history (2006) says that ‘the three Constitutions of post- independence Sri Lanka, helped demarcate and define a majority from within the citizens pitting them against non- Buddhists and non- Sinhala speaking minority communities…(placing) minorities in a somewhat dependent and subaltern situation’.
B.H. Farmer, a distinguished geographer, ‘Ceylon –A Divided Nation’ in 1963 referring to the times which followed after Independence, too wrote : ‘’…Since those saddening days of 1958 Ceylon has had its share of trouble…..The truth, though unpalatable may be to some, is simply that nobody unacceptable to the present Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism has any chance of constitutional power in contemporary Ceylon.”. The ‘Mad Monk phenomenon’ (as Journalist C A Chandraprema once put it) being witnessed today is an extension of this strategy. This explains why despite the many historic opportunities, –one at the Independence and one recently after the end of the War – Sri Lankan ruling class appear to be still dishing out the same bag of garbage to the minorities and acting as if they are just ‘Karapincha’ and pawns in their power seeking games. Non implementation of the relevant LLRC recommendations and lack of a coherent strategy to resolve the national ethnic problem even after 8 years of the end to the War under two regimes also prove this point succinctly. Muslims of Sri Lanka in particular, with their traditional commercial mind-set, should therefore cease to be used as pushovers or punch-bags anymore ,relying merely on the magnanimity of the government in power and taking some political leaders as their champions to ensure their survival and progress.