We are Sri Lankans first before we are a minority


On the national flag of Sri Lanka, orange represents the Hindus, green represents the Muslims. The leaves represent Buddhist, and the sword represents sovereignty. The gold lion was originally the national flag of Ceylon prior to 1815 and also represents Sinhalese (Christian/Buddhist). Photo courtesy Indi under a Creative Commons license.



My day generally starts off with a 5:00 AM walk on the beach. Followed by a visit to a little shop - similar to a convenience store in North America - where I buy a pack of smokes. I know, it's a bad habit.

I make my way down to a little restaurant known as a 'Saiva Boutique.' It's a little eatery which is all vegetarian and serves Tamil/South Indian food. Dosai, Wade, String Hoppers etc..

I've known the guy serving me breakfast for 8 years now. I see him every morning. Gopi is his name. The man who sold me the smokes, he has known me since I was a teen.

This is my community. Not for a moment do they appear as a 'Muslim Shopkeeper', or a 'Tamil shop' with a 'Tamil waiter'.

I am not alone. The average Sri Lankan doesn't think about a person's ethnicity on a day to day basis. It doesn't matter to the man on the street if you are a Tamil, a Sinhalese, a Muslim, Burgher, Bora, Maimon, or Veddah.

Our family doctor, a Tamil, knows every member of my family on a first name basis.

This is why it's hard for some of us to understand what is required of us in the reconciliation process.

I understand the displaced must be returned home soon, to a safe and secure environment. I understand the scars of war must heal. We must help the displaced get back on their feet and lead better lives. Better than what was on offer under the Tigers.

There are, however, 20 million Sri Lankans - including Tamils - all over the island who have not been affected by war. There are countless Tamils born in Colombo and have no connection with the Tamil Tigers. They have lived on the island for generations with no issues.

I like to highlight the story of one Muralitharan (Muralidaran).

Muttiah Muralitharan is a Sri Lankan Tamil. He is a sportsman. He now is the highest wicket taker in One Day cricket and Test Cricket.

Murali, as he is commonly known, was born with a congenital deformity in the elbow. This created the impression, to the naked eye, that he was throwing the ball. In cricket, unlike in baseball, one cannot throw/pitch the ball. The arm must rotate in a circular fluid motion.

To throw is to be labelled a 'chucker'. To be known as a 'chucker' is the greatest insult for any bowler. It generally destroys your career.

Several Australian players, who found it hard to play Murali, began questioning his bowling action. This prompted an Australian umpire to 'No-Ball' Murali and 'call' him for 'chucking.'

Murali was sent for testing and several neutral bio-mechanic experts cleared his name. Yet, in 1999, four years after he was first no-balled for 'chucking' by an Australian umpire, Sri Lanka toured Australia. The Aussies were at it again.

They were out to ruin his career.

Watch the video below to see one of the most defining moments in cricket history.





In the video above, Arjuna Ranatunga, the Sri Lankan captain, took his players off the field in support of Murali. It shook the Australian Cricket authorities - who were later accused of influencing the umpires to 'call' Murali - to the core.

Ranatunga is Sinhalese. Murali a Tamil. In previously published interviews Murali spoke of how Ranatunga helped his career even prior to the moment in Australia.

Arjuna Ranatunga assisted Murali and several other young players. At times providing his own living room as a place to sleep.

Ethnicity is irrelevant to the majority of Sri Lanka. You are Sri Lankan first and then whatever else comes after.

For the Tamil Diaspora living in Europe, Canada, and Australia that fact maybe hard to grasp.

For journalist, UN officials, aid workers, south Asian experts, and politicians, Sri Lanka has become Sinhalese Vs Tamil.

Listen to Lenin Benedict, a Sri Lankan Tamil, on the video below.





Murali's brother, another Tamil, was overjoyed at the fall of the Tamil Tigers.

The Tigers represented the interest of a few Tamils in Sri Lanka. When the majority of the 300,000 Tamils they held as a human shield were starving, Tiger leaders' families were well fed.


Cartoon by Anusha Priyadarshani. Image courtesy magi79 via Flickr.

To a vast majority - including Tamils and Muslims - the Tigers were a terrorist group. They terrorised the whole nation with suicide bombs that killed indiscriminately. Countless educated Tamil moderates died. The Tigers created an irreplaceable void in Tamil society. They also bred hate for years under the guise of freedom fighters.

To know Sri Lanka you must live here. You must be exposed to it's multicultural communities and all it's people.

The Northern province, under the Tamil Tigers, became the only province with a single ethnic group. The Tigers ethnically cleansed the area of it's Muslims and Sinhalese in the 1990's.

BBC

The LTTE is also blamed for ethnically cleansing Jaffna, when they asked all non-Tamils to leave the de facto Tamil state in 1990.

No part of Sri Lanka is exclusive to any one ethnic group. All of Sri Lanka belongs to every citizen regardless of ethnicity, caste, or creed.

Sri Lanka has had it's share of teething problems when the British left the island. Other former colonies have had similar issues. But today Sri Lanka is a diverse nation with tolerance for all groups. We, however, are sick of terrorism.

If you have an issue with a law, or policy, go to court. Don't pick up a gun or blow yourself up.

That hasn't solved much in 30 years.

Some say you reap what you sow. I say forget the past and let's build a brighter future.

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