29 September, 2020

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Remembering The Past & Protecting The Future

By Pat Lawrence

Dr. Pat Lawrence

Dr. Pat Lawrence

The place was quiet and removed, surrounded by nature, yet for two very full days in early April it overflowed with creative energy of drama and theatre, visual arts, transitional justice theory and practice, youth leadership through community mobilization, and skills for writing historical biography. A profound and gripping drama about endemic violence was performed by youth at the end. The honor of being part of this transformative workshop has left me with fresh appreciation for the strength and vision of Sri Lanka’s new generation. Their shared thoughts about justice, the value of open sharing and listening, and the importance of compatibility and understanding across all communities on the island was uplifting.

Remembering the Past and Protecting the Future was the title of this workshop that brought members of Youth for a Shared Future from Anuradhapura, Ampara, Killinochi and Jaffna together at a retreat center in Thannamunai, Batticaloa. The Social Architects team orchestrated the workshop for 180 attendees; bringing together Sinhala, Tamil, and Muslim youth between the ages of 18 to 27 who are in accordance about the need for positive transformation of communal relationships.

Remembering the Past and Protecting the FutureMs. Navaranjini Nadarajah taught the workshop theme on “Transitional Justice Theory and Practice” with Father Elilrajan, to youth that chose to be in that particular thematic group. Afterward she reflected on what happened, “The youth have such positive energy; their energy can transform the country for a brighter future. Their combined attitude, creativity, and love become a common language that is beyond the language barriers. It is important to connect them (from all communities) and to build a bridge to shared truth about the past and fear about the future.”

The workshop leaders learned an attitude of optimism from the participants: Mr. Sornalingham reflected on his experience of leading the group theme, “Youth Mobilization to Promote Transitional Justice” with these words:

The process I went through as a group leader was first a struggle, then it was challenging, and gradually the youths and I began to see the Light and then it was inspiring for all of us – the workshop brought Light for the future. The youths’ involvement and engagement was inspiring. So I came away from the experience with the thought, “Don’t be fearful when you have to walk in the dark, eventually you will come into the Light.”

The theme of the workshop I taught with Ms. Sherine Xavier was “Re-writing History through Shared Memory” in which we taught writing skills relevant to historical biographies that will be published by The Social Architects. They are preparing to interview their grandparents, uncles and aunts, parents, and other elders. As we worked on writing skills together, I began to understand that there was some underlying discomfort in generational relationships between youth and elders. They expressed an earnest wish to know about past events during the war and the preceding post-independence period and they were acutely aware that the older generation has kept much of the past enshrouded in silence, or they chose to tell a version of the past that may not have been real truth. The younger generation that attended the workshop wants this history out in the open. A young Tamil man from Jaffna with strong motivation to become a journalist stood up during the writing workshop and stated emphatically into the microphone, “Everyone has a right to know about the past. Wounds turn into scars, and when you are able to look at the scar, you don’t want to be wounded again.” It was necessary for the older generation to conceal what they knew about events because it was safest ‘not to know,’ particularly in neighborhoods that became places where violence and loss of life was a way of life. For those who were caught in-between gun-carrying groups, it became critically necessary not draw attention, to live very quietly and to learn to self-censor conversation and speech in order to protect family members, friends, neighbors, and themselves. At times they simply struggled for bare survival – times when they lost any sense of future. During a debate presented by those participating in “Transitional Justice, Theory and Practice,” participants raised the question, “Is the older generation trying to protect the past or the future?” The young generation aspires to facing the future with knowledge from the past, which will create both a past and a future with shared understanding.

During the workshop for “Transitional Justice Theory and Practice,” a young Sinhala woman from Keppithigollawa in Anuradapura District, stated,

“I want to live with Tamil and Muslim communities to know their feelings and their loss. We don’t call the LTTE “Terrorists,” we call them “Freedom Fighters” (Satanigkami). Earlier, I had little understanding about what Tamil youth were thinking about us (Sinhalese community members). During this workshop I could feel the Tamil youth’s true emotions – I found them so friendly and at the same time, they have lost so much and they have their grievances. They want reconciliation and peace, and they want to live in dignity with all three communities.”

Her statement about overcoming lack of understanding across different ethnic communities speaks to the main purpose of the workshop. Can the country support communication across different communities and create connections where there has been divisiveness? While Father Elilrajan was discussing the topic of ‘justice,’ a young Sinhalese man commented, “We need justice. All of us, whether we are Tamil or Singhalese or Muslim. All of us need justice for all forms of loss inflicted by others.” Can the government move forward in affirming diversity, responding to reparations, and facilitating shared understanding?

Discussion with the youth revealed a lack of historical knowledge, for example, while working collectively on writing about an event in 1988, their descriptions of clothing worn during that period was from a much earlier period, the late 1800’s, not 1988! The younger generation has huge gaps in historical knowledge, so they must do careful research when they write stories about an earlier period; they must ask many questions of their storytellers so they can provide detail and include accurate historical contextualization.

I was taken aback when the debate on “Truth &Reconciliation vs Truth, Justice and Reconciliation where youth from all three communities represented each of these themes for debate. The way the youth openly talked about the need for whole truth and quest for justice so that the county can forward. They were very clear about what they wanted.

The last youth performance was a powerful outdoor drama about the injury and power of political violence and the militarization of Sri Lankan society. The performance was held at 11:30 pm outdoors with lights illuminating the actors and coconut palms around them.  The ‘minimalist’ stage set had a screen showing film footage of a person swimming in the ocean where the surf was breaking, struggling in the waves to keep his head out of the water, with the camera looking down from above. The only props were simply long, thick broken palmyra branch stems, with the palm leaves stripped off, held as weapons. Ten actors in the roles of angry villagers marched-danced across the stage, holding their weapons at chest height, wanting justice. They wanted justice but they also wanted weapons in their hands. From “backstage,” in the dark behind the coconut palms, the sound of drumming reached the audience. Taken from a true story about a murder of a mentally unsound boy on October 28, 2009, actors were cast in the roles of the victim’s family. The family members in turn voiced their despair, finally the mother came front stage, questioning their sense of justice, “How many years have I been expecting justice for my son’s murder? My son is a Tamil boy and that’s why they killed him. They would not kill a Sinhalese.” All actors formed a curtain call line under the stars and bowed to us in that place on the ground surrounded by palm trees in the dark. It was a ground where orphans play basketball that they had transformed into a deeply moving and powerful play. To me, the play said: if there is an enemy, it is not another community, but instead it is the waves of violence in which people were awash, that crashed over them and took from them any control they had over their lives.

Mr. Nalinda Premarathne, who led the “Sighting Memory through Visual Arts and Drama” workshop with Mr. Daramasiri Bandaranayake and Mr. Godwin Anandh, thought about how the workshop was designed and stated, “This may be the first time the youth from different communities could come together. For example, the youth from Anaradhapura are from two border villages that were still completely socially segregated and never travelled to the otherside. However these young people worked very closely together the others and produced a single script for the play. We should create many more opportunities to allow the new generation to come together like this. The new generation only has to remember and carry the lesson, they don’t have to carry the other baggage that is still with their elders.”

Although it was a challenging task to bring together so many young people from around the island, the participants created a force of very positive energy. They concentrated on awareness of similarities, common ground, and common aspirations in a workshop that was the very first of its kind. This cutting edge endeavor continues to be developed by the Social Architects.

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Latest comments

  • 11
    16

    Well look dear!

    You are obviously a well meaning individual. However, the moment you mentioned “Social Architects” it kind of started ringing alarm bells.

    After reading the piece it occurred to me the entire effort is to whitewash Tamil terrorism in Sri Lanka. Sorry to be so negative but look closely.

    “I want to live with Tamil and Muslim communities to know their feelings and their loss. We don’t call the LTTE “Terrorists,” we call them “Freedom Fighters” (Satanigkami). Earlier” –

    A young Sinhala woman from Keppithigollawa in Anuradapura District

    This is a young Sinhala woman who now seems to think LTTE are not “terrorists”. She comes from the village that this took place.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kebithigollewa_massacre

    Was there any Tamils who took upon themselves and took accountability of their own terror? I’d imagine there weren’t any. There would not be if “Social Scientists” are involved.

    Social Scientists are a group of former hard-core LTTE sympathisers now fraudulently operating under a social advocacy group.

    If you are doing this kind of thing make sure Tamils are held accountable for their crimes and make sure its balanced. At the moments it looks like a complete whitewash of Tamil crimes.

    • 2
      1

      Vibhushana,

      There were many “Kebitigollewa type” of massacres earlier.

      file:///C:/Users/dr.s/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/IE/NRHP1TP0/Lest_We_Forget.pdf

      These were part of the causes of Tamils resorting to armed rebellion,
      against regimes which ignored them.

    • 3
      1

      Vibhushana SC/ST,
      this is Boston Brahman.
      When I saw for the first time Social Architects` I took a step back because Tony Blair and his spin doctors made `social sciences` at London universities to Social Engineering – A very impulsive arts subject Social to rational Engineering.

      Do you know the difference between `Social Architects` and `Social Engineering`??

      When you southern villager off free education with the mind of Mao and a baddie refugee down under because of jealousy have researched it- Let us know.

      she is trying experimenting and trying to change attitudes that greedy SWRD who bit the hands that fed him landed the island into- his family CBK continues it dynest of the Bandas from the villagers like the fascist of the world.

      Dr Pat please keep it up – as this idiot does not know how to count his blessings- greed of the baldie. Before 48 all was quit and picturesque.

    • 2
      2

      IS this another kind of hidden drama to convert people for the only true faith.

      they find some issue to convert people.

    • 2
      1

      Hey Vibushanam you dimwit, just shut up and piss off you moron.

    • 2
      3

      “I want to live with Tamil and Muslim communities to know their feelings and their loss. We don’t call the LTTE “Terrorists,” we call them “Freedom Fighters” (Satanigkami). Earlier” –

      Above statement is BS.

      Lay people, what ever the religion or beliefs are, they are always innocent and cooperative to each other.

      but, it is the not same with church or the Mosque or their agents. they have other agenda’s in their mind.

      I am pretty sure, this is another Mother Theresa.

      Final objective is to convert.

      There are over 43000 different christian Ideologies. They put forward ideologies one different to the other. but, ultimate objective is to reach the almighty.

    • 4
      2

      Vibushana:
      Why do you insist on making these inane comments? Clearly your capacity to read and understand complex arguments seems quite limited.I think you should find some other past time and stop polluting the pages of this site.

  • 6
    9

    Dr. Pat Lawrence

    RE: Remembering The Past & Protecting The Future

    1. “Their shared thoughts about justice, the value of open sharing and listening, and the importance of compatibility and understanding across all communities on the island was uplifting.”

    2. “The Social Architects team orchestrated the workshop for 180 attendees; bringing together Sinhala, Tamil, and Muslim youth between the ages of 18 to 27 who are in accordance about the need for positive transformation of communal relationships.”

    3. “Although it was a challenging task to bring together so many young people from around the island, the participants created a force of very positive energy.”

    Yes, the opposite of Ediriweera Sarathchandras’s Racist Myth Drama, Sinhabahu.

    Yes, it is good remembering The Past & Protecting The Future, the past of Vellaha Racism and Castism and Racism of Sinhala Mahawansa “Buddhism”, which the so-called “Leaders” promoted since “Independence”, which were against egalitarianism and social justice.

    Please Read the many good articles by H L D Mahindapala, Izeth Hussien on the subjects Vellahala Castism and Racism and Tamil Racism towards the Muslims and its roots in Cast-ism and Hinduism. Please also read the various comments.

    Violent Vellahlas Despised & Oppressed The Tamils

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/violent-vellahlas-despised-oppressed-the-tamils/

    Tamil Racism & 13 A – Part II

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/tamil-racism-13-a-part-ii/comment-page-1/#comment-1954932

    • 5
      3

      Amerasiripala, SC/ST,

      You are not a rationalist as you portrayed to be several years ago on CT.
      You troll 24/7/53- 356 days Now you are the biggest exponent of Sleeping Pills.
      The company you keep proclaims who you are- when we have no access to your private way of life.
      When I enter your home and see your toilet and kitchen I know who you are beyond what your friends portray of you.
      Take care village Commie because all commies are parasites who survive when there is a democracy or they die and become like North Korea.

      The names you mentioned above IH Pala have some good point alas one or 2 but you are seeing it with the visor of a fascist like Franco the Frog.

      • 3
        2

        halifax

        Didn’t realize that exposing Vellahalism gets some Tamils, presumably Vellahalas agitated.

        If you have a corrected or better version of the Truth, please let us know. Amarasiri has never been to Jaffna, so far, bit would like to check out the onion prices in the peninsula.

        There is a traditional cure for it. Go and poison, some poor non-Vellala Tamil wells, and put some fences astound the Temples to keep them out, and getting too close to the Vellahala Gods.

        Now getting a better understanding of the bimodal IQ distribution of the Tamils, as published in CT.

        The Story Of Two Graphs drawn by A Tamil Man: By Mahesan Niranjan

        Onion Prices and Tamil IQ Distributions

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-story-of-two-graphs-drawn-by-a-tamil-man/onioniqdistributions/

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-story-of-two-graphs-drawn-by-a-tamil-man/

        • 5
          2

          School Teachers: Mahesan & Amere – Peradeniya (uni) Politicians-

          “”Didn’t realize that exposing Vellahalism gets some Tamils, presumably Vellahalas agitated……..””

          I would rather not answer.

          —-

          Even for the whites of the west Equal Opportunities is Utopian.

          Reasonable nations live in peace and reasonable husbands and
          wives live in happiness.

          A logical man speaks in the body of the letter and the reasonable man,
          the truly human spirit, speaks in the postscript.

          Tired and aimlessly walking I saw the following words

          “The past is for reference, not residence”. Positive Powerful words!

          Life is too short to bear grudges. forgive, and move on!

          • 4
            2

            halifax

            ” I would rather not answer.”

            It is wise, until the Vehhalalas calm down, not to disturb the Vellahala Bees Nest, and be stung repeatedly, as Izeth Hussein is saying and H L D Mahindapala is experiencing.

            After all, that was the Vellahala Strategy all along, intimidation of the non-Vellahalas.

            Who is losing?

            • 2
              4

              Amarasiri,

              Dog in the Manger- look inwards not vellala.

              • 3
                0

                halifax

                Looking Inwards at the Vellala Dogs not letting Low Caste Tamil cattle come near the Well or the Temple…

                There was a wicked Vellala dog lying in a manger full of hay. When the Low Caste Tamil cattle came and wanted to eat, the Vellala dog barred their way, baring his teeth. The Low Caste Tamil cattle said to the Vellala dog, “You are being very unfair by begrudging us something we need which is useless to you. Vellala Dogs don’t eat hay, but you will not let us near it.” The fable shows that it is not easy to avoid envy; with some effort you can try to escape its effects, but it never goes away entirely.’

  • 4
    7

    I’ve seen these Lankan skits before. White person comes in and teaches us this bs……and for the next generation or two, you’d find some Christian priest or two (attempting to achieve the British pastor of yore look), standing around a bunch of youth play-acting the historical-perspective in some kind of perverse style. Very embarrassing to witness, actually.

    All the while, other White people are teaching our people the “Democratic-Art-of-Free-Border-Trade”, and our people are decadent enough to put their money on off-shore accounts for the benefit of the White people.

    • 4
      2

      Hey Ramona Therese, you are half white. So what problem do you have with well meaning white people?

      • 2
        8

        All we ask of White people is that they do not dupe us of our national money by encouraging things like “free-trade” in off-shore banking.

        We ask them to help us return our money from the overseas accounts and implement a good taxation system.

        Once we have the country money replaced and shared appropriately, we will not need their skits and teddy-bear hugging.

        We will leave it to our own Sinhalese and Tamil social scientists to show us the way, otherwise our ancient culture/s will soon become a set of new-style biala dances, but nothing else concrete. (One would find that the new-style biala dances will take on a different meaning as you go South).

        I’m ½ Burgher (not too sure if that is the same as ½ White….maybe it’s close).

        • 1
          1

          Burgher is a mix of local and either Dutch, English or one from Portugal. What is the common denominator here? They all have white skin. So before you throw garbage here, think who you are criticizing.

          • 0
            0

            Well,….what the good doctor is doing might work…..if it gives people some comfort, then go for it….but as Vibushana said above, it kind of starts ringing alarm bells when she mentions social architecturing. And we never know what the White countries have in mind for our fragile Island.

            There are some Europeans who truly understand the situation and are doing a lot of good work in our Island. But if this lady is from the US Dept. of State, we have to give her a better understanding of our situation.

            Look what they did to Libya. They regret it now, but long after the fact. We need to continually communicate with them and give them an understating of where we stand- and not just one side of it from village level, but the whole country from capital city to town and village.

            As per the Burghers, yes, they were initially mix of local and either Dutch, English or one from Portugal (and probably Jews and Blacks also). After the first community was started, when more Europeans came to shore, they naturally mixed with the available mixed community….although at times local women were also taken, to add again to the community. Furthermore, whole families of Europeans migrated when the steamship became more accessible for sea travel. Burghers nowadays range in their mixtures, but most are more European quantifiable.

            • 0
              0

              As per me, the Tamil/Sinhala genes stands out more.

      • 1
        0

        You know the bottom `half of the burger` when it gets angry it goes from brown to black.
        Whites from the north of Europe turn pink when they get angry.

        Like Cyril Matthew the old hag has a problem now the old hag has Modawanse as Icon.

        • 0
          1

          pink and quite young :)

          • 0
            0

            [Edited out]

  • 3
    0

    Vibushana.

    I suggest that you read the article again!
    Racism invariably clouds objectivity!

    • 1
      0

      [Edited out]

  • 4
    0

    Isn’t it better for us to appreciate their effort on this difficult subject to bring together 180 children from different communities and listen to them about their views on truth, justice and reconciliation and encourage them to find a way forward together. In this process we may hear different views and opinions representing spectrum of the general population view points and narratives propagated by media and politicians. It will be a highly responsible task for the organisers to find space to accommodate and appreciate these expressions and find ways for reconciliation. Many more of these endeavours should be encouraged with participation of professionals who have high negotiating and conflict resolution skills. How else this could be done?

  • 3
    0

    Why are some of these comments so Negative?
    Let us at least, Try to Join these Youths in bringing some sort of Unity in Sri Lanka!

  • 1
    4

    Why do we need some white person to tell us how to reconcile, in this case cross pollinate with some drama thrown in? It is her ancestors during the colonial times that set a wedge between the communities and did every thing possible to widen the divide!
    Are we all half wits that we need white people or foreign judges / institutions to bring communities together?

    • 2
      0

      another fascist,

      “”Why do we need some white person to tell us how to reconcile,””

      because all your leaders put together are not worth your salt.
      Living the dream of Stalin,Mao the ones who mass murdered their own people by hoodwinking Roosevelt and the American people.
      Go wash your socks Phew!!!

  • 1
    0

    Frankistine,
    You fail to mention Hitler in your list. Is it because he is white? Pure white as he claimed!
    Don’t go backward! Lets fast forward and add to your list – Tony Blair, Nicholas Sarcozy, Hilary Clinton…. Ah, you cannot do that! They are white and pure as the snow, they cannot do any wrong.
    I will wash my socks, you go wash your backside. They say ‘cleanliness is next to godliness!’ in this part of the world.

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