Last week the "Writers for Democracy" gathered at the National Museum Auditorium, and there were writers of all races and faiths writing in Sinhala, Tamil and English. The organization was formed several months ago, because there was an urgent need for all writers to unite to save democracy in this country.
However, since the immediate threat for the system what we know as Democracy has been removed, it is time to think about what Democracy today has come to mean. A Bhutanese poet said "Democracy divides people" and it is very true, when we come to think of it. Even at this gathering of writers for democracy, there was division, some writers did not want to attend, for various reasons.
Thus it is perhaps time to name this organization as Writers for Humanity, because democracy has just become an empty word. What we need is for man to become humane once again, to be really human. Writers have a major role to play, and a major responsibility to regain the lost humanity. If we become really human once again, then all the evil on earth would disappear and we could live in peace and harmony with all races, creeds, castes and people speaking in different tongues.
At the gathering it was also discussed about the achievement towards Good Governance. We have been gloating over the achievement for two months already. We have been gloating over the victory over terrorism for over five years, but we have not been able to convert that war victory into a victory of humanity, into a country where all human beings could live together with trust and confidence with each other. It is time to start working as writers, to consolidate the victory for Good Governance.
Martin Wickramasinghe was known to some of the village folk at Koggala as 'Liyana Mahattaya'. That is one way of translating the word 'Writer'. It is a good term for a writer, because a genuine writer is a 'Mahattaya', a gentleman. That is what all writers should be, a gentleman or gentlewoman, or to please everyone, a gentleperson. Then we are on the path to be Writers for Humanity. Then we should be able to shed all our petty difference of party politics, personal interests, language or religious issues and even regional issues.
In his speech, Gamini Viyangoda pointed out that the meeting should not have started with observing Pansil (Five Precepts). This observance could have been the result of having a Buddhist monk as the Chief Guest. But it is also because we are still thinking inside the box, that any occasion where Buddhist monks are present, we should start with a Buddhist ritual. The Buddhist monks who attended the meeting came as writers and as the initiators of the "Writers for Democracy" movement. It was not a religious function, and if we are to have religious observances at the start of such secular functions, then we would not have time to conduct the meeting, after the Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Islam religious observances are completed.
What I realized as we recited the Five Precepts was that if all of us observed these Five Precepts to the letter, then we already have humanity back with us, we already have democracy and good governance, and we do not even need to have a meeting to remind us or discuss the issue.
Almost all the writers who gathered as Writers for Democracy were all senior citizens of the country. There were very few young people in the auditorium, except perhaps from the media organizations. This is one major drawback for democracy or for humanity. It is the youth in this country, who have the vision, who have the strength to make this movement effective. They also have the latest technology, digital and electronic, and the knowledge to use this technology through their blog posts, social media sites and e-journals to take the message to other youth.
Another advantage with the youth is that their minds are not poisoned by racial, religious or language issues. They have no prejudices. It is the youth who should come forward, take the lead, show the country, and the rest of the world, that we in Sri Lanka are one nation, one people, and that we can resolve our issues by ourselves.
In order to achieve this, youth have a mighty weapon. The digital word, where they can use their most convenient, most handy, and most powerful weapons in the form of their computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. They have already begun to use these weapons. They used them successfully in other countries, in Iran and in Egypt. They used these weapons here to save democracy.
Now they can use it to restore Humanity. For this we have to recognize and accept their writing medium. For they write in the clouds, they write in the electronic media, in e-books, e-journals, blogs and social media. The Ministry of Cultural Affairs should recognize e-writers as writers. They too have to think outside the box, that it is not necessary in the world today to publish something in the print medium to be accepted as a writer. The constitution of the Sri Lanka National Writers' Organization accepts only writers who have published (printed) a book, whatever the book may be. The Literary Panel of the Arts Council accepts only printed books for the State Literary Awards. It is time they accepted e-books too, to be considered for literary awards.
Why is it that young writers are not coming forward? Are they discouraged or prevented from coming forward by the seniors who want to retain their positions? Are they keeping away out of respect for the seniors?
Let us give youth the opportunity to win back democracy and humanity, because it is their future.