5,081 people that is. The petition was created by a small group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens, following the systematic harassment of minority communities around the island over the past few months. What started out with banning Halal food, rapidly developed into arson attacks on Muslim owned businesses, defacing of Mosques and attacks on Churches.
That’s not to say that the issue cropped up recently. In 2012 an extremist Buddhist group, lead by monks, stormed a Mosque in Dambulla and torched the 50 year old building. The Buddhists in the area condemned the violence against their Muslims neighbours, stating that they have co-existed peacefully over the years. The government did what they do best– they ignored it.
Just as they ignored other isolated incidents of both Mosques and Churches being attacked as well in the recent past. They went as far as calling the public delusional and having cooked up the Grease Yakka attacks.
Then again, this has been an issue since the 1950’s; possibly beyond. The problem is undoubtedly deep-rooted, and we cannot allow it to fester as it has for all these decades. It has been the impetus of the 30 year conflict, and here we are once again, repeating the mistakes of our past.
We need to speak up. We need to work towards chipping away at the racism in Sri Lanka that’s preventing us from truly progressing. No amount of expressways, wider roads, wetland parks and cobble-stone pavements (all built on borrowed money as we sink deeper and deeper in debt), will help Sri Lanka progress.
So 5081 people spoke out. They called on the government to take action against the hate-speech, hate-crimes and racism. The petition was mailed to the President a few weeks back and has reached the Presidential Secretariat.
Here’s a link to the petition in case you’d like to read through it (there’s a Sinhala and Tamil translation available as well)-
You can check out the Facebook page too(it’s got lost of neat graphics and posters)- http://www.facebook.com/NoMoreHateInSriLanka
I do hope that all those who signed the petition will continue to speak out and fight against racism in Sri Lanka. Signing the petition is a good first step, but we need people actively working towards bringing about change.
Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world-class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.
Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed for being a vociferous proponent of what he and many others thought was the truth, the world has seen a great many good souls who have been mysteriously killed for speaking the truth. Many have spoken about how Lasantha was great in what he did.
I have another person who i am a very ardent follower of. Robin Cook was the former British foreign secretary who rather unexplainably was “pushed off a cliff” off the scottish highlands. And this took place in the immediate aftermath of him making the following statement.
“The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al Qaida. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity,the country behind this propaganda is the US”
“Secret societies” could be tolerant of people who making such claims, but it may have been a bit too much if the person who made such a claim was at that time the British foreign secretary and leader of the house.
One of my favourite resignation speeches is when Robin Cook made his resignation speech, it is very inspiring and has always inspired me to go back to it and listen to it, just like i go back to lasantha’s editorial and re read. The above video is part 2 of his Robins resignation speech, part 1 can be seen here and the full text here.
The video is highly recommended.
— Raashid Riza
Raa is a BB-ite and a student of architecture currently based in the UK. This post was initially published on his blog. The views expressed are his own.
Censored, a forum theatre performance by Beyond Borders in association with the British Council will take place on Thursday from 6.30 PM onwards at the British Council Hall, Colombo.
There are still a few tickets at the British Council, grab them before they run out. Update : The event is sold out.
The Sunday Times last week carried an article giving out a few details about the event. The storyline was sparked by a true incident. Some pictures of the practice sessions is on our flickr, some more available on our Facebook events page.
For more info about the whole thing, see the previous blog post. Here’s the event poster.
Shall we make milk-rice, O mother dear?
Shall we make some for you and me?
We haven’t eaten it since the New Year,
And I’ve been pining for some, you see.
What milk-rice? Oh child, what a pity!
Did you not hear what the townsfolk said?
Old Uncle Raja went to the city-
No one knows why he was shot in the head.
Shall we make milk-rice, O mother sweet?
I promise I’ll scrape the coconuts and all,
For my birthday, it’d be such a treat,
To have some milk-rice with sambol.
Milk-rice? Girl, what rubbish you talk!
Your cousin Pasan-remember him?
He went alone to the woods for a walk-
Stepped on a landmine and lost his limb.
Shall we make milk-rice, O mother fair?
For I shall be married in a week or two,
And before I go, I should so care,
To learn how to make milk-rice from you.
Oh, child, speak no more of milk-rice!
It’ll be a while ere you become a wife,
For the captain your husband-to-be made his choice,
And for his cause,laid down his life.
— Shavini Somawardhana
Shavini is a new BBite. She’s just getting the hang on things, and learning the how the fragile eco-system that is Beyond Borders. She has a low carbon footprint.
Beyond Borders, along with the British Council presents : Censored.
The tickets Priced at Rs.100/- is available at the British Council “Help desk”. We have 10 free passes to give away to our blog readers, if you like to have a free pass just drop us an email to info[at]beyondborders.lk with your name, age and contact details. Limited places are available, so hurry up.
The one question that I have always wanted to address is, what really is the role of Sri Lankan youth? Depending on our social positions, the ideas instilled in us differ. As some of us know, if you are a member of the Colombo society, generally the trend is to receive a good education, complete our SATs and go abroad to finish our studies and start a life and job in another country. This is a type of norm since parents don’t want to see their children suffer with the rising taxes, loss of job opportunities, and the current war still raging in our beloved country.
In most rural areas however, children receive education only till they are 16 years of age maximum. This is because of several reasons, the main reason being poverty. Since most jobs available in the rural areas such as craftsmanship, farming and fishing enterprises, do not pay well, nearly all families are forced to live below the poverty line. This in turn causes children to drop out of school at an early age, regardless that primary and secondary education is sometimes provided, to help with the financing of the family.
I see the position of our youth like a cycle. It’s true that there are many upheavals, but collectively, we follow the footsteps of those before us. That’s why i asked the question what the role of Sri Lankan youth is? In other words, what do we contribute to our country? We all know that our country is in debt, and not only are we accountable, but so are the generations to come. We also know that there are still people who lost everything in the tsunami, still living in tents. The war in the east which no longer seems to be an ethnic conflict, is still active killing thousands of soldiers and children on either side. There are still people displaced from their homes due to this conflict. Children are lacking education, which might help them live a better life. Many people, including graduates are unable to find job opportunities. And democracy in our country is sometimes non-existent.
All of these problems are very real, and very current. And it is important as youth, and as members of the next generation to look after ourselves, look after others, and most of all, take notice when such problems arise. We should know when to follow in our the footsteps of our predecessors, and when to make our own path. In my personal view, the role of Sri Lankan youth is to do our best, individually and collectively, everything in our power and resources to make our country a place we all would be proud to live in. This attitude is important, because it could make all the difference. After all, we are the next generation.
– Manisha Hannan
Manisha is a Core Group Member of Beyond Borders and many other things. Her pastimes include teaching and appearing in theatre productions.
The new day dawns so pretty, the sun shines so bright
I woke up to the ceiling, knowing something was not right,
Sat up with a jolt, knowing I had slept in late
Mom shouted “breakfast’s ready”, but I simply could not wait
The studio lay wide open, for me to read the news
To work I rushed at speed, not a moment I could loose
A stack of papers lay before me, microphone pegged on my shirt,
Another day at office to wash off my people’s dirt
I blurted “things are fine, the Palestinians are living well”,
My conscience knowing better that, life for them was a living hell!
No food to feed their stomachs, no medication to treat the sick
No power to run their houses, no fuel to light their wicks
My eyes are open to their suffering, but my lips continue to read…
…the propagandistic notes which they expect me to feed…
…to the people of the world, to keep them groping in the blind,
Oblivious to the suffering triggered by the people of my kind!
“Click” goes the remote, far away on a person’s hand,
A news story greets him, “reports” from the blessed land
For the reporters each word attention strict he pays,
Never thinking beyond his lies, of the suffering Palestinians face
At the end of the news story, which so freely he had bought
“The plight of my fellow people (he thinks), is not bad as I once had thought!”
So “click” goes again, the contraption in his hand,
Let’s watch something “cool”, broadcast on another band
Each song and dance he watches with hands clapped on with glee,
That movie was so “touching”, the match was a delight to see
Oh have we become such fools, to become such easy prey…
to the schemes that have been devised, by the folks who plan our day…
…to be spent in fun and games while forgetting the others plight,
Another day thus ends, as to bed he makes his flight
Hand-cuffed we stand so weak, before our masters this “worldly wealth”,
As the evil schemers plan, to bring us down in stealth
This tune if you bear, throughout your life my friend
Their plan will overtake you, and seal your fateful end!
So obey your lord almighty, and help your brothers in need,
Your “duties” do it proper; to the prophets pay good heed
Keep sowing the seeds of love & remove the weeds of vice…
…and book your ranks in heaven, a man destined for paradise!