An island nation divided is finally united. It is a great irony that an unprecedented economic disaster has brought the entire country together. Something unthinkable just a month ago has happened. Majority Buddhist Sinhalese, minority Tamils (Hindus and Christians), Muslims and Burghers have come together with an aim to end the 74-year-old dynastic, corrupt political system which they hold responsible for all the ills plaguing their emerald island nation.
Sri Lanka has been a divided nation. Divided on the basis of race, religion and class. The colonial power United Kingdom left Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on February 4, 1948, granting freedom to the native people. But, the deep divisions within the country further divided the island, worsening the situation over the next seven decades. Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism or majoritarianism and the minority Tamils fought a bloody civil war for over 30 years, sacrificing a lakh of innocent people on either side. The radical left-wing Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna or JVP fought with their own Sinhalese people in south and central Sri Lanka, adding another 50,000 headcount to the list of victims.
The extreme form of socialism of the 1960s, economic liberalisation of the late 1970s or the catastrophic tsunami of 2004 failed to bring the people together in the past. It was always a divided nation. Good or bad. And that served very well the wily, corrupt political masters. They used the divide to cement their positions and promote family rule. The ordinary people sometimes grumbled at home but accepted it as a norm or a necessity to save the nation from a bigger enemy or threat.
Sri Lanka is a unique country, where President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had appointed her own mother as Prime Minister, brother as Parliament Speaker and an uncle as defence minister in the past. Jayawardene had his son Ravi and nephew Ranil Wickremesinghe, Premadasa had a notorious son-in-law Jayakody, and there are now dozens of Rajapaksas in the government.
The current economic crisis seems to have ended all that. Tamils in the north and east, Sinhalese in the south and central, Muslims in the east and west, Christians in Negombo— all are fighting for a new Sri Lanka, side by side, shoulder to shoulder.