2 October, 2020

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Presidential Elections And Prospects For Reconciliation

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

I am not speaking as an outsider. I am an insider to the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney (SLRF). However, here I express my personal views and they are not necessarily the views of the Forum. Let me first begin on some common premises.

First, we commonly believe that reconciliation here (in Australia or Sydney) is largely a function of reconciliation there (in Sri Lanka). Second, we also believe that reconciliation here can influence reconciliation there. Reconciliation here is a value or objective for us and reconciliation there is also a value for us. Third, we also believe that there is a possibility that the SLRF – as an organized group of professionals, academics and concerned people – possibly could influence reconciliation in Sri Lanka in policy terms however modestly. That is what we are trying to achieve and that is the purpose of this meeting, as I understand.

I would specifically like to refer to principles 5, 7, 8 and 9 of our Statement of Beliefs. Let me add that these were drafted at the inauguration of the Forum in 2009.

  1. Universal respect for the rule of law and good governance, which has been deteriorating over several decades, needs to be restored in order to become a modern nation.
  2. Genuine reconciliation is a prerequisite to stability and durable peace. Prosperity will follow only if there is stability and durable peace.
  3. We can reconcile at the individual level until the government of Sri Lanka chooses to become a party to the reconciliation process.
  4. Together as Sri Lankan people we can persuade the Government of Sri Lanka to participate in the reconciliation process.

Achieving Reconciliation

What do we mean by reconciliation? As a dictionary definition it means the ‘restoration of friendly relations.’ It goes very closely with the definition of peace. Like peace, reconciliation has two main connotations: negative reconciliation and positive reconciliation. One can argue that these are also two stages especially when there has been a war or a violent conflict. Reconciliation does not mean lukewarm relations but positive and active friendly relations. This is a very minimum definition for this discussion.

Maithri RanilEven when there was ‘hot war’ in Sri Lanka, ethnic relations in Australia or Sydney were not hot, or not that hot, unlike some other countries. Therefore, when the war ended, I think we were in a position to take one step forward. I am not aware of any other country where Sinhalese and Tamils got together in a Reconciliation Forum. I may be mistaken. However, it was a positive development and all credit should go to the founders of the Forum. From this step or this experience, the SLRF also understood that negative reconciliation is not sufficient.

Our weakness, however, has been our size or impact. We couldn’t reach out as we wanted to. We couldn’t reach out for the broader sections of the Tamils or the Sinhalese. We couldn’t reach out to the Muslims. Of course we have physical or human limitations as we are mostly working people, but I am not talking about that.

We had different explanations for the situation. One explanation was that we are too political. A related explanation was that we are not undertaking enough social, cultural or welfare activities. People appeared to be interested in different things. All these may be true. Last year we apparently found a solution, I believe, to this problem to have different Strands. This Strand Concept allowed us to employ diverse approaches and that was a good development.

Situation in Sri Lanka

But my main submission today is that these limitations were/are largely conditioned by the situation in Sri Lanka. Let me be very brief. I believe we all know about these facts, although we interpret them differently.

The war ended in 2009 and there was a feeling or illusion that the conflict ended. That was based on the theory or feeling that the ‘national problem’ was merely a terrorist problem. That slowly became the dominant thinking of the last government. Others, even some within the government differed. They wanted to go beyond and resolve the conflict for a lasting peace. There were obstacles irrespective of some efforts (i.e. LLRC). The conflict or disagreements between the communities continued. New conflicts emerged or created on the Muslim or the religious front.

The war itself was a sticking point; particularly the way it was conducted at the last stages. There were so much of consequences of the war. These consequences still remain. There was triumphalism. Then there were war crime charges. No credible investigation was conducted. The foreign policy of the country was not helpful to resolve the situation internationally. There was an illusion that (mega) development projects could heal the conflict. Behind this belief, there was a theory based on crude economic determinism.

There was a breakdown of democracy and good governance even after the end of the war. One aspect of this development was the way the Chief Justice was impeached. The move away from democracy or good governance became a political policy. Sri Lanka almost became a pariah state.

Political Change

There is a change. Some say it is a paradigm change. It is still early to say whether this is 50%, 75% or Just 25%, to mean a marginal change. It is definitely not 100%.

It is exactly one moth today since the presidential election. This is little less than 1/3 of the projected 100 Days. After that there will be parliamentary elections. The Manifesto or the Diary of Maithripala Sirisena didn’t propose a political solution for the ethnic conflict. Nevertheless, the TNA decided to support the common candidate. This is interesting. I believe they understood that democracy and good governance would open up new possibilities for reconciliation.

The SLMC broke away from the government and actively supported the common candidate. Even without that decision, the Muslims would have supported Maithripala Sirisena. CWC continued to support Mahinda Rajapaksa, nevertheless the Hill Country Tamils overwhelmingly voted for the common opposition candidate.

There should be some reason why the minority communities overwhelmingly supported a common opposition candidate. This is something that people who aspire for reconciliation should take into clear account. Of course, one can have a conspiracy theory to explain. But that kind of a theory or phobia is not helpful for reconciliation.

What about the Sinhalese voters? Obviously, they didn’t overwhelmingly support the common opposition candidate. The majority supported the previous president. But compared to 2010, there was a clear swing of voters around 8-10 percent even in the South.

The Link

It is not correct to say that the election was contested on the issue of reconciliation. Not at all. It was contested on the issues of governance/democracy and cost living/development. However, it was clear (and now clearer) that democracy and good governance are closely linked at least to the first phase or opportunities for reconciliation. This is one reason why the civil society should make sure (and demand) that the present government should stick to the rules of good governance.

Those who believe in good governance and democracy invariably believe in reconciliation. Good governance is something which goes beyond formal democracy. There can always be a ‘dark side to democracy’ (Michael Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy) which can only be countered by good governance. It means justice, universal human rights, equality and fair play for all sections of society. When you have democracy and good governance, it is easy to go for reconciliation.

Let me give you some examples. When Maithripala Sirisena gave his first press interview he naturally talked about ‘national unity and reconciliation.’ This was also the case when he came for the TV dialogue called Satana organized by Sirasa thereafter. The latest is President’s address at the Independence Day. Let me just quote one statement.

“We could not link the hearts of the people in the North and the South even though the sound of terrorist guns were silenced by the security forces in 2009. There is no point in accusing individuals for the failures in the past but what is more important is to rectify failures and mistakes. The war was ended physically and now we should enable the co-existence of all ethnicities.”

As I have mentioned earlier, there was/is no agenda on the part of the government on how to resolve the ethnic conflict or achieve reconciliation. However, there is a road map to achieve and establish good governance. Of course there can be deviations and contradictions. There can be even reverses. Already there iss a deviation as the President has renewed the ‘public order’ police functions for the armed forces. We hope that this would be withdrawn by the beginning of next month. People have to be vigilant and bring pressure on the government. But there are indications that already there are some steps taken in the positive or right direction.

When we assess the ‘change’ what we can see is not only a mere government change. On the one hand, this change has been brought about by a coalition of parties. Although the TNA was not a party to this coalition, they are now participating in the National Executive Council. The TNA sits with the JHU and the JVP. The vision appears to be a national coalition or a national government even in the future. On the other hand, there had been fairly a strong movement from the civil society to bring this change. If I may mention some of the actors, NMSJ, BASL, FUTA are important. Artists and other professional groups also took a positive part. I believe that they will be active in the future.

Conclusion

Let me conclude with a question and a proposition.

Do we or do we not consider the change of regime in January as a new opportunity for reconciliation? If we don’t we may work as before. If we do, it may be necessary for us to change the way we work and the pace we work. Otherwise it might again be a lost opportunity. What we have to pursue are the last few principles of the ‘Statement of Belief’ of the Reconciliation Forum that I quoted at the beginning, as suitable to today’s circumstances.

[The above is the text of a panel presentation at a Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum meeting in Sydney on 8 February 2015.]

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    This is great news that should give hope to all those who want the future of Sri Lanka to be bright for the coming generations and I hope with all my heart that it will succeed. I work in the Middle East as a professional and we do not see any serious conflicts between Sinhala and Tamil here. Perhaps people of SL origin in other countries should join. I am prepared to do whatever I can do to make some contribution to this great endeavour, which I think is not going to be easy. But as JFK said, we have to do such things not because they are easy, but because they are difficult.

    • 1
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      Asian Mirror reliably learns that former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has proposed business tycoon Harry Jayawardena’s name for at least five top government position.

      Each time, the proposal has been personally shot down by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has already adopted an anti-Harry Jayawardena policy. Wickremesinghe is of the firm belief that the controversial business tycoon should be kept out of the businesses of the new government.

      Harry J was often dubbed as CBK’s chief financier when the former President was in power. Under CBK’s rule, the business tycoon went past all the billionaires in the country in terms of wealth, becoming the richest man in Sri Lanka. However, during President Rajapaksa’s rule, Harry J had to take a back seat as there were a few other businessman who were vying for the ‘richest man’ title. One has every reason to believe that the old guard business tycoon is waiting for an opportunity to turn the tables on the new self-made billionaires who operated under the blessings of the top echelons of the former government.

      In Wickremesinghe’s case, he has already made a decision decision to leave certain people out of the picture when it comes to day to day affairs of the government and Harry is certainly one of them. Apart from him, the controversial four “Pereras” too, who wreaked havoc under the previous regime, have already been blacklisted by the Prime Minister.

      It is incorrect to say PM’s inclination to leave the business tycoon out of the picture has become a potential flashpoint between CBK and Wickremesinghe. But, one should be mindful of the fact that the former President is not someone who accepts ‘defeat’ that easily!

    • 1
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      Mr. Rodrigo,

      Your comment is very encouraging for the whole Forum. It has completed five years of modest existence and we are determined to expand our activities and influence taking up the new opportunities and challenges. As you say, it is not going to be easy but we are determined to pursue reconciliation because it is necessary. We have a modest website and the link is http://www.slreconsyd.org.au/ You will find our common email address there.
      We would encourage you to initiate something similar with or without our affiliation. If you wish, you can obtain my email address from Editor Colombo Telegraph.

    • 3
      1

      I don’t see anything great about some not well known small number of so called intellectuals (wise ? less Sakkaya Ditti?) get together and giving opinions on Sri Lankan reconciliation in Sri Lanka and Australia. For example, Aus ethnic community 3zzz radio gives 2 hrs on Sunday morning to SL Sinhalese (?) people. How racially bias is this radio? Does SLRF sees it as bias, do they hear these community radio programs? When MR in power, News of this radio is worse than SL Rupavahini (my view). Now it is bit better, but still you have to tolerate number of racial remarks in every program. News in 10am TV program is comparatively very advance, perhaps this is done by young Sri Lankan. less patriot :-(.
      Now this Sinhalese Multicultural(?) community radio is collecting signatures to submit a petition asking an extension for politically appointed military man, the high commissioner in Australia. If this self proclaim SLRF wants to do any reconciliation in Australia, come to these SL ethnic radios and start the reconciliation from here. *** As a beginning, start a petition to remove politically appointed military man from this diplomatic post, show us you can get 500 signatures here… Or try to stop this racial and bogus patriotic useless petition…..

      • 0
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        AVB,

        Noted your concerns. However small, this is the only organization with the objective of reconciliation and composed of people from all communities. Why don’t you join?

        Laksiri

    • 1
      1

      Dr. Laksiri Fernando

      “I am not speaking as an outsider. I am an insider to the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney (SLRF). However, here I express my personal views and they are not necessarily the views of the Forum. Let me first begin on some common premises.”

      to be successful, one MUST

      1. Listen

      2. Communicate, and

      3. Have Empathy.

      This is equally applicable to reconciliation and conflict resolution.

      Unfortunately, since independence, either one or all of the items 1. 2 and 3 above were missing.

      We have a better chance of getting the parties to agree on item 1, 2 and 3 above’

      “There is a change. Some say it is a paradigm change. It is still early to say whether this is 50%, 75% or Just 25%, to mean a marginal change. It is definitely not 100%.”

      Certainly, Common Sense Pamphlet Sri lanka 2015 can certainly help. No Need to worry about White Vans anymore, at least for the time being. why not use the opportunity window?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense_%28pamphlet%29

      This will help in decreasing the Modayas and Mootal (முட்டால்) fraction.

  • 1
    4

    Ethnic Conflict starts with Self Seeking Individuals who want to dominate and influence others to their way of Divisive Politics.

    Non Separatist Education is the Key to Reconciliation!

    English is the binding force between Ethnic peoples in Australia and other Countries, where English is the Common Language.

  • 3
    3

    Mahanayaka had to call Sira on the Cell Phone personally, to chase away the Police, who re opened the road in font our Temple of the Holy Tooth.

    IGP Illagakoon is well and truly embedded with the Elite, Anglicans and the Vellalas.

    TNA is pissed off that their East is now run by the SLMC, Azaath Sally and Bathudeen.

    Reconciliation is surely gaining momentum.

    Sira is moving more and more towards the SLFP for protection.

    He will never relinquish his Exec powers even if the current SLFP MPs support him.

    Because Sira will never trust Ranil .

    Current Opposition leader laid it out straight.

    SLFP will go for the jugular to finish off Ranil and his UNP Christian Faction which did the underhand deal, hoping to destroy the SLFP with the Rajapaksa.

    Looks like it is coming back like the Aussie Boomarang.

    BTW, hope these patriotic academics and professionals have paid back the Bond they signed with the Government to go on Scholarships., before they try to give us inhabitants reconciliation .

  • 4
    4

    Waiting to see the Ranil, Sira combination explode. Wimal & Vasu can then bring back MR.

  • 1
    1

    Quote: If you’re a politician, you might want to learn the Buddhist way of negotiation. Restoring communication and bringing back reconciliation is clear and concrete in Buddhism.

    Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese priest)

    Being a genuine Buddhist, President Maithripala Sirisena’s attitude is highly encouraging.

    Thank you Dr. Laksiri, I will contact you directly. I will also contact my friends in Canada and England too (both Tamil and Sinhala) regarding this. I think the level of polarization in these countries is very high and they are good places to start with.

    • 1
      3

      EDWIN RODRIGO

      “I will also contact my friends in Canada and England too (both Tamil and Sinhala) regarding this.”

      Will you also contact Ram, Banda, K A Sumanasekera, Thondamanar, Dayan, H LD Mahinda, sach, nuisance, NAK, Kali, Cholan, …… and other nationalists?

      They are the ones you need to convince not the already converted.

  • 1
    1

    dr.lf,
    as an honest intellectual you trying very hard in aus. to promote reconcilation. before convincing our masses towards reconcilation try your best to convince people like wimal weeravansa, dr.nalinde silva and the rest who were hell bent on poisoning the minds of majority sinhalese.the pathetic situ. was our former president was wholly dependent on their thoughts. the thinking that there are no minorities and antagonism to sing the tamil version of the national anthem came from these people. weeravansa once said it is a joke to sing the national anthem in tamil.we have to learn to live with these people. you are fortunate to not to live among them.
    -sundaram

    • 0
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      Sundaram,

      With all respect to you, I feel differently. There is no much point in wasting time on Weerawansa or Nalin both of whom I know well. Nalin was my parallel and on the staff at Peradeniya and he held very good views in those good old days. I came across Weerawansa somewhere in late 2000s and once I even gave my comb to comb his hair. He was very particular about his neatly combed hair! I had a habit of keeping a comb in my pocket (not necessarily used) from my childhood and only now I have given it up.

      I have a story about the paradoxical human nature. I had a close friend at Peradeniya who used to argue with me day and night against Tamils. When July 1983 riots broke out, there were few Tamil friends that we had to help. We both were living at Dumbara Campus. When I requested my friend to help, he didn’t have any hesitation. He took the risk of taking one family to a safe place in Matale in the thick of goon’s activity. He made sure that the family was safe. He took more risks than me. I don’t know what views he hold now. But after dropping them at Matale, he came to me and started criticizing Sinhalese.

      Laksiri

  • 0
    1

    Reading the diverse reactions to a simple suggest to reconcile,

    Does not give me hope that one can even hope

    As confirmed by the innermost thoughts of every ordinary citizen who can leave the country for good, to leave for good.

    The Politicians are the bane of the country. They will never reform; they will never return to goodness. All of them are the same.

    It is a paradox that Sri Lanka is Buddhist, a religion that abhors greed;

    And greed it is that fuels the political culture here.

    There is no hope for Sri Lanka to be administered as a civilized country – ever.

  • 0
    0

    To all those who have written comments about my comment, thanks a lot for all that attention, which I never expected. It shows that quite a few are reading them, an honour that I have not got up to now.

    Although I have been making some comments before in CT, no one appeared to be reading them, except for myself, of course. I used to read my own comments many times and you know what, they appeared to be very good, atleast to me.

  • 0
    0

    To quote a sinhala saying, ‘Gedara nikan inna mata ahala giyath maday’. (Even somebody coming and just asking about me is good ennough for me – who is simply doing nothing at home).

  • 1
    0

    Reconciliation, Reconciliation for whom by whom and why is the question arises in my mind. Everybody is shouting reconciliation but they do not expand on it. First and foremost settle the Tamil issues for the Tamil people to consider reconciliation. It is a long and uphill task for the Tamil people at least to consider reconciliation with the Sinhalese. The basic demands have to be met by the ruling party. The people who are responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 civilians during the war has to face punishment. The missing persons have to be accounted for, the Army from the North has to be moved out, the government has to demonstrate for power sharing with the Tamils. the 13th Amendment is no solution for it. The Sinhalese, first of all have to get rid of the venom they have against the Tamils. If the Sinhalese are humane people, they would have allowed thousands of families to resettle in their lands which are forcibly grabbed by the army. That itself is proof for the attitude of the governments that come to power.

  • 1
    1

    Many people are of the opinion that the best time for reconciliation came after the defeat of the LTTE and that the MR regime lost the opportunity for reconciliation. But did the opportunity for reconciliaiton actually exist under the MR regime? The MR regime’s strategy for defeating the LTTE was to defeat them militarily at any costs, never mind the Tamil civilians, never mind the war crimes. How do you then expect a regime that put so little value to Tamil lives then turn around and reconcile with them? It would never have happened. The Tamil people would not have wanted to reconcile without accountability.

    Reconciliation cannot happen without accountability. Say hypothetically if the Sinhalese are asked to reconcile with the LTTE, would they? I would not expect them to do so given the murder and carnage the LTTE unleashed on the Sinhalese as well. Fortunately for the Sinhalese, the LTTE is no more in Sri Lanka and the ultimate accountability was applied to the LTTE, they were militarily crushed. Similarly Tamils want accountability for the crimes that were committed by the state against them. This is a basic pre-requisite for reconciliation.

  • 1
    1

    Mr. Laksiri Fernando,

    I have written in detail on this subject previously.
    May be you have forgotten what I wrote.
    In Sri Lanka, the serious word on reconciliation and unity is being loosely used by the Sinhala Buddhist politicians for their own political purposes.
    Without doing anything that matters which would contribute to that process they are all busy with their usual tricks and tactics to delay the presentation of the US sponsored resolution in Geneva and this talk of local investigations of another group starting another investigations.

    The Tamils are sick and tired of all these investigations for the past 60 years from the 1958 riots. Many commission and investigation reports are never released in a timely manner, and even if it is released there is never any actions taken to follow their recommendations or instructions. Meanwhile 3-4 years have gone by since the US sponsored UNHRC resolution sponsored by the US in Geneva, and the completion of the LLRC investigations, the current GOSL wants another local investigations to enable them to buy more time.

    This is what the US government representatives assured me in writing last week. Quote”
    I have been assured by the US Government (Responsible representatives) that QUOTE
    ” The United States remains committed to following through on ensure accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We are not just going to let the resolution disappear because there is a new government.
    UNQUOTE”
    This assurance is part of what was informed to me.

    There cannot be any reconciliation and unity unless there is Accountability, Truth and Justice, as well as sincerity and honesty by the current GOSL. They cannot continue to take the Tamils for granted and only use them to win the Presidency and forget them for the next 6 years, while they scheme to form a Sinhala national government where they do not need the assistance of the Tamils and Tamil speaking muslims which at best is only 25% of the total vote.

    Donald Gnanakone
    Tamils For Justice
    Founder

    • 0
      0

      Mr. Gnanakoon,

      Thanks for your comments. Sorry for the delay in responding. Not that I am unaware of your position/s, although not completely. Apart from deliberate attempts to dilute the issue of reconciliation, there is also no complete agreement on its meaning or scope even among international academics or actors. It is an evolving concept or effort. I understand your frustrations about the Sri Lankan situation. However, it may also be necessary to understand the other side/s as well.

      Your statement: “There cannot be any reconciliation and unity unless there is Accountability, Truth and Justice, as well as sincerity and honesty by the current GOSL” is too rigid to me. There are several subjective elements. I am not defending even the current GOSL. I simply don’t know about their position. In respect of war crime investigations, as I maintained last year, it could have been or can be a ‘national-international investigation,’ the initiative taken by the GOSL because it is their primary responsibility. The international component can come from the UNHRC.

      If I may refer to your quoted statement from the US, it doesn’t completely condition reconciliation on accountability. Even in my view, both can go hand in hand while truth, justice and accountability are necessary for the process from the beginning. As far as I understand, even the more radical sections of the TNA have welcomed the recent appointment of the special Presidential Task Force on Reconciliation (PTFR) although it is not clear at present its mandate or the scope. To me that is a good development.

  • 0
    0

    It would be useful to study other cases of national reconciliation that have been achieved in the recent history of the world. South Africa and Rwanda would form good case studies.

    Before Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, he was an angry, relatively young man. He founded the ANC’s military wing. When he was released, he surprised everyone because he was talking about reconciliation and forgiveness and not about revenge.
    (Desmond Tutu)

    Given the scale of trauma caused by the genocide, Rwanda has indicated that however thin the hope of a community can be, a hero always emerges. Although no one can dare claim that it is now a perfect state, and that no more work is needed, Rwanda has risen from the ashes as a model or truth and reconciliation.
    (Wole Soyinka)

    So why not Sri Lanka? We too can do it!!!

    I think a hero has emerged for us in the form of President Maitripala Sirisena.

  • 0
    0

    To the Editor of Colombo Telegraph,

    As indicated in Dr. Laksiri Fernando’s comment above, I kindly request you to send me his email address so that I may communicate with him directly.

  • 0
    0

    Dr Laksiri Fernando

    This may be a little too long as ‘comment/reply’ for your article-but please bear with me.

    “Sri Lanka Reconciliation”–what a noble though a difficult mission. If a few patriotic Sri Lankan intellectuals –most of them have been Sinhalese–could come together to successfully contribute to the dislodgement of Mahinda Rajapakse’s despotic regime for the good of the country, so can they bring about this elusive reconciliation that has eaten into the core of the Sri Lankan fabric—politically, socially and economically.

    The first task would be the realisation that Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims are the different limbs of the same body and injuring, hurting or thwarting one limb will verily affect the whole body and will only lead to the degeneration of the whole body and will never be able to bring out its full potential that would benefit the whole body.

    The second is that it has been the ploy on the part of the politicians on all sides of the ethnic divide, to seek political fortunes and social power and gain parliamentary seats by only propagating fear and hatred about the other community—Sinhalese politicians saying that Tamils are bent on gaining dominance with the help of their brethren from Tamil Nadu (but that the politicians from Tamil Nadu are exploiting the Sri Lanka Tamil issue riding on them to gain political leverage for them is another matter) and Tamil politicians saying that the Sinhalese are bent on eliminating the Tamils completely and erase their identity from Sri Lanka. Politicians on both sides have found that this and only this pays and works well to gain their parliamentary seats. The tragedy is that this is even true this day and would be so in the next parliamentary elections too.

    The principles you have stated as “our Statement of Beliefs”- are very welcome as ‘general outlines’ but what are the specifics that we have to be seen on the field to show practically that the country is moving ahead to attain these noble objectives?

    Further, the well-meaning intellectuals and educated amongst the Sinhalese and Tamils are able to have friendly, cordial and constructive exchange of thoughts and ideas with each other because of their knowledge of the common language – English. However, the majority of those both in the Sinhalese, and Tamil communities know only their mother tongue—only Sinhalese or Tamil. (The Muslims have an advantage because they can speak Tamil and Sinhalese). When the ordinary Tamils and Sinhalese meet each other, they are like strangers. How can they communicate with each other even socially when they have this big gap in communication? .Either English must be introduced in schools as a compulsory language (but it would be ‘bowled out’ as ‘colonial mentality’ or ‘unpatriotic’) or Sinhalese and Tamil must be introduced as a common curriculum to be studied in all the schools by every- one.

    But which politician would introduce it when their basic propaganda to win the elections is to spew hatred against the other community and their leaders?

    In regard to the Diaspora, it would seem it is easier to win them over simply by appealing to their ‘animalism’ and ‘animal behaviour’, than to appeal to their noble and ‘human’ instincts. Revenge, anger, and enmity are “very easy sell” than reason and humanism. The war has made it worse and the Diaspora, ably aided and abetted by the triumphal tones of the Sinhalese politicians, and the Tamil politician’s bickering cry of having been trampled by the Sinhala government, are generally finding some sort of vicarious pleasures akin to licking the blood or the wounds and scratching it further, than to find measures to get them healed. Healing has to come from the top, and perhaps propelled by the middle –and that too certainly from the so called ‘victor’ than the so called ‘vanquished’. The realisation that “among brothers there is no victor nor vanquished” has to necessarily come. .

    For a start, at least , why cannot all the sign -boards all over Sri Lanka, and all Departmental Forms and announcements be in all three languages—Sinhalese, Tamil, & Sinhalese. One does not has to go too far but only have to look at Singapore to see how this policy is implemented beautifully to the benefit of everyone –be it the majority Chinese or minority Malays or Tamils. It can be done forthwith in Sri Lanka but it needs a broad minded vision and political will for the good of the country. In Sri Lanka, we are unable to do even this simple thing—What reconciliation then?

    The other immediate thing is the repeal of the draconian PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and if needed replacement with a more humane version and release of the detainees. Those who are to be charged should be brought to Courts, and trials completed expeditiously and transparently and others released forthwith.

    Another is the settlement of the displaced in their own homes which have been taken over by security forces and those landless settled in proper accommodations in their areas they have lived.

    And, the Implement the Provisions of the 13th Amendment genuinely and sincerely in ALL the provinces of Sri Lanka in FULL and both in law and spirit.

    Only if the above can be done , we can show the common people some tangible results towards goodwill and reconciliation and a sense of “belonging to Sri Lanka “ will come at all levels amongst all the marginalised communities.

    In all this there will be persons to thwart for some reason or another. But they can be ignored and history will throw them into the dustbins they deserve.

    If the Sri Lankan intellectuals and the ‘Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum’ achieve these immediate objectives , then it will be more than just a mere Forum ; then it would be easier to sow the seeds for a ‘Sri Lankan Reconciliation Forum’ in all the countries as you would like to and certainly I will be glad to be one of them.

    • 0
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      Abimanu,

      Thank you very much for your encouraging comments. I have read the whole of it carefully although this response is short. We are working on many/some of those suggestions although under constraints. I would suggest you to convert your thoughts into an article and publish with Colombo Telegraph. Substance is already there. At least you can publish for example as ‘Random Thoughts on Reconciliation.’ Please visit our website although it is not very elaborate. http://www.slreconsyd.org.au/ We will be improving on it in the future. It gives our email address for you to write to us. Yes, it can be converted into a ‘Sri Lankan Reconciliation Forum’ in all countries in the process if we can attract people like you to the effort. Please be in touch with us.

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