14 June, 2024

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Risk Of Repeating The Past Continues 

By Jehan Perera

ජෙහාන් පෙරේරා

Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict appears stagnant though with a supportive international environment. The international community with the US, EU and India in the lead have been supporting Sri Lanka both economically and politically, especially with regard to seeking a just and mutually acceptable solution to the long protracted ethnic conflict. There are examples of other seemingly intractable conflicts suddenly going away. But these never went away on their own. There was a lot of work that was done, often behind the scenes by leaders who put the future before the past. Sri Lanka needs to take its opportunity sooner rather than later, which it can if its political and thought leaders choose wisely. An example to emulate would be Western Europe after the Second World War.

Prior to the end of the Second World War, the countries of Europe seemed to be permanently in conflict as their alliances shifted from one rival group to another. Europe had a hundred year long war between France and England. But the mass devastation of the Second World War and the formation of the European Union to help the battered European economies recover has meant that war in Western Europe has become unthinkable. Europe also produced world renowned thinkers on peace such as Johan Galtung who recently passed away and gave to the world the conceptual difference between positive peace and negative peace. There can be a similar phenomenon at work in Sri Lanka too. After the end of the three decade long war and more recently the economic collapse the ethnic conflict is fading into the background outside of the theatre of war in the north and east. But it is a negative peace, an absence of war rather than a celebration of peace with all communities feeling this country is their home and treats them as its children.

At a recent seminar for youth on living in a plural society, most of them had no idea that there had been an internal war in the country or the causes that had led to the war. This was not true, however, of the youth who came from the north and east, but they too showed no great interest in engaging the topic. A more positive indication of this new phenomenon has been the government’s decision to downsize the military by reducing recruitments and without it leading to nationalist outrage. The focus of popular attention has become the economy, issues of corruption and abuse of power. Initiatives that present the possibility of a mutually acceptable solution to the ethnic conflict would tend to be seen in a benign way. It needs to be kept that way. The private member’s bill before parliament to revoke the police powers granted under the 13th Amendment goes counter to this.

Winning Trust 

There is growing recognition among community leaders belonging to all ethnicities and religions that greater efforts need to be made to support and give recognition to nation-building work. A recent event organized by the International Human Rights Global Mission (a locally led initiative) had the theme of empowering communities for a better tomorrow. The organizing team with its chief advisor M H M Niyas invited Speaker Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to be the chief guest. When he was unable to attend, the organisers showed a bipartisan spirit in inviting SJB’s Hon Tissa Attanayake to preside at the awards ceremony. The inclusive approach carried over to honoring a wide circle of social service personnel including physically handicapped achievers and veterans in the field such as Dr Joe William who has rendered service in non-violent communication for the past three decades.

There are two recent initiatives to promote national reconciliation that have evoked protest, but which have potential for constructive problem solving if done in a more sensitive and consultative manner. The first is the gazetting of the Commission for Truth, Unity and Reconciliation Bill. Civic activists, especially those who represent the victim population in the north and east have been very critical of the draft law. In particular, they have focused on the toxic larger environment in which there is disregard about the fate of the missing persons and their families who continue to suffer from neglect.

The general response to the new reconciliation mechanism has been largely one of lack of interest. The draft law is seen as merely setting up another mechanism to investigate what happened in the past. There is a lack of trust regarding the new mechanism in the victim population and in the civil society groups that speak up for them. The missing dimension would be for the government to negotiate with the representatives of the victim community who are to be found in both civil society and in the political parties that campaign for such causes. The requirement that the families of those who went missing need to make the applications on their behalf again can be cruel, given the many times they have already given evidence and the government had failed to process those applications.

In Europe after the Second World War, reconciliation came through work in many areas, but also after the Nuremberg trials. Those trials were possible because the side that was defeated was made accountable for their crimes which included genocide of Jews, Slavs and Gypsies. In Sri Lanka, on the other hand, those who are to be made accountable would mostly come from the side of the victors in the war which makes it an uphill task. This is a conundrum that requires a negotiated solution in which the representatives of the victim communities are empowered to sit at the negotiating table especially as this was an internal conflict.

Political Solution

The second initiative has been to promote reconciliation in the form of a Diaspora-Buddhist Monks dialogue that has formed the basis for the “Himalaya Declaration.” This agreement has been rejected by some other sections of the Tamil Diaspora questioning the representation and by some civil society groups who represent victims and their families in the field in Sri Lanka. However, it also represents one of a small number of agreements publicly reached between those deemed to be at the extremes in many cases in the past. But these pacts and accords failed to hold, though they had been signed by prime ministers and presidents. The core themes articulated by the Himalaya Declaration are general rather than specific. But their willingness to reach agreement is indicative of the potential for forward movement.

It is also noteworthy that the Buddhist monks who signed the declaration are those who have obtained senior positions within their own order. This has enabled them to be more forthcoming in discussing the Himalaya Declaration both with Buddhist clergy and also with the most senior monks in the hierarchy who have said that they are prepared to spend more time bringing ethnic and religious harmony in the country. One of the six points mentioned in the Himalaya Declaration calls for “Devolving power in a united and undivided country.” These are practiced in India and many other countries including those which are similarly multi ethnic and multi religious like Malaysia and Indonesia in our region.

The fundamental issue for the non-recurrence of war and conflict is to find a way in which the different ethnic or religious communities share the power to decide on the country’s future. For the victim community, accountability will be the priority interest. But for the Tamil people as a whole, the main root cause of their discontent is the powerlessness of the ethnic and religious minorities to defend their own rights, to decide for themselves and govern themselves. This points to the need for constitutional reform after elections. If constitutional reform with consultation and participation by the ethnic and religious minorities becomes a reality Sri Lanka will be on the road to relegate ethnic conflict to the past, as in Western Europe. If not it can mean that the reconciliation process will take much longer, due to the lack of consensus on contentious issues articulated by political leaders, which was responsible for the emergence of the three decade long war in the 1980s.

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Latest comments

  • 16
    1

    … positive indication of this new phenomenon has been the government’s decision to downsize the military.
    ?!
    Jehan, You are trying to make sense, in a senseless way.
    The size of the military was not the problem. It was what they do and how they do it!
    As a matter of fact, even the Police conduct themselves in a military fashion.

    • 7
      0

      Nathan,
      Still, it is good that at last the government has seen how ridiculous it is to maintain a lakhs-strong military when there is no credible threat. The truth is that most of these people were recruited to give them cushy employment . Bankruptcy is a great teacher.

      • 2
        0

        old codger,
        Reducing the ‘size’ of the military is nice. But, reducing their presence in our lives is what matters!
        .
        Bankruptcy is a good teacher. Are the people able students?

    • 3
      0

      Why demilitarize? Putting a long story short, the alleged excesses. This exercise of shrinking the role of the military commenced with the “Yahapalana” regime of 2015 though not steady. Along with it this country became a Police State. We could hear of so many Police excesses. To crown it all His Axcellency Ranil Sriyan Wickramasinghe appoints a torturer using Siddhalepa as a torture apparatus as the 36th IGP of Sri Lanka. Now others can turn around say that none of the service chiefs have ever been found guilty for torturing by a court of law. Damn it! What we need is a civilized rule by civilians.

  • 21
    2

    As usual Ranil has invited all CEO’s / major players, for a round table discussion on uplifting the bankrupt economy. Himalayan task indeed.

    • 27
      1

      Congratulations, a court convicted human rights violator is now appointed as IGP, by own President. At first day at work, IGP arrived before the SC in connection with several fundamental rights violation.

      • 29
        2

        Sorry for missing the fun part. Rogue speaker used his decisive vote to nominate IGP, when 8 members of CC, was divided in a tie. Mother of all Kaputas promised to defeat the NCM brought against rogue speaker. The Silly Lankan constipational council has 10 members, out of which, for convenience, one allocated to the minority was never filled. Imagine the stalemate otherwise in appointing human rights violator as IGP. Seven of them are from parliament ( very funny ) and three others from civil society . Rogue speaker, President , and opposition leader are appointed by virtue, three other MP’s nominated by President are all SLPP. Reportedly 4 voted for , 2 against and 2 abstained ??? A SHAM argument preceded before counting absent votes as against, so that Yapa could cast his decisive vote. We are still in the past, going in reverse mode.

  • 15
    1

    How many times Sri lanka is going to solve the ethnic proplem and economic problem with the same political institutions and political parties? Overall results is bankruptcy. The pockets of Politicians and their collies filled with dollars and pounds but the people pockets continue to bankrupt. This is the history of Sri lanka since it becomes puppet governments sponsored by West and East.

  • 2
    4

    JP, Interesting that you talk of positive peace and negative peace which is the absence of war. Truth, Unity and Reconciliation bill gazetted does not consider missing persons in the north and east of Sri Lanka, and their family concerns, though after the Nuremberg trials after WW2, those responsible in Europe were made accountable for the genocide of Jews and others voiced by Johan Galtung. The other initiative of Reconciliation or a Diaspora-Buddhist Monk dialogue you say has been questioned and rejected. Like Galtung, the belief system is vitally important to bring peace as set out by Jesus 2000 years ago, the Prince of Peace who healed and forgave sins and taught a method of trusting a higher authority, our creator God Almighty who made man in his own image. It is not exaltation of self, but only truth and righteousness bringing in reconciliation and love to other human beings, to be God’s family kept in perfect peace. Isaiah 26,3

    • 2
      0

      DTG have you never seen pictures of conjoined twins? In His image?

      • 0
        2

        Paul, Conjoined twins you mention are a part of the sickness that Jesus came to heal due to the disobedience of the man Adam created perfect by God but was deceived by the angel leader Lucifer who wanted to be like God and be worshipped.. When devil cast out of heaven with the other disobedient and deceived angels who became demons, they finally wanted disobedient humans to worship the fallen Lucifer devil. All that sin and sickness in the world today was what Jesus came to nullify by taking it on himself for all humans of the world at the crucifixion. We need to be part of that truth to be healed and imaged eternally and not be sadly conjoined or get any other physical defect while living on earth.

  • 28
    2

    Ranil is an ace bullshitter …….. that’s what he has done his entire life.

    He is going to give the Tamils frigging nothing: if he really wants to give anything he could’ve done it already without bullshitting. …….. I’m more sure of Ranil’s intensions even more than I’m sure of the sun rising tomorrow …….

    Jehan is another rascal who is helping Ranil to keep this charade alive …….. to the outside “Western world.” ……. Two peas in the same pod. …… It’s a subtle deceptive Punch and Judy show.

    Tamils should learn to spot their real enemy ……… even people like Eagle-Eye ……. were true and upfront honest open enemies …… you could spot ……


    I hate the bloody Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Commies, Socialists, Sinhala-Buddhists, Nazis, Fascists, Catholics, ……… used to love Ramona ……… until Old Codger stole her away ……..

    Don’t accuse me later ……. that I wasn’t upfront about all my pet hatreds …….

    • 0
      11

      Ramona I thought is a commie… 😉 but i guess there could always be exceptions… :D

  • 18
    2

    The Himalayan Blunder is an effort by non-representative members of the diaspora negotiating a deal, in secret, funded by no one knows who, and foisting it on the Tamil community. We know that the Mahanayakes are against the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. So, what is this bullshit about devolution. It is an act of deception of the Tamils to benefit Ranil W’s hopes. It is not going to work. The Reconciliation Bill is a wastage of tax-payers’ money. Another commission to cover the eyes of those who watch the drama, without being fooled. The mothers of the missing will fight on knowing that nothing will come out of this effort. There have been others before which did not achieve anything. So, why bother.

  • 0
    12

    Dr. JP states: “This was not true, however, of the youth who came from the north and east, but they too showed no great interest in engaging the topic.” but offers very little, if at all, insight as to why!?

    • 13
      1

      An intelligent an will give his observations of an event but will hesitate to give his opinions or analysis.

      Ruchi you are different, like a jack in a box you keep giving your opinions ! Perhaps your lack of real intelligence. The story of many of Sri Lankan higher education products.

      The story of the country shows the truth

  • 5
    0

    The President- the Highest Executive tasked with the responsibility of recommending appointment to the few positions that are specifically stated in the Constitution, has ignored contemptuously the rulings of the Highest Court – the Supreme Court of the country, against this Deshabandu Thennakone in appointing him to head the Police Force – the State Agency that takes care of the Public- to Serve and Protect. This President – Ranil W has therefore VIOLATED the Constitution for which he must be made responsible and accountable.

    Next, the Speaker has violated the provisions of the Constitution, in electing to cast his deciding vote, he is authorized to vote ONLY at a time of a deadlock of voting (equal in YES and NO) in favor of the only nominee of the President. Therefore, the Speaker must be made to answer and account for the violation of the Constitution.

    The next person to be made accountable and answerable is the Secretary to the Constitutional Council, who informed the Presidential Secretariat that a “Decision” has been made to appoint the incumbent Deshabandu Thennakone to the post of IGP.

    I suggest the next Government to come to initiate action against all of the THREE above and establish that NEW culture in Governance, the people are DEMANDING -the SYSTEM CHANGE.

    • 4
      1

      Thennakone-is he Tamil? King of the South it means in Tamil. Is he going to usurp Ranil’s throne?

  • 7
    1

    “ supporting Sri Lanka both economically and politically”
    Countries that are trying to decide on the fate of SL with China on one side and India along with USA UK Australia & Japan on the other side.
    Both sides DO NOT really have our Isle’s interest at heart. They don’t care whether they fight among themselves as long as our rulers remain faithful to the neighbouring Big Brother.
    What the Good Citizens of SL desire is
    —Establishment of Law and Order
    —Non interference by rulers in the important senior government positions
    —New lot of Parliamentarians who are educated /non-Selfish/ uncorrupted/cultured
    —to get back the looted money to the GoSL’s Coffers
    —to make sure hard earned Foreign Exchange spent wisely and efficiently
    —Remove the pension benefits to all politicians
    — to drastically reduce defence expenses
    —That Lake House Newspapers made independent public papers

    • 3
      1

      Naman,
      “That Lake House Newspapers made independent public papers”
      Are there independent public papers? I think not.

  • 4
    1

    Continued
    —to keep the clergy out of the Politics
    —to see the politicians not visiting Temples PUBLICLY
    —to see genuine Business men who don’t seek political support and pay their due taxes
    —see Schools become SECULAR with admission to all ethnic groups
    —Actions taken against anyone promoting hatred
    —see diaspora being granted

    • 0
      0

      Nathan: “See schools become SECULAR with admission to all ethnic groups”…I would continue and add: Teach all three languages, Sinhala, Tamil, and English from the primary and make all of them compulsory.

      “see diaspora being granted” what?

      “Establishment of Law and Order”. Re-draft it as Enforce Law and Order Equally to all and make Judiciary Independent.

      • 7
        1

        Douglas,
        It would be best if religion was kept out of schools entirely, but that isn’t practical. However making religious studies compulsory should be stopped. Parents should have the right to choose even no religion at all for their kids.
        Most Sinhala medium government schools are in practice Buddhist schools, with the whole panoply of gatha-singing and visits to the local temple. I doubt the clergy are willing to let go.
        Teaching all three languages won’t be easy. Where are the teachers, particularly English? It’s like the proposal to teach “Artificial Intelligence ” to kids. Which sane IT professional would teach for a teacher’s salary giving up a chance to earn literally millions?

      • 1
        1

        Douglas, What’s the problem? Naman was spelt correctly!

  • 2
    0

    This writer comes through as a sleep-walking zombie when he waffles along with completely redundant statements. Do read his words again. So much of superfluous nonsense cobbled into an article.

  • 6
    1

    Continued
    — Diaspora granted Overseas Citizens of SL in order to tap their wealth knowledge and wisdom
    —Political wisdom of both lay and professional people’s misconceptions rectified. ( Fear of NPP being threat to the rich who wants to keep the status quo)

    System Change is an urgent need to our isle

    • 5
      1

      Naman,
      “Diaspora granted Overseas Citizens of SL in order to tap their wealth knowledge and wisdom”
      Even Chamath Palihapitiya , the richest Sinhala diaspora member, gave up and went home in disgust at the obstructionism he got here. Do you seriously think Tamil diaspora have a chance?

      • 2
        9

        Chamath is not the best investor. He gets his cut and disappears quickly. Recently, he made quite a bit off SPACS (special purpose acquisition corporations), which are nothing more than pump and dump stocks. A lot of people (not me) followed CP into these stocks and took a big hit. And Chamath’s response to the people who lost money? “I’m in the arena trying stuff. Some will work, some won’t. But always learning. You’re anonymous and afraid of your own shadow. Enjoy the sidelines.”

        Also said Tesla will hit 10K/share USD and told people not to sell a single share. Even though he sold all of his.

        • 1
          9

          Chamath – a gambler at best.

        • 1
          9

          Lester – Was it you who once mentioned about Raj Rajaratnam? Someone did and I suggested that he tell the story for the Tamils’ benefit. I wonder if it’s you…?

          • 5
            2

            Ruchira,
            Tell me. Tell me the story behind Raj Rajaratnam.
            I want to learn.

            • 0
              6

              Nathan – It’s just another story. There are plenty to learn from if one wants to.

              • 1
                5

                Nathan –
                .
                “Two Sri Lankans on safari are egged on by their driver to get off the bus to take pictures of a tiger. When the tiger gets pissed off and rises to its feet, the driver starts reversing and the ad fades to the tagline “It’s difficult to be a Sri Lankan in India.””
                .
                “It’s a joke. But Raj Rajaratnam isn’t smiling.”
                .
                There’s more to the story that the HuffPost contributor does not either know or reveal…

              • 4
                0

                Ruchira,
                Your stories are stale. You have nothing new?

            • 0
              4

              Nathan –
              .
              “”Every Bloody Indian Cooperated to Nail Me”: The “Betrayal” of Raj Rajaratnam.””
              .
              “The Sri Lankan American hedge fund billionaire is feeling aggrieved — and not just because he’s been found guilty of all 14 counts of insider trading. He is mad at his friends, or more specifically his Indian friends, for throwing him to the tigers.”
              .
              By
              Sandip Roy, Contributor.
              .
              Full story here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.huffpost.com/entry/every-bloody-indian-coope_b_1066787/amp

          • 0
            8

            Raj Rajaratnam was convicted of insider trading. That is not investing, that is cheating. Probably a role model for people like OC.

            • 8
              0

              Lester,
              I suppose your opinion of RR would be different if he was an SB like Dhammika P.

            • 4
              0

              Lester the jester,

              What are you babbling further, you hired a man to cover up Rajapaksa?
              :
              The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka made it very clear that if Malecha Rajapaksa had not played with the innocent but deceptive mentality of this punished land, there would have been no bankruptcy in Sri Lanka. To my surprise, even today, the Rajapaksas have not been arrested for their heinous crimes. Can it ever be done in a civilized world? I know for sure that it is not possible in Germany, UK, France and Switzerland.

              • 0
                6

                Leela the Low IQ,

                Yoshitha went to prison.

                • 4
                  0

                  Lester the modaya,
                  .
                  They should be hanged in public for the heinous crimes they have deliberately committed. Then only people can calm the anger.
                  Even if your loved ones are raped and killed by them in broad daylight, you the low lives will never see it right. There, the Rajapaksas have brainwashed you irreversibly. Alas, what a stupid nation !

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