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Identity politics in Sri Lanka

Since Sri Lanka gained independence from British Empire in 1948, Sri Lankan political leaders have been playing politics with communalism. 

by Sri Lankan in London
Views expressed in this article are the author's own 

What do we mean by the identity politics in Sri Lanka? It means each political party and each politician see politics through the eyes o their community. Each politician works to protect the interest of their community. Politicians both in government and opposition always think about the benefit and welfare of their community alone.

As result this narrow-minded politics, the national identity and national interest of Sri Lanka are forgotten and ignored. That is exactly what happened in Sri Lanka since we got freedom and independence. We are playing with communal politics. Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslim politicians have been focusing on how to protect the interest of their community at the expensive of the national interest. Suppose Singapore has taken such an approach in politics. Chinese Singaporeans, Malay Singaporeans, Indian Singaporean and other ethnic groups have put their community interest over national interest of Singapore, what would have been Singapore today?

It would have been like Sri Lanka today. In Sri Lanka, politics has been identified with communal interest not with national interest. Until we change this, there is no hope for Sri Lanka. We should put nation above our community. This applies to all communities in Sri Lanka.

Since Sri Lanka gained independence from British Empire in 1948, Sri Lankan political leaders have been playing politics with communalism. Shrewd political leaders used language, ethnicity, regionalism and religion to play politics. In 1950s some political leaders played politics with language. Until now, Tamil language has been degraded as a second language in Sri Lanka. Ironically even in predominantly Tamil areas, Tamil language has not been officially used as an official language. This discrimination in language has marginalised Tamil community in Sri Lanka for more than 7 decades now. Even Today, Sinhalese political leaders are playing politics with Tamil language. They are not happy to offer any official status for Tamil language.

Why is it? A simple answer for this question is some Sinhalese political leaders are trapped in superiority complex. They are proud and arrogant in their political behaviour. They think that Sinhalese are the majority in Sri Lanka. So, they could play politics with any issue. They do not like to meet aspiration and wishes of minority communities. All these Sri Lankan political leaders have been pleasing regional and international political leaders to play politics with any issues in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese leaders have been getting away with all these issues for the last 7 decades. How is it possible?

It is possible because Sri Lanka is situated in a strategically important location in Asia. Sri Lanka is a small Island and yet, geopolitical powers need Sri Lanka to protect their geopolitical interest. That is why Sri Lankan political leaders have managed to play politics with Tamil issue. They are shrewd politicians in that they managed to please Chinese and Indian governments without antagonising anyone. At the same time, Sinhalese political leaders managed to please their western masters as and when they needed do so. So far, Sri Lanka has not earned the anger of any regional or international political powers. That’s why Sri Lankan political leaders managed to play politics with Tamil issue. Now Tamils are exhausted after almost 30 years of war. Sri Lankan war with Tamils ended in 2009 and yet, Tamil community did not get any reconciliation package. I do not think they will get anything from these Sinhalese politicians who have been playing politics with Tamil issues for more than 7 decades. Sinhalese political leaders have successfully been playing politics with many minority community issues in Sri Lanka. Good luck for them and how long they could fool the international community.

Sri Lankan political elites know well how to play politics with the national issues. Today, most Sinhalese people too suffer at the of capitalistic Sinhalese politicians. The working-class people from farmers to tea plantation workers, from fishmen to street vendors, from clerks to schoolteachers, from three-wheel drivers to bus drivers, from civil servants to military professionals all must work hard to make a living in Sri Lanka. We send more than 3 million Sri Lankans abroad to work in some terrible conditions. Some housewives leave their children in Sri Lanka to work as house maids in Middle East. Some Sri Lankans do some odd jobs in Middle Eastern counties to support their families. Sri Lanka today experiences some severe economic, political and social predicaments and yet, some political elites in Sri Lanka play politics with all these issues. Some political elites do all political tricks to win votes and to secure their seats of power. At the end of the day, it is all Sri Lankan communities or Sri Lankan public must pay the price for these political blunders. How long and how many years, Sri Lankan public could be conned and fooled by these crafty politicians. It is time all Sri Lankans to wake up against this abuse of political power. Sri Lanka is a rich country with its rich human and national resources. It is bad politics that has ruined the county. It is not merely minority communities suffer at the hands of these political crooks but the majority of Sinhalese too suffer due to incorrectness of politics in Sri Lanka.

Now it appears that some racist Sinhalese politicians are playing politics with Muslim community. (Not all Sinhalese politicians are racists. 90% of Sinhalese public are good people without any racial motives). Since 2011, anti-Muslim sentiment increased in Sri Lanka, Some Sri Lankan politicians are playing politics with Muslim community today. There is no doubt about it. As they marginalised Tamil community, they want to marginalise Sri Lankan Muslim community today. Since, 2011, it is reported that hundreds of racial attacks on Muslim community took place in Sri Lanka. Muslim shops were burned down, mosques were set on fire, copies the holy Qur’an were burned down, even some Buddhist extremists used some rude and ugliest words to insult Almighty Allah with some verbal abuses. Many Muslims were killed, many Muslims were injured, many Muslim villages were attacked in recently time. These violent and barbaric attacks on Sri-Lankan Muslim community are going on in Sri Lanka with the approval of some racist Sinhalese politicians.

This is timely projected attack on innocent Sri Lankan Muslim community. These shrewd Sinhalese politicians know well how to play politics with Muslim community. They know well the strength and weakness of the Muslim community. They know well international political environment is not in favour of Muslim community in the world today. Since Donald Trump waged war on Muslim community, some racist political leaders in the third world unleashed racial attacks on innocent Muslim community. Using this international political climate against Islam and Muslims many politicians attacked Muslim minority communities in many countries. Some radical Muslim youths have indeed, contributed to this political climate.

Some Sinhalese politicians know well that Arab political leaders are inept today. They know well Arab leaders do not have any political influence in the politics. They know well that today Muslim political leaders do not care about what happened in Sri Lanka. They know how to milk Arab countries in loans and aids, but they do not bother to uproot Muslim community in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese politicians know well how to fool Muslim and Arab diplomatic communities in Colombo. These racist Sinhalese politicians know well how to approach and please them. That is why I’m telling that Sinhalese politicians have mastered the arts of politics to play with it in any local and international issue.

With all this in mind, I feel that the future for Tamil and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka is bleak. Unless some regional and International politicians make some political correctness in Sri Lankan politics. Unless, Sri Lankan Sinhalese politicians change their mind in politics. I do not think that this will happen soon as it stands today. Racial politics at its peak in Sri Lanka today. Many Tamils and Muslim MPs have been bought and sold in Sri Lankan politics. Tamil and Muslim politicians do not have any influence in this political system in Sri Lanka today. They have been conned and fooled many times by racist Sinhalese politicians in Sri Lanka. In fact, Tamil and Muslim politicians could do little in Sri Lankan politics. Sinhalese do whatever they could do to protect communal interest of Sinhalese community. How do they do it? what extent they have done it? how do they marginalise and discriminate against minority communities? What is the evidence for such claims? We will try answer to some of these questions next time.

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