Sri Lankans, particularly the majority Sinhala community, should not get “paranoid” over unfounded fears of Indians “swarming” their country whenever a bilateral trade agreement is proposed, foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera said today.
Addressing the India-Sri Lanka Society, Samaraweera was critical of the majority Sinhala community for raising unfounded fears over the Indian influence in Sri Lanka.
He said misguided Sinhalese Buddhists who wear their ethnicity and religion on their sleeve and who claim blood relationship to a lion (the Mahavamsa) as related in the mythical history of the Sinhala people, are the ones who fear India the most.
“It is true that most races have founding myths recounting the origins of their races, but these myths are designed to inspire and are not meant to be taken literally.
“Yet the neo-fascists of today’s political climate are claiming blood relationship to an Indian lion (there had never been lions in Sri Lanka),” he said.
These neo-fascists seem to see an Indian under every bush and live in eternal fear of Indians swarming into Sri Lanka.
“Whenever a bridge over the Palk Straits to connect our two nations is proposed, they get into a paranoid frenzy that all of India is waiting to drive over that bridge and make Sri Lanka their home, when trade agreements are discussed they see swarms of Indian doctors and barbers coming across to flood the Sri Lankan market,” the foreign minister said.
“Now they claim that their IT specialists are all waiting to come and take the jobs of Sri Lankan engineers. This is when Indian IT engineers are some of the most sought after in the developing world,” he added.
He was responding to the opposition raised by nationalist groups to the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement between Sri Lanka and India.
He said that India needs to be vigilant to the needs, hopes and aspirations of ordinary Lankans, so that recurring issues, like the bottom trawling crisis in the North of Sri Lanka, which not only affects the livelihoods of thousands of poor families and results in dangerous environmental damage to the rich seafloor of the Palk Straits, are resolved.
Commenting on the Lanka-India relations under Maithripala Sirisena government, Samaraweera said: “We had the opportunity of welcoming the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka, while the President and Prime Minister were accorded a warm welcome in New Delhi.
“My friend and counterpart, the Hon. Sushma Swaraj, will be making her third visit in a year and we welcomed the Indian Foreign Secretary a fortnight ago,” he said.