His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa,
The President Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka,
Office of the President,
150 Galle Road,
Dear President Rajapaksa,
I applied and was selected by the United States – Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission (US-SLFC) to be a Fulbright Visiting Research Scholar at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington D.C. from October 2008 to April 2009 (subsequently extended till July 2009).
To begin with, I was in fact surprised that I was selected through a due process of application (in response to a newspaper advertisement by the US-SLFC) and interview in a country where such privileges, I am sure you would agree with me, are mostly afforded to people with influence, patronage, and power. I did not realise that the foregoing was the case until a compatriot working at The World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. (whom I had not met before) asked me how I got this scholarship. Thus, the selection process of the US-SLFC in itself is worthy of emulation by your Government; and indeed all the future Governments of Sri Lanka.
My time in the United States of America as a Fulbright Visiting Research Scholar was marked by two historically momentous events; one in my host country and the other in my home country. The American people made history in November 2008 by electing a President who hails from a minority community that was brought to the United States as slaves centuries ago. About six months later in May 2009 your government was successful in defeating a terrorist organisation (to most people of Sri Lanka including myself; though the struggle by the Tamil community for equality could not be termed “terrorism”) in our home soil.
For the vast majority of the people of the United States and Sri Lanka, and indeed of the world, the foregoing two momentous events would have been a mere dream or just wishful thinking few months prior to those historic events. Both of the aforementioned events were inspirational to minority communities and governments the world over.
However, while the election of the first African-American President of the United States of America was achieved entirely by non-violent democratic process, the defeat of the LTTE was entirely by military violence using overwhelming force. While the momentous event in my host country has resulted in social cohesion and national unity (in my opinion), the same cannot be said about the momentous event in my home country because in all the elections since May 2009 (until September 2012) you and your political coalition have been consistently and emphatically defeated in parts of the country which bore the brunt of the civil war. Therein lies the lesson to be learnt; that is, whilst democracy established through forbearance is eternal, democracy solely established through violence and militarism is ephemeral!
While through my participation in the Fulbright exchange programme, I have personally come to realize that democracy established through forbearance is eternal but democracy established through violence and militarism is ephemeral, it is my (spiritually speaking ) hope that the philosophy of Lord Buddha will guide you one day to the realization of this fundamental truth as well. I am convinced that such a realization on your part would result in eternal `real’ peace in our beloved country.
*This essay is taken from the book, ‘Letters to Our Presidents’ published by US-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission