Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam Speech in Sri Lankan Parliament, Mar 2021 SRI LANKA IS BECOMING A RACIST STATE

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(Speech delivered in Sri Lankan parliament by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, 25 Mar 2021)

I thank you honourable presiding member, I thank you for allocating some time to speak under this adjournment debate.

Many members have been saying various things with regards to the Easter bombings, with regards to the commission and the way in which the commission was conducted.

But many people don’t talk about the culture that has begun to emanate, from that Easter bombing, and even prior to that. I think if we fail to look at the background in which these incidents took place, I think this report becomes meaningless. Even if the report is credible, it becomes meaningless.

The honourable member who spoke before me, mentioned and also the honourable minister Prasanna Ranatunga when he spoke before me mentioned that the Muslim community has worked very closely with the Sri Lankan Defence Establishment when it comes to intelligence gathering during the armed struggle, that is during the LTTE – Sri Lankan State armed struggle. And he is right. Not only that, if you take the Muslim leadership, political leadership. The political leadership has been, to a great extent, if not almost always, supportive of the Sri Lankan state! To the point that the Tamil people were quite annoyed and were quite upset with the fact that fellow Tamil speaking brethren chose to take the side of the state, when they fully knew that the Tamil people were being marginalised and systematically discriminated against. So that is how loyal the political leadership has been toward the Sri Lankan State, and also it is how loyal many members of the community have been in working in the intelligence services.

But after the end of the war, honourable presiding member, once the war was brought to an end, it is the Muslim community, unlike any other, not even the Tamils, who have been targeted, discriminated against, and virulent anti-Islamic propaganda being meted out, nobody can deny it. And this culture of Islamophobia that has been propagated in this country particularly since after the war has reached such heights, that it is radicalising the Muslim community themselves, because they feel like victims! That is the fact, that is the reality.

And when you begin to target a community that has been loyal to you, loyal to the state, and when you begin to bring out the sort of virulent, almost fascist dialogues against them, and portray them as someone who is the other, someone who is not wanted, someone who is a pestilence, naturally you are bound to radicalise that community. There is absolutely no doubt, there is absolutely no doubt, certainly in my mind, honourable presiding member, that this country is going downhill, and it is going downhill not because of Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism, I have no problem with nationalism, but because that Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism is being usurped into racism, and that racism is being deliberately targeted towards non-Sinhala Buddhists. If you want to pursue your own interest, if you want to in some way build your own identity, safeguard your own people, by all means, do it! You are more than entitled to do so! Sinhala Buddhists only exist in this country; we believe that we know that! So that identity has to be protected, we have no problems with that. But if for that reason, you choose to target all other communities, and you choose to create a narrative that makes this country mutually exclusive, then you are bound to radicalise.

I have been making the charge, very unfortunately, that Sri Lanka is becoming a racist state. It is becoming an ethnocracy but it is now becoming a racist state. And the proof that I have for that is the way that the Muslims have been treated post-war.

And honourable presiding member, I will conclude by saying this; you see, this racism coupled with the sort of militarisation, the north-east has been militarised for well over 40 years, but the sort of militarisation that is taking place in the south, is not something that can be ignored. There are very senior members here who know that when you have tendency of being racist plus with militarisation, and the fact that you think the military can get involved in almost anything, including civil administration- those are the cornerstones, those are the foundations of fascism.

And I warn the honourable members of this house, there are senior members in this house today, I warn them that what is happening today are the very first fundamental steps towards a clear direction towards fascism. I thank you sir.

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Disclaimer: Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam Speech in Sri Lankan Parliament, Mar 2021 SRI LANKA IS BECOMING A RACIST STATE - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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