The Clause On Buddhism In The Constitution Should Not Be Changed – Lakshman Seneviratne
By Camelia Nathaniel
Following are excerpts of the interview:-
Q: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is scheduled to engage in a four day tour in the country. What is the progress made so far in implementing the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka?
A: The president has categorically stated that the investigations will be done according to a Sri Lankan system. He made it clear that we are not going to have any outsiders taking any part in the investigations, based on that we can settle our own issues.
Q: Although the month of June has been set out as the deadline for implementing the necessary procedures, Minister Rajitha Senaratne has refuted such claims saying that no deadline has been stipulated and that the government is carrying out the necessary implementations. How much time do you think should be allocated for the process?
A: It’s always better to have a time frame where the investigations and the process of settling these issues will finished and we can then leave the past behind and move on. If there is no time frame given these investigations can drag on for years and can fester.
Q: With regard to the new Constitution, the Tamils want a federal solution while the JVP has stated that a federal solution will only pave the way for further issues. Why can’t Sri Lanka focus on a national stand rather than try to cater to the different races and religions?
A: Everyone is Sri Lankan and asking for federalism is once again asking for trouble. We are all Sri Lankans and we should now forget all different race and religion based differences and think as one people of one country.
In my personal view asking for a federal approach is utter rubbish. The wars is over and let us now live together irrespective of our race, we are all Sri Lankans. The important thing is to now start developing the areas that were deprived of development due to the war and lack of facilities. I am sure that the Tamil people don’t want federal and what they want is development and progress.
It’s this whole federal issue is what started the war and we suffered the consequences for the past 30 years. Therefore why are we asking for it again and why are we trying to go back to that dark era? My view is that we should forget all these personal agendas and move forward as one country one people.
Q: Most Tamils live in the Sinhala dominated areas without any issues under the general laws of the country. That being the case, why is it only necessary for the North and East to have self governance?
A: In this tiny island you cannot have this separate rule for the different provinces. All our Tamil friends living in Colombo and other areas of the country they are happy and they are living in harmony with all other races and religions without any trouble. Therefore why do we want to bring in these separate rules for the North and all this nonsense.
If that is the case then what if the others living in the country say that the Tamils should then live in the Tamil areas, then what will be the situation? Then again the problems will start. We have had attempts to separate the Tamils and divide the country and that only ended in years of bloodshed and loss of innocent lives on both sides. Therefore my personal opinion is that enough is enough and we must all learn to live together and forget about all this rubbish about wanting separate laws and governance as it will only once again pave the way for trouble and division in this tiny country. I don’t understand why some people are still trying to create unnecessary havoc.
Q: Do you think this is what the Tamil people want?
A: No certainly not and this is what the politicians want. As I said earlier this is not what the Tamil people want and this is just what the politicians want. This is another attempt by the politicians to go back to history. Nobody wanted federal and now they are once again going back to that subject and trying to ruin the peace and harmony once again. This is definitely not what the Tamils or the Sinhalese want. The people of this country, be it Tamil or Sinhalese, have had enough of the way and now they just want to live in peace.
If the Tamil politicians feel that they need self governance, then will the rest of the Tamils living in the rest of the country go and live in the areas controlled by the Tamils? No that will never happen. This is just these politicians trying to gain power for them. They are trying to create unwanted issues again. What the ordinary folks in those areas want is to come up in life. Therefore we must give them that assistance and we should develop the rural areas be in Tamil, Muslim or Sinhalese areas. We must give them the opportunity to prosper and have all the benefits that the urban people have and enjoy. This is what needs to be done and not try to divide the country further.
The Tamil people don’t want a separate state, they don’t want Eelam or federal state, but all they want is for their children to have a good education and for them to come up in life. So the government must ensure that the people get this help and give them that support necessary.
Q: Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has proposed integrating students from different backgrounds in each school in the country. She has proposed the need to have students of the different communities in the country to be enrolled into schools where there is a majority of a particular community, be it Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim. What do you think?
A: The stupidest mistake we made was in the 70’s. I blame everyone who brought about this concept of separating the schools according to ethnicity or religion. During our time there were mixed schools and we all studied, played and lived peacefully. This system has only created separatism in the minds of children from a very early stage.
I feel that the government should talk to all the Muslim and Tamil leaders and come up with a very good solution to have just one type of school where children of all races and religions could go to and they should all learn Sinhalese, Tamil and English. This is a must. If that can be done what a lovely place this country will be.
It is very unfortunate that the leaders don’t think in that manner. They don’t want to reconcile but they just want to create more division by putting up more Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim schools rather than bringing them all together. This is the irony of the whole matter, because the very people who talk about reconciliation and unity are the very ones who are trying to ruin the whole reconciliation process by wanting separate privileges.
Imagine if all the resources and ideas of all these people are brought together for the betterment of the country. We would definitely be a prosperous nation.
Q: In the new Constitution, some are of the view that Buddhism or any religion should not be given priority. What do you think?
A: I have a different opinion. It is very difficult to change what we had. If we try to try to remove the clause that gives preference to Buddhism, the Buddhist majority will start to play havoc. Therefore we should not touch these areas that are sensitive, but we should also include the other religions and give them equal rights too. They should be allowed to engage in their religious rituals and traditions, but we have to be fair by them too.
This is the only Sinhalese Buddhist country and so let the part where Buddhism is protected be there. Just leave it as it is and give equal rights to the others too.
Q: Now the National anthem is sung in Sinhala and Tamil, but some on both ends are not in favour. Where do you stand on this issue?
A. There are differences of opinions. In South Africa the national anthem is in 14 languages and in some countries in one. I feel that singing the national anthem in Tamil with the same tune, is an embarrassment to them. This is my personal view and some may disagree. Some extremists may think that this is not good but I feel that if they have accepted it as the national anthem and they sing it to the same tune in Tamil, so be it.