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I Am Sri Lankan (#IamSL)

Jul 23, 2011 5:49:34 PM - thesundayleader.lk

I am Sri Lankan. I was born in Canada, grew up in America but I like it here, I’m generally accepted and people seem OK having me around. I, perhaps more than most, am not my race, I am simply Sri Lankan.

I know that the dominant government identity seems to be Sinhala Buddhist or whatever, but they don’t define me or the country. I define myself, and I am Sri Lankan.

I am not the government. I am not my race. I am not the war. I’m just me. #IamSL.

This is actually a big thing for a lot of people to say. The country has been defined, internally and externally, based on race and the war made those divisions worse. That division, however, is not Sri Lanka. To a large extent, Sri Lanka is still young and it is what we make it. I think we can make it better.

There is room for a multi-ethnic society here. In Colombo and especially among my friends, we already have it. Personally, I’m 28 and I’m tired of me and my country being defined by war and ethnicity. I just want a better life for myself and the people around me. I want equality for everybody – every race, caste, gender, language, whatever.

I think there are problems in Sri Lanka, but they’re not between us. That division is what keeps us from solving our problems. Our issues are Sri Lankan, and they are shared.

Everything from discrimination against Tamils to discrimination against women is a problem that affects all of us, because we’re all in it together.

This is not to say that Tamils haven’t suffered disproportionately, or that the government isn’t systematically abusive in many ways. Quite the opposite, I’m acknowledging that, expressing my compassion and suggesting unity as a way out. I’m simply saying that I’d like to help. That those burdens are also mine, because we are much the same.

Most debate (online at least) focuses on apportioning blame (war crimes! terrorism!) as a prerequisite to peace. As in, you apologise and say it’s your fault and then we’ll talk. All I’m saying is, let’s talk now. Let’s start peace-building now.

The government isn’t going to administer an inclusive Sri Lanka, but if we build one, the administration will come.

So that’s me. And my friends. And most people I meet. We’re all different, but we’re all Sri Lankan. Are you? Quote Kumar Sangakkara again (and again),

“I am Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim and Burgher. I am a Buddhist, a Hindu, a follower of Islam and Christianity. I am today, and always, proudly Sri Lankan.”