“Why can’t we all just get along”`

Lakshman Indranath Keerthisinghe | Published on September 29, 2012 at 5:45 am

‘Can We All Get Along’
Rodney King, whose beating by four white police officers in 1991 was captured on videotape, exacerbating racial tensions in Los Angeles, was found dead at the bottom of his pool in June this year. Rodney King became a symbol of civil rights and his case spotlighted the prevalence of racial profiling and police brutality in the USA.
King was beaten nearly to death. Three surgeons operated on him for five hours. The video of the beating appeared on national television two days later. African-Americans in Los Angeles exploded in outrage. Rioters ran through the streets — looting businesses, torching buildings and attacking those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The violence was responsible for more than 50 deaths and $1 billion in property damage. On the third day of rioting, King emerged from seclusion to make a plea: “People, I just want to say, can we all get along? Can we get along?” – Courtesy the Oregon Herald

Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye with one another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship….So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth -Bahaullah(Unity)

This column dedicated to the fulfillment of the aspirations of Sri Lankan society turns its

Ethnic harmony

spotlight today on communal harmony and related aspects in Sri Lanka as all Sri Lankans would aspire to live in peace and harmony with each other in our beautiful island nation.

Harmonious most of the time

In Sri Lanka Sinhalese, Tamils, Malays, and the Burghers being the ethnic groups and Muslims, Buddhists and Christians being the religious groups have been living peacefully for hundreds of years. A long time before colonial powers invaded Sri Lanka, different cultural ethnic groups were living in Sri Lanka in peace and harmony: Close interactions between these communities have existed in many ways: in their work places such as offices factories, agricultural areas, business establishments and in other working environments.: All these communities live together side by side in almost all cities and towns:

Next door neighbours

Sinhalese live next to Muslims and Tamils, Tamils live next to Sinhalese and Muslims, and Muslims live next to both of these communities:. All communities participate in each other’s social and cultural events such as wedding ceremonies, festivals, birthday parties, funerals and other social events: Although these communities have different linguistic, cultural and religious entities, socially all of these communities are very close with one another: as each community depends on others to meet the necessities of day to day life.

Feeling marginalized

The relationships between different communities in Sri Lanka have been fragile since independence. Each community has been competing with one another to establish its cultural identity and existence in the Island. Particularly, ethnic minorities struggled to secure the proportional rights in politics, education, and employment opportunities. There is a feeling among ethnic minorities that they have been marginalized, isolated and even deliberately discriminated by the short sighted policies of successive Sri Lankan governments since  Independence .

Language manipulation

Up country Tamils feel that they have been used as cheap labour and that they have been neglected and marginalized. Use of language by State run institutions has been a major stumbling block in achieving communal harmony in our land. It was recently reported in the media that, the Minister of National Language and Social Integration Vasudeva Nanayakkara had stated that language, used in a correct and pragmatic way could be the key not only towards social integration and inter-communal harmony but also to the sustainable development of Sri Lanka.

Language issue could spell disaster if handled wrong

At a news briefing to announce the ‘International Language and Development Conference on Language and Social Cohesion’ being held in Colombo from October 17 to 19, Minister Nanayakkara said that language issues could either spell success if handled wisely or disaster if it was handled in an unwise manner. Tamil language was not officially declared as a national official language in the Constitution. As Colvin R.De Silva in his wisdom stated ‘One language two countries and two languages a united country’ should be borne in mind by the Government in designing the language policy of Sri Lanka .

Religious freedom

Each community should have religious freedom to practise their religious tenets with out interference of other communities. In recent years, religious conversion has been a subject matter of political and religious debate. There was a recent incident where some members of the Buddhist clergy insisted on the shutting down of a mosque resulting in great dissatisfaction among the Muslim community.


A powerful politician has interfered in the age old religious rituals of animal sacrifice held annually in the Munneswaram Maha Badra Kali Amman Kovil resulting in the Chief Priest agreeing to halt the ritual this year under immense political pressure. Can this politician go to Mecca and halt the ritual of animal sacrifice in Saudi Arabia during Haj. If the said politician even attempts to achieve this in Saudi Arabia in all probability he will be decapitated in that country for contempt of the great Islamic Religious beliefs.

Libya and insulting video

The American ambassador in Libya paid with his life for the insulting video broadcast by an American on the life of Holy Prophet Mohammed. All religious beliefs have to be respected and not interfered with in any manner whatsoever for any reason whatsoever. If the ritual of animal sacrifice at the Kali Kovil is banned all slaughter of animals in Sri Lanka should also be banned. The Constitution being the supreme law of our land has given the right to all citizens to practise their faith unhampered.

Mutual tolerance

The policy of mutual tolerance and equal opportunity for all ethnic groups sounds good. But successive Sri Lankan regimes and policy makers have failed to implement such equal opportunity policies in Sri Lanka . There appear to be some politicians in this land who are either above the law or more equal before the law from the dictatorial attitude they adopt towards other citizens as seen in the Kovil episode. Are they trying to make a mockery of the rule of law in our land is the question that troubles the minds of all Sri Lankans at the present time. It is time that the Sri Lankan people stood up against these illegal practices and cry out for the preservation of the rule of law and order in this land.

How to stop bleeding

As usual let me conclude with an amusing anecdote. A group of soldiers on a first aid course were tested by the instructor. He asked the recruits. “If the sergeant major sustained a head injury during an exercise, what would you do.?”

One soldier piped up” I would wrap a tourniquet around his neck and tighten it until the bleeding stopped.” It was really fortunate that this soldier was not around when an Army Major had a head injury at the JAIC Hilton recently as reported in the media.

The author is an attorney-at-law


(This website is committed to giving space to all shades of opinion and points of view. The opinions expressed by our commentators do not necessarily reflect the opinions or ideology of this website and/or its editor/owner. This website however in this case is compelled to particularly point out that its owner/editor is vehemently opposed to animal sacrifice or animal cruelty in any form and finds such traditions whether rooted in religious ritual or otherwise, abhorrent and without any merit whatsoever and have actively advocated against it in the past and will continue to do so in the future. )     


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Ethnic harmony

“Why can’t we all just get along”`

‘Can We All Get Along’Rodney King, whose beating by four white police officers in 1991 was captured on videotape, exacerbating racial tensions in Los Angeles, ...