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Ensuring the primordial Sinhala Buddhist Identity in National Identity Cards and Passports

The primordial national identities of the overwhelming majority of people (75%) in Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Buddhism. These two historical identities are rooted in the national identity of the people whose ancestors, being Sinhala Buddhists, built the unique Buddhist civilization over a period in excess of 2000 years in the country that is now called Sri Lanka. It was called ‘Sinhale’ or ‘Thun Sinhale’ or ‘Sinhaladweepa’ in the pre-colonial period i.e. before the Portuguese landed on the island in 1505.

In 1815, the so called Kandyan Convention was identified and named as the ‘Ingrisy – Sinhale Givisuma’ by the high contracting parties. In other words, it was a Treaty between the Kandyan Kingdom officially known as ‘Sinhale’ and the Imperial British Government then steadfastly engaged in conquering and seizing the entirety of the island. It is still a valid Treaty document and continues to be a part of the Laws of Sri Lanka and a popular term of reference in public discussions.

In the foolish and servile rush to embrace a so – called secularism at the behest of mostly western countries (that in effect practice pseudo – secularism) and foreign funded NGOs, let us not impulsively and unwisely dispense with our primordial Sinhala Buddhist identity in order to project an artificial secular identity (Sri Lankan) that has neither roots to the soil of the country nor been shaped either by history, common values, heritage or destiny.

Jathiya and Jathikathwaya

We, the Sinhala Buddhists, have every right to maintain and be proud of our national Sinhala Buddhist identity (Jathiya) together with our nationality (Jathikathwaya) – ‘Sri Lankan’.  The veneration and high regard for the Sinhala Buddhist identity does not imply contempt for other races. They too have a right to exist and be part of the national fabric. However, since races constitute the core of nations as manifested by nature, the very respect for nationhood demands due respect for those who have built the nation for a period in excess of 2000 years and the unique Buddhist civilization of this country. Sinhala Buddhists tower over everyone else in this respect. This fact must not be ignored or overlooked. It must be entrenched in the national consciousness, school curricula and public discourse. It must not be allowed to be challenged and must always remain non – negotiable as an article of faith.

If the descendants of those who had embraced the religions introduced to Sri Lanka by foreign intruders after 1505, mostly for selfish reasons and mercenary gain and in turn were forced to give up their loyalty to ‘ Rata, Jathiya and Agama’, are unhappy with the Sinhala Buddhist identity of the vast majority of the people, that is their problem. They have no right to insist on those have remained loyal to their ethnic and religious origins, to give up their primordial identities in order to secure a land free of conflict. This is a false argument. Conflict arises when history is distorted and perverted to accommodate a false narrative that satisfies the imperial agenda of foreign countries that continue to harbor neo – colonial designs over Sri Lanka.    History must not be allowed to be distorted to remove the credit due to the founding fathers of this nation i.e. the Sinhalese.

National Identity Cards and Passports    

One way of ensuring that the primordial national identity of the Sinhala Buddhist people continue to prevail and not be obliterated to satisfy the demands of foreign funded NGOs and fellow travelers, is to provide space(s) in public documents e.g. applications that require to be submitted to obtain the National Identity Card (NIC) and / or Passport, for declarations on the following basis:

  • National ………….
  • Nationality ……………
  • Religion ………………….
  • A Sinhala Buddhist would submit as follows:
  • National:   Sinhala
  • Nationality:  Sri Lankan
  • Religion:   Buddhism

Nation building is important not only to Sri Lanka but to all countries that are facing tension and ethnic conflict due to the entry of waves of immigrants and forced displacement of indigenous people e.g. Kandyan Sinhala peasantry, engineered by the colonial powers to achieve economic goals.

The claims of the autochthonous people that built this unique Buddhist civilization in an island territory that was called ‘ Sinhale’ for over two thousand years until that name was bastardized or corrupted ( to be known as ‘Ceylon’ ) with the entry of the Portuguese in 1505, cannot be placed on the same or equal footing as that of latter day arrivals in terms of allocation of credit for contribution to the making of a nation.

That would be tantamount to a great injustice. Through deliberate misrepresentation and distortion of history to solve a so – called ethnic problem, Sinhala Buddhists are now being called to make sacrifices to accommodate the unfair claims of latter day arrivals for equal communal status and recognition, that no other country in the world so far has done or would do.

Buddhism denied Official Recognition

Look at the examples of Australia, USA, Canada, New Zealand – what have they done to accommodate minorities? For example, all these countries including almost all Islamic countries, deny recognition to Buddhism as an Official Religion. Only two European countries have so far given official recognition to Buddhism, namely Russia and Austria.

Do any of these countries have national anthems sung in two languages?

Donald Trump in his inaugural address placed an emphasis on Patriotism. He called for a National Day of Patriotism. To remember those who had fought to keep the country intact and protect national values.

In Sri Lanka, we have not only failed to remember our freedom fighters since 1505, but are now in the process of erasing these names from school text books in a surreptitious manner to create a void in their minds for manipulation by NGO funded educators.

No country allows children in their formative years in primary and secondary schools to be taught all religions. This would only confuse young children. Where there is a need for certainty of one religion confusion would start with muddled idea of all four religions. It would result in conflict in homes with small children arguing over the pros and cons of religions. Yet, local newspaper editorials keep on harping on this theme despite its potential damage to children in their formative years.

Missionary education was never secular. It was a curse. It was a tool of colonialism to barter education for religion conversion and strengthen hegemonic colonial rule.

The forging of a modern day national identity i.e. Sri Lankan, should not be at the expense of discarding altogether the primordial national identity i.e. Sinhala Buddhist.

The venerated Sinhala Buddhist identity of more than 15 million people of Sri Lanka should not be allowed to be thrown overboard to resolve a problem created mainly by European colonial rulers using Divide and Rule policies in their colonies. What is happening today in Myanmar, a legacy of British colonial rule, is a foretaste of what may happen in regional countries including Sri Lanka, another victim of nearly 500 year colonialism, in the future?

Patriotism and Nationalism are themes that must be given high priority by the new Government under President Gotabhaya Rajapakse, in the wake of a huge collapse of confidence in Reconciliation and Multi-culturalism, after the Easter Sunday Terrorist attack last year.

by Senaka Weeraratna

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