Friday, January 9, 2009

The Racist Flag of Sri Lanka

This is how some of my friends defined the National flag of Sri Lanka once we met up over a few drinks and smokes. This did not bewilder me as much because I have overheard such claims and it had kept me thinking for sometime. It is actually true that the first Sri Lankan flag was not quite popular among the minorities as it only depicted a lion which was derived from a Sinhalese flag. But the flag came under several amendments and included green and orange colors to represent the minorities.

The talk was about how the flag had its colors and designs in a way to signify each race which indirectly symbolized segregation of the minorities. One main supplementary argument was how other nations have defined their flags, and how we have done it. They claimed the use of a lion with a sword, is a rather a violent symbol compared to the nature of flags in other countries and depicted aggression particularly towards the Tamils.

This argument is any way represented among many in the Tamil Diaspora and even is used in the propaganda campaigns of the LTTE.

But in a holistic view we can not rule out the existence of such a claim. I personally believe its how you want to look at it, understanding each other and respecting their thoughts is something you would have to cultivate. And i dont believe that the current majority in this country would look at the national flag as my few good friends mentioned above. But there is a serious argument on how well the country was handled after the independence and whether all the communities were given proper prominence and equality in a way where it looked after the aspirations of everyone who fought for independence. And the issue of the Sri Lankan flag they claim is also a sub factor reflecting the mentality the country was in during that period.

Of course one can argue it both ways, and if you look at the definition of the Sri Lankan flag it would depict a whole different picture.

But several questions hover over my mind. If the flag had been designed in a different way will it had helped? Will it change the perception of some people?
Is our national flag really a raciest flag??


  1. I think the flag should drop the colour bars; adding them only reminds us of the divisions. One nation – we should not be promoted as a divided nation with majorities and minorities. One brave country, standing against the odds, as one. Colours of the earth and the sun – as long as they last.

    I hate the colour bars of "Muslim" and "Tamil" communities standing AGAINST the Sinhalese – leaves room for unnecessary interpretations.

  2. yes i saw what serendib implied as wel. it looks like the lion is facing down the minorities. Its very strange skullzero. who knows what exactly prompts these things. a flag could be a syptom of the times and attitudes of the people or could be powerful enough to be vise versa.

    But one thing is obvious. the flag does segregate the nation into races. and that can be taken to imply unity or it can be a way of 'putting the monirities in their place'

  3. it's pretty stupid. but is it too late to change again?

  4. " looks like the lion is facing down the minorities"

    Now that he mentions it, it's true. Hmmm, never noticed.
    I personally always thought that our National flag was a bit aggressive, even if the Lion conveyed Lankan pride and what not.

    But as DC says, it's a bit too late for anything. All that could be ignited by a 'racist' flags has already been done, so what's really the point now that everything's coming to a mind numbing climax?

  5. Well, having read enough of both the links, I'd have to say that the 1st one sounds like Tamil fundamental hogwash, and the second one, the apparently official seems to have a lot of Buddhism in it... I think SL does not follow any religion as a state religion, but I may be wrong... the thing that must be seen is that in any conflict ridden state region, it is natural for opposing sides to score brownie points, and the national flag is an important representation of the sentiment of any country, so of course each side describes it as such...

    I'm not saying it's Tamil Vs. Buddhist, but that is how the LTTE is portraying it, so it's a potent thought.

    Personally, this is the first time I actually got to know why the SL flag is designed so... I always knew about the Lion bit, because I was familiar with the legend, but I never thought about all the other colours.

    Insightful post, this.

    Happy new year! :D

  6. personally i dont think its too late to change anything!

  7. @mixedblessings89 - the sri lankan constitution actually, does recognize buddhism as the main religion of the country.

    personally i think the arguments about the flag being racist are as silly and empty as those of the born again christians claiming only they will go to heaven. they're being literal about it to the point of being stupid. what matters not is how and what is on the flag but how the minorities are treated. i can't honestly say i believe the war wouldn't have occured if the only thing that is altered in the sequence of events since independence is the adoption of a neutral flag. can you?

  8. For one, I think a flag should be at least possible for a school-child to draw. That lion has bedeviled me for years, always comes out as a salamander or something.

    For another, for something like a nation (which you hope will last more than a few generations) putting changing demographic information on there may not be wise. The Tamil/Muslim population haven't remained static, and it's again curious that we have a flag with devolved color spaces and a unitary state.

    Finally, the colors make my eyes bleed and it's pretty generally ugly.

  9. Changing the flag will not alter anything, best left alone. Things are too hot as it is.

  10. wow! never thought of it that way before.. but I do think that we have much bigger issues than the flag, and once those are dealt with, then maybe it'll be time to change the flag.. thoughts?

  11. we will never know!
    but it sure as hell does give ppl like the LTTE a good story to tell, very convincing too!! gud post RSZ...... + look at countries like Canada which today live in harmony but had huge issues at one time too, but by making the national language french as well as English respect was shown.... we as Sri Lankans really need to show more OPEN respect to the minorities....

  12. Probably too late to change, but if someone does, I vote we go for a photoshopish gradient of maroon, green and orange as the background of the lion and really put it beyond the drawing abilities of the average school kid. :) Echo PP - what matters is how ppl are treated in real life, not what faces a chunk of colour on a flag!

  13. A lion with a sword in hand averts the outsiders, 1. a lion itself is a ferocious yet a dominant beast, 2. with a sword in hand, standing in a blood-red background. lets forget? It sends a clear signal to anyone who wants to invade our little island. But there are four bo leafs hints us that our lion can be peaceful too, a peaceful quiet lione that you should never underestimate, given the nature of a lion.
    The exact same principle how life continues. A real intelligent way to show our existence to outsiders.
    Minorities? I feel like that I should get along with the idea of Serendib_Isle

  14. I don't think the colours and shapes in our FLAG would have made much of a difference with our country.
    Nevertheless, I strongly believe that no matter what people may claim, Sri Lanka is right now still far from holding all its ethnic communities on the same equal pedestal.

  15. Sri Lankan Tamils feel that the Government of Sri Lanka's flag clearly sends the message of Sinhala (the Lion's) dominion over Tamil & Muslim minorities. Note how the true flag on the GoSL flag is the Royal Lion with sword help up against the boxed in Hindu & Muslim colours. The message that Muslim & Hindu must be kept separate from us is very clear. The Tamil flag is an obvious counter reaction to the GoSL flag and is derived from the Chola tiger and crossed sword banners used by that royal Dravidian house.

    In an interview to Canada’s National Post in September 2008, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka said "I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people. We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country."
    "We are also a strong nation ... They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things." He dismisses concerns by international human rights groups about the conduct of his forces, saying that while civilian deaths are inevitable in war, relatively few non-combatants have died in the Sri Lankan conflict. His statement makes it clear that he's defending a Sinhalese country from people who are unfortunately in his country and that these people belong to another nation. This indicates the systemic problems within Sri Lanka's military which has often lead to violent rapes & murders against these "foreigners" have not been addressed. The same problem exists in the Police forces throughout the country. Let us not forget about the conduct of the Sri Lankan Army peace keeping force in Haiti.

    Listen to this non-Tamil Sri Lankan lady who says it best.

  16. I truly believe Sri Lanka's flag should be revised. Why? Because it is UGLY. And because it is expnsive to reproduce.