Category Archives: citizenship

Facts and surprises

When looking at the grass roots of the 30 year conflict in Sri Lanka, we see that the language barrier was one of the causes. In school, we were taught Tamil up to grade 9, but I’ve forgotten much of it by now; blame it on our neural connections which follow the “use it or lose it” principle. So I set myself the task of refreshing my knowledge of the Tamil language. Wasn’t I in for a pleasant surprise? The author of the book from which I was learning confirmed my views in the introduction. He says that nearly 70% of Tamil words are similar to Sinhala words, either because it is a Tamil word or because both languages “borrowed” the word from the same language. Even the very first word most babies utter, “Ammaa” (meaning “mother”), is common to both tongues (àÈ´$ or அம்மா)

Few more examples:

Sinhalese word and pronunciation
Tamil word and pronunciation
English meaning
அக்கா ( akkaa)
Elder sister
´$´$ (maamaa)
மாமா (maamaa)
à½ûõÚ (adhipathi)
அதிபதி (adhipathi)
àÈýÙ´ (ambalama)
அம்பலம்( ambalam)
Wayside resting place



           Another cause for the conflict was people who declared that the country “belonged” to a certain ethnic and religious group. I would like to kindly ask those persons to check the “Mahavamsa”(a historical record written by a Buddhist monk, by the way). What was the country from which Prince Vijaya came? Wasn’t it India? If we could say that Sri Lanka belonged to any particular group considering the people who lived here from pre-historic times, then the “Yaksha” and “Naga” tribes would be the righteous owners. Even the “Veddhas” are said to be descended from Vijaya and Kuveni’s offspring; thus being half Indian. Of course, my facts may be wrong because historical sources are not 100% accurate. Even in that scenario, the land belongs to the one who created it; us being mere temporary inhabitants who’ve been given the privilege of living on this beautiful planet; a pale blue dot.

“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 13

It’s an honour to present the thirteenth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation). 

The power to reconcile resides in each one of us. It is essential that we use the suitable sources of power to put it into action. (N.B. This article is a continuation of the twelfth installment)

We will now discuss the sources of power.

Positional power: It is based upon the role or position an individual occupies in a society. It is passed from one individual to another as he or she moves in and out of the role.

Relational power: This does not reside in a particular individual but is a property of social relationships. For example, when you listen to a friend and respect his or her opinion, you give that person power. When that person listens to you and respects your opinions, you are given the power. In relationships, power is fluid and hard to measure. It can be expanded or limited as you interact. It depends on both individuals involved.

Power of force: It refers to physical strength and coercive mechanisms. Individuals may use their own strength, as well as weapons, armaments, armies, police and prisons to impose their will upon others. For example, we see bullies in the school using their physical strength to make others obey them.

Power of resources and status: This comes from wealth or social standing within the society. Individuals can use their money or their family and social ties to maintain a situation that is to their advantage or to get what they want. For example kings and queens are given royal power because of their family ties. In Sri Lanka we can see such power in play.

Power of knowledge and expertise: This refers to the additional credit and influence given to those in a society with special knowledge and expertise, such as doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers etc. Power comes from what they know. When we enter the rural communities, they respect the doctors, engineers and teachers as Gods. The society gives these professions power.

Power of a group: It comes from people acting together for a cause. The phrase “people power” is often quoted relevant to this. It refers to the power of individuals when they are part of a group. Labour unions and mass protest movements have power due to their large numbers. The leaders of such mass movements have the choices of either non violent protest or violent protest. We see many such movements being manipulated by the leaders towards violent protest. This would only increase the gap between the two groups. One should attempt to bridge the gap between the segregated parties by non violent approach as Gandhi did.

We should also study the personal powers we posses. As leaders it is vital that we know our strengths and weaknesses. We can identify personal powers of people around us and attempt to achieve that talent. Another option is trying to get that person on board the cause we stand for and use their talents. Some positive qualities that can be seen in leaders around us are energy, sense of direction, charisma, balance, sensitivity, perceptiveness, enthusiasm, sense of justice, ability to manage emotions rather than suppressing them, etc.

We should also make sure that we know the actions that would diminish the personal power we already possess. Unwillingly complying with others, not acknowledging our skills and talents, not being assertive, being afraid to take risks, feeling that we are trapped by the past difficulties and using disempowering language are a few to be named and we should be cautioned to not fall into those traps. When I said acknowledging the talents, it doesn’t mean boasting about it; rather it means being aware of the talents we possess in a non arrogant way. Thus we can realize that real power is shared, not imposed. It is the ability to define human needs and fulfill both our needs and the needs of the people we care about.

As citizens of this nation, we should know our rights and responsibilities in the country. Thomas Humphrey Marshall, a British Sociologist defines citizenship as follows. ‘Citizenship is status given to all those who are full members of the society. All citizens have equal rights and duties.’ In Sri Lanka we often speak about equal rights not being enforced. How many of the citizens actually fulfill the duties properly? How then can we only address the issue on non equal rights? What I believe is that the duties towards the country should be fulfilled and then the rights be debated. Just as rights are important, duties are important too. We shouldn’t be biased and argue only on the topic of rights, because rights and duties go hand in hand.