Earlier following the end of the civil-war in 2009 in the northeast, the security forces were retained in full strength with a military man appointed as Governor and the ethnic minorities returning to resettle had to face numerous discriminatory acts of the state. This had the effect of weakening the ethnic minorities based on the idea of nation that perceive the presence of ethnic or linguistic minorities as a danger for their own territorial integrity by the State. Then these minorities were not free to assimilate their own concepts and ideas to mold their way of living to face the new post war situation and lived for many years without connectivity with the rest of the country; instead compelled to accommodate and accept new concepts and ideas of the majority community, a far cry from live and let live fit for a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country that Sri Lanka and after a decade still in 2019 attacks against minority communities continues at regular intervals.
There have been numerous instances of discriminatory acts too many to list against various ethnic minority communities living in northeast of the country and the latest incident occurred last week. Where a group of Buddhist monks from the South invaded a Hindu Temple in the Mullaitivu District and cremated a senior Buddhist Monk’s body in the Temple premises; with the protection of security forces. This discriminating act of dishonouring the Hindu Temple despite a court order banning it was totally uncalled for to say the least. All these attacks are possible in the country today, because many Buddhist Monks consider themselves to be above the law and with most in the Police and Military are from majority Sinhala Buddhist community with minority communities few in number in these law enforcement forces left helpless.
Further the state has allowed Buddhist to erect shrines or Buddhist statutes even in areas where there is little Buddhist presence whereas other religious communities don’t enjoy the same privileges. On many historic non Buddhist religious sites it has been observed that State agents are not sufficiently impartial, many experienced problems due to double standards in law enforcement depending on which community offends or finds itself offended by the actions of other. Many cases of violence against minorities perpetrated by the majority community where perpetrators are clearly identified in video recordings but remain unaccountable for years after the incident. Reversely, many complained, that when a complaint is brought forward by members of the Buddhist community, action is swift and, at times, disproportionate.
True Sri Lanka is gradually recovers from the setbacks of three decades of civil-war, but the minority communities particularly those in the previous war zones are denied of their basic rights are having to strive without resolutions of war related issues for a decade with negative peace.
This forced ethnic assimilation by State on the ethnic and religious minorities experienced during the negative peace years was an involuntary process of cultural assimilation of religion and ideology of the generally larger established community in the country. This extreme emphasis on a homogeneous national identity is found to be harsh as extreme measures especially in the case of minorities to ‘exterminate’ their culture.
True the Constitution of Sri Lanka protects freedom of religion or belief and its manifestation under Article 10 and 14 (1) e, Article 9 of the Constitution declares, “Buddhism shall be given the foremost place by the State” and protection is provided to other religions as guaranteed under Article 10 and 14 (1) e as well as Article 12 that stresses equality of all. Thus religious discrimination of all forms big or small is by law is illegal in Sri Lanka; yet earlier in 2003 a Supreme Court ruling determined that the State was constitutionally required to protect only Buddhism, as other religions were not accorded the same fundamental right of state-provided protection. This controversy has opened the debate that the State was structurally unable to treat other religions on an equal basis owing to this provision is a major concern of the minority communities due to the extent of discrimination faced by them.
With an aim to put an end to these corrupt activities that was prevailing in the country a forced change took place in the country and in 2015 following the Presidential Election a new government was elected to power. Thereafter life began returning to normalcy at snail phase by 2019 for the minorities, but due to no fault of their own the minorities are yet to receive solutions to many of their issues due to failure to address them by the State. What is even more damaging to the country is there were no signs of curbing corrupt activities by the state and as the result the country is in heavy debts; people are at the cross road and once again face elections. Thus with the Presidential Election fever kept rising defying all speculation of internal divisions young Sajith Premadasa, aged 52 kept his cool and was unanimously endorsed as the United National Front to join the other candidates for the Presidential Election to be held this November.
With all voters now focused to find who among the Presidential candidates if elected would resolve the many issues faced by the people. It is now up to the ethnic minority communities with the concurrence of their political parties to shed all political differences and rise above party politics and cast their votes to the right candidate for a better tomorrow for all. They should consider voting for Sajith, the young candidate who respect Buddha Dharma with the live and let live mindset. For he has acknowledged that minority communities have problems and as President would resolve them to secure the nation.