By Thilak S. Fernando

Participation of over five thousand Sinhaese, at Hyde Park Corner on 17 May, and marching across Central London up to Trafalgar Square where even Lord Nelson could not turn a blind eye, went down as an historic occasion for the Sri Lankan expatriate community in the UK. The march itself demonstrated two issues. Firstly, for the first time, it displayed the solidarity and unity of a community with enthusiasm and vigour. Secondly it spelled out the frustrations of a community against terrorism which is tearing off the very fabric of the Sri Lankan society, a fraternity which has been in peaceful existence for decades. All those who took park in the rally, in a clear message, urged Tony Blair to take remedial action to proscribe the LTTE, following the example of other nations such as USA, Canada, Australia, India & Malaysia who have banned this organisation as an international terrorist group.

One needs to be crystal clear in one's mind that Sri Lanka is a multi-racial and multi- religious country where her citizens have been living in harmony for centuries. It is only a tiny minority of terrorists that has become a growing cancer to all today - Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher alike. Terrorism is a ruthless serpent and when it raises its ugly head it is not worried about its own kind or anyone else. Consequently, for many years even the Tamil people have been living in fear of this terrorist element when extortion and coercion started to take place from this very country (UK), while the parents of Tamil youth in the North and East of Sri Lanka, were thrown in to panic and despair when their young were being forcibly mobilised by the LTTE against the will of parents.

For far too long Sinhalese resident in the UK were in slumber and let false propaganda of the terrorists seep through to unprejudiced minds of the British to foul and condition their minds with distorted facts. Sinhalase who have been living in the UK for over two decades (Government Officials included) should be responsible for doing only a lip service or becoming arm chair advisers in the past rather than engaging in any productive action. This very apathy was identified as a Sinhala weak area by the terrorists to make a hay-day out of their false propaganda. Considering this past experience of the Sinhalese, the sudden enthusiasm to rise up to the occasion to identify the perils that lay ahead and organising a vigil opposite No.10 Downing Street for 89 consecutive days and co-ordinate a protest march on the 17th need to recognised.

One area of significant importance that came into focus during this exercise was the enthusiasm displayed and the lead taken by the Sinhala youth of the second generation of Sri Lankan expatriates in the UK for the first time, at times to the disappointment of a few of the old rank who were inclined towards publicity rather than in action. Like in any society it was natural to see ripples of intermittent disagreement surfing up; after all, we are all human too ! But one needs to bear in mind, at the end of the day, it is not who ( in organising and co-ordinating the march ) has won the game but how the game was played.

People of Ireland are a good example for Sri Lankans to follow. More than any other nation in the world Irish had suffered out of terrorism and seen the horrors of bloodshed and violence for far too long. Finally they cried out for a peace formula from a referendum only a few days ago. Likewise, thousands of Sri Lankan expatriates, (young old and even on wheel chairs) who gathered on 17th May and marched across London conveyed a single message to Britain - that they want peace in Sri Lanka.

While exerting pressure on the British all communities in Sri Lanka need to make their thinking broad based. It would pay off if one were to identify that peace cannot be achieved while confusion & disorders exist amongst themselves. Boredom the great vice needs to be shed, inertia has to be killed, disharmony needs to be swallowed up and old fears should be allowed to fade away. Then only the old wounds will be healed, leaving no scar tissues; resentment and grudges will then be impossible, cheap gossip and tawdry, fault-finding disappear, the suffering of others will be shared and life will become gladness, realising that Unity is Divinity.