Presidential Secretariat of Sri Lanka

Common ground for all ethnic groups!

A common ground for all the ethnic groups in Sri Lanka! Is this really the need of the hour? On the surface, the national security appears to be the centre of attention.

Following the Easter Sunday attacks across Sri Lanka, the fear has returned to the island nation which had been battered for nearly three decades by a civil war, and as a result of which the tourism has taken a heavy blow. In fact tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world and when tourism takes a hit of this magnitude, it certainly doesn’t too any good for country’s economy which has attracted a huge amount of attention, five weeks into the tragedy.

One should however not forget that the brutal suicide bombings have not just left people devastated, but it has also set a platform for what could end up being a bloodbath within the different ethnic groups of Sri Lanka, should the need of a common ground for all ethnic groups in Sri Lanka is made a high priority.

Keeping the citizens happy for a longer period is one of the toughest tasks, and no government has ever achieved that. That being stated, prior to the Easter Sunday attacks, in the world of most average Sri Lankans including Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers who had no idea of the bombings; their biggest worry was an underperforming national cricket team with the World Cup around the corner. All of a sudden people are in a lost world at present, and it is a very dangerous situation because they could easily be guided and convinced to a certain way of thinking which could eventually lead to a far worse ethnic conflict.

Spreading the hatred is the utmost priority for all extremist groups because without that they cannot survive nor reach their goals. Making a lot of people hate an individual is a difficult task unless of course you are Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, but it is far easier to target concepts, traditions or laws of a certain ethnic group in order to create a conflict.

For instance, the underage marriages are often witnessed within the Muslim community; a concept that has been disliked globally. Muslim women or rather victimized children have very rarely come out and expressed their views, if they ever did, it has mostly been in support of this concept. Even the religious as well as the political leaders have been mostly supportive of this, but the bottom line is a concept such as this, which is being hated all around the world, could easily become a very easy target for the extremist groups in their pursuit to spread hatred. Perhaps it would not be the core of the problems, but it could be a problem in some form, and what Sri Lanka needs at the moment is eliminating the all the problems that could cause havoc which is why a common ground is the need of the hour.

All the citizens of Sri Lanka are required to follow the common rules and regulations and when one deviates from that, it becomes an issue that could be given various interpretations.  It was reported recently that the government is set to amend the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act and ensure the Muslim women need to be at least 18 for the marriage which is a very bold move.

Likewise at some point Sri Lanka authorities would have to rethink about the existence of personal laws such as the Thesawalamai Law.

Thesawalamai Law is a personal law that is practised within the Tamil community in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. The word ‘Thesawalamai’ translates into English literally as ‘customs of the land’ and this personal law applies to property, inheritance and marriage. This has elements which favour the Tamils especially when buying lands in the North and again point which could only cause problems for Sri Lanka in the long run.

In fact the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has previously asked Sri Lanka that “all personal laws be amended to remove discriminatory provisions regulating ownership, inheritance, transfer and disposal of land and property, as well as provisions regulating legal capacity, marriage, divorce, and child custody.”

The authorities must create a common ground so that all these personal laws would not further exist and that all ethnic groups in Sri Lanka follow one established set of rules and regulations which will keep the entire country at safe hands.

By G. H. M. Amarasinghe