COLOMBO: In a move that will be warmly welcomed by Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils, Muslims and Christians, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has set as the country’s goal, the ideal of achieving unity in diversity.
In his message to the country ahead of its 63 rd Independence Day on February 4, the Prime Minister said: “When the Father of the Nation, Rt. Hon. D.S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, launched the independence struggle, the main weapon he used was the unity and brotherhood among the communities that lived in harmony in our country. Once we gained independence, the challenge that we had to face was to safeguard that unity and march toward development of the country. However, it was unfortunate that we could not achieve that goal successfully.”
However, the recently concluded Presidential election had shed a ray of hope, he noted.
“We have now, once again arrived at a period, during which we could realize that objective (achieving national unity in diversity). Groups that represent diverse communities, following different religions, political parties, civil organizations and various groups came together onto one platform, shedding their differences to achieve a common objective for the benefit of the nation,” the Prime Minister said.
Wickremesinghe’s statement recognizes the existence of minorities and diversity in Sri Lanka, facts which were denied by defeated former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa had maintained that there were no minorities in Sri Lanka, an assertion which did not go well with the minorities who feared that their identity was in jeopardy.
Civilized Political Culture
Wickremesinghe further said that Sri Lanka is on the threshold of creating a new “civilized political culture” shorn of intolerance and petty antagonisms.
“Our aim is to emulate the dignified tradition of King Lichchavi, whereby people would meet peacefully, discuss issues peacefully and disperse peacefully, in order to ensure good governance and build a united and prosperous nation,” he said.
Lichchavi kings had ruled the Kathmandu area in Nepal from 400 to 750 AD, a period which saw the flowering of a liberal political culture and the coexistence of Buddhism and Hinduism.
No More “His Excellency”
Ushering in a new democratic political culture, the newly elected Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said that he should not be addressed as “His Excellency” and his wife as the “First Lady” but simply as Mr and Mrs.Sirisena.
In an interview to the state-owned TV station Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, he further said that he had cancelled previous President Rajapaksa’s order to buy a Presidential jet costing LKR 2 billion. The Presidential Palaces in various parts of the country would be put to better use, he added. Sirisena also appealed to organizers not to commandeer kids for his public meetings.