Why a Gandhi Centre in Sri Lanka
Sri-Lanka is a multi- religious and multi- ethnic country. Constitutionally, the responsibility of preserving, protecting and assuring equal rights for all citizens is vested with the State. However, the mechanism of governance since independence has fallen short of adhering to this responsibility and, as a result, it has contributed a lot to divide people of this country in matters of language, religion and culture. Today, the country has to grapple with many issues raised by the different ethnic groups relating to identity, security and equity. The country has moved towards ethnic polarizations and territorial fractionation, and people with varying backgrounds have been allowed to persist in divisive environments and nurture distrust and mistrust among them.
Even after sixty years of independence, the citizens of Sri-Lanka are yet to have a political environment to claim that the country belongs to all and, an environment in which, they can pursue their own life-goals without fear of discrimination and marginalization. The country failed to derive complimentary benefits from its diverse ethnic, lingual, cultural and territorial strengths. Sixty years of self rule has brought to this country so much of fear, suspicion, distrust and uncertainty that the people have become pawns in political games. The people of this country cry out for a miracle to change their pitiable condition. They cry out for a new environment of peace, equality and justice.
Given the current situation in the country, we believe that Gandhian wisdom that “Independence must begin at the bottom ….it follows therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs..” has greater relevance to foster inter-ethnic harmony. We strongly believe that direct support for community initiatives and people’s participation for strengthening rural democracy will bring about a change from the present situation in Sri-Lanka. This provided justification to establish the Mahatma Gandhi Centre, Sri-Lanka.
Idea of a Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Colombo Sri Lanka had been in the air for a long time and it crystallized when a small group rallied round Mr.Naro Udeshi (Chairman of Siedles Group of Companies), and formally inaugurated this centre at No 39, Amarasekara Mawatha, Colombo 5 on the 2nd October 2006 under the goodwill of Her Excellecy Mrs Nirupama Rao, then High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka.
The Mahatma Gandhi Centre functions as an autonomous body within the Swarajya Foundation which is registered (No MA1407 )under the companies act No 17 of 1982. Although Naro as the founder President strongly believed that “we in this country (Sri Lanka) deserve a better lifestyles than what we have today” and worked towards societal transformation his life on this earth came to a sudden end on the 12 January 2008. His memory lives on and his vision for a better country continues to be the driving force for the Mahatma Gandhi Centre.