The recent communal clashes happening in many parts of the country have led to much discussion among right thinking people. It seems that Sri Lankans have forgotten the repercussions of the 30-year long war between the Sinhala and Tamil communities. We have forgotten that the war happened due to several communal clashes that came about in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s which in turn led to grudges between the two racial groups.
Even though Sri Lanka is considered a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-racial and a multi-cultural country, the issues we see at present have led us to doubt whether this is actually so. After the end of the war in 2009, there have been sporadic upsurges between Sinhalese and Muslims around the country.Many are of the opinion that this sudden, but gradually increasing communal fire is an organized attempt to benefit someone’s political agenda. Whatever the hidden motive behind this, we wish to draw attention to its negative impacts on the Sri Lankan economy.
Sri Lanka has already faced trouble with allegations against war crimes, following the civil war. The communal clashes we have seen recently getting published on websites and social media, and the hate speeches we hear, provoking hatred towards another religion or a race, call up international opinion against Sri Lanka. Consequently, the international community may even deepen their demands for investigations on war crimes during the war.
At a time when the economy is trying to recover from a crisis, it is crucial that national harmony is maintained across the country. The minority of the total population who ignite hatred should not be knowing or taking lightly the serious impacts it could create on the economy. When the international community becomes disappointed regarding the national situation, it negatively impacts on several economic variables.
First, these communal clashes and extremist actions could lead to political instability within the country. Foreign direct investment coming into the country would be reduced due to this uncertainty. Demand for our exports could decline, worsening our trade balance and balance of payments. Income from tourism, which has become a booming industry since the end of the war would decline. The latter would have many adverse repercussions on every forward and backward linkage of the tourism sector.
There is a high chance of increasing the brain drain, as intellectuals and the brightest personnel will fly out of the country searching for safer destinations. This has happened in our historyand it could happen again. Capital would flow out of the country, resulting in more tightened external finances.
Ethnic disturbances as we see today in Sri Lanka are not new to the country. There are several instances in our history, when we have faced severe repercussions due to communal clashes, the 30 year long war being the worst of all, and the most severe impediment to Sri Lanka’s economic development and livelihoods of people. Do the incidents today foretell that we are going there again?
Extremism, so far has happened in both the majority and in minority communities. These communal clashes happening around the country need to be stopped as soon as possible, if we are to follow our path towards economic growth. Stability inside the country is one prime factor contributing towards economic stability, and eventually economic growth. Everything is interlinked. If this upsurge is not stopped now, we are definitely going back to our history of Black Julys and long civil wars.
The President and the Prime Minister expressing their opinions on this in public is a good sign, but the responsible authorities should take necessary, immediate and adequate action to establish national harmony in the country. Furthermore, priests, whether they are Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim or Catholic, have a key role to play in putting a stop tothe actions of the minority who are extremists and who incite violence among the communities. It is appreciable when the clergy and religious leaders voice their opinions at the times of need and when the country needs their patronage, but their priority should be to practice their respective religions and spread harmony, and not at all support various propaganda channels and gain publicity! If not, the fellow followers would be blindly following their religious leaders. Extremism, at any cost, should be condemned and put down.