Sri Lanka reconciliation, secular republics in focus

(From left) Dharmasri Kumaratunga, Director - Payments and Settlements, Central Bank; Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank; and Tharaka Ranwala, Head of Operations and Group Chief Marketing Officer, Sampath Bank

Jan 23, 2012 (LBO) – Building a secular state can prevent oppression of minorities and victims of an arbitrary state should learn to forgive but must also speak out for change, writers participating in a literary festival in Sri Lanka said. India, a land of Maharajahs, became a democracy with voting rights and parliamentary legislating powers by majority in the middle of the last century but had managed to preserve several key elements of a free country.

“My version of India was a secular, multicultural democracy,” Nayanthara Saghal, an award winning Indian writer and niece of independent India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru said at the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka.

“This huge Hindu majority country decided against calling itself a Hindu country. It was a socialist sovereign republic and with an atheist prime minister.

“So religion did not come into the picture at all.”

Parliamentary democracy allows ruling administrations as well as laws to be changed by a majority vote, either directly or through representation.

The ‘democratic’ process by vote emerged largely in Western Europe. But in Eastern Europe in particular, majority voting led to nationalist-driven ethno-religious fascism in many pos