8 December, 2019

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The Reconciliation Game And Its Discontents

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

It’s that time of year again when political discourse is reduced to a three syllable name. Geneva. That’s another name for the UN Human Rights Commission.  It is time to talk about roads walked and roads not taken, progress made and not made.  It is time to talk about reconciliation and its fallen-from-sky twin, ‘justice’.

So we ask ourselves some questions, the same that we asked ourselves a year ago or rather were thrust in our faces.  The plural refers to Sri Lanka of course although this is less about nation and citizenry than it is about a president and a regime.  However, given that whatever the target of the punch is it falls on people and nation, independence and sovereignty, there’s nothing wrong in using ‘us’ and ‘we’.  We are digressing.  Let’s get back to the questions.

Are we reconciled or are we not?  Will we reconcile, ever, or will we not?

Different people have different ideas of ‘reconciliation’.  Some thing, for example, that full reconciliation will only be obtained if Eelam (as per the LTTE map) is carved out of this island.  Others think that getting rid of the LTTE amounts to reconciliation: war ends, problem ends.

Between these there are the doubters, the half-empty-glass seers and the goalpost-shifters.  The problem is that you can’t satisfy any one of these individuals.  They all need a little more or else they want a little less.

There were people for example who wanted all those who fled the clutches of the LTTE to be allowed to go wherever they wanted the moment the bad news about Prabharakan was announced.  They didn’t give a hoot about landmines or the fact that the LTTE had effectively ensured they had nothing to go to; no homes, no livelihoods, no schools and no hospitals.  Some pooh-poohed the LLRC and later chided the government for not implementing the LLRC-recommendations (as per their preferred/slanted reading of the same).

All these people forget one thing. No one in this world is happy.  The most powerful are besieged by security, the most wealthy are terrified of theft.  The poor want out of poverty, those who suffer from unrequited love pine for the beloved’s embrace.    As for goalpost shifters, the sky is the limit for them.

At some point someone will say wtf.  At some point someone will remember that reconciliation is not coterminous with concession and that it implies reciprocity, that it is a two-way street.  At some point someone will say, ‘hey, you’ve done me wrong, but I haven’t heard you say “sorry”.’  At some point someone will say, ‘You take what I give and you act as though I should thank for taking.’

There are two ways of looking at this.  First, we can go the ‘what if’ way.  What if it didn’t end in May 2009?  What if the LTTE was still around?  The answer could be something like this: ‘Do a quick recall of what happened in Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009 and tell yourself “more of the same”.’  That’s a lot of blood.  That’s also a lot of broken bodies, body-bags, bomb-explosions, children being abducted, assassinations and lots and lots of roadblocks.  It also requires a bit of erasing.  Take out all that’s nice in Colombo and bring back squalor.  Take out the roads, hospitals, schools, irrigation works, electricity projects, banks in the North and East. Take fishing out of the livelihood equation.  Take out much of agriculture.  Take out Wigneswaran and the Northern Provincial Council.  Toss in landmines.  Toss in all the military facilities that were withdrawn along with the soldiers.  Remember the ‘vehicle movements’?  Remember living in fear? Remember wondering if you’ll ever see your kids or parents or loved ones again after waving goodbye?  Remember being wary of everyone you encounter, every suspicious object that catches your eye?  Remember not being able to travel beyond Vavuniya?

There’s another way.  We can assume, as some claim, that ours is a Sinhala-Buddhist state and this Government is likewise ‘Sinhala-Buddhist’ with those ‘natural tags’ such as racist, chauvinist, extremist etc., etc.   The structures of the state are thus made for genocide.  The government is genocidal, as are the Sinhala-Buddhists.  What is the logical thing for these institutions, individuals and collectives to seek, then, if not the total elimination of Tamils from the island?  If that is the case, what we’ve seen during the conflict and afterwards should be hailed as the height of stupidity.

Why should the Government send food, medicines and other supplies to ‘The Enemy’?  Why pay the salaries of principals, teachers, doctors, nurses, attendant and employees of state agencies?  Why on earth did the regime risk the lives of Sinhala-Buddhist soldiers to rescue 300,000 Tamils held hostage by the LTTE?  Was it unthinkable that the LTTE cadres captured and those who surrendered were actually rehabilitated using taxes collected from Sinhala Buddhists in the main?  Why did they bother to educate them, help them sit exams, teach them marketable skills etc., etc?  Why did they facilitate their marriages – after all marriage often results in pregnancies and helps swell the enemy numbers?  Why were more than 11,000 of these individuals who had been part of a terrorist organization released? And after May 2009, why channel funds to build infrastructure, resettle people, clear landmines, facilitate the revival of the fisheries industry?

Perhaps one could argue that intent was there but fear of retribution in the form of censure from certain sections of the international community held the Government back. Those with genocidal intent don’t look that far, though, do they?

And so, ladies and gentlemen, perhaps we have come to the point of reconciling to the fact of irreconcilability.  Perhaps we are now in that place where if the word reconciliation is uttered it prompts an F-word response.  Perhaps we are at a juncture where the justice-predicate provokes a stony stare followed by something like ‘Yeah, it’s the injustice that wrecked the R word just now’.

Then again, maybe it is time to reconcile to the fact of reconciliation.  The ‘aggrieved,’ after all are not falling over each other to talk about their own crimes of omission and commission, are they?  The LTTE called itself ‘Sole Representative of the Tamil People’. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) concurred.  Very few Tamils objected.  Most of those who objected were killed by the ‘Sole-Reps’ while the TNA remained silent.  There’s then another aggrieved party here: those who were victims of Sole-Rep terror and, dare we say, by extension victims of Tamil Community terror?  If there’s no ‘sorry’ coming from the other end, is it not natural for the reconciliation hand at this end to be withdrawn?

If shifting goalposts is the name of this game then there’s no point playing it.  It is far better to say ‘enough, we are done’.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 23
    3

    Oh Malinda,

    The war has ended is a good thing. But the fact that thugs and ‘Kudu Mudalalis’ running the government is a bad thing.

    Defeating the LTTE is a good thing. But killing hoardes of civilians is a bad thing.

    Having killed hoardes of civilians and continuing to claim ‘zero civilian casualty’ is really a cowardly thing.

    Building infrastructure is a good thing. Robbing the nation through commissions and grafts is a bad thing.

    Clearing land mines and settling displaced people is a good thing. But arbitrarily confiscating lands ostensibly for security considerations, and having the military dictate every facet of day to day life is a bad thing.

    Responsible governance with proper checks and balances is a good thing. Muzzling the judiciary, allowing thugs in saffron robes to run amok, and to misuse the police for political ends, sanctioning torture and whitevanning dissenters is a bad thing.

    Reconciliation will follow when the government do good things and not bad things. Mara and clan at the feet of who you ingratiate yourself so much Malinda are in the drivers seat. They must drive the car called GOSL responsibly, follow traffic rules and must not drive recklessly, menacingly, and expect all others to move aside so they could drive at dangerous speeds.

    Got it?

    • 3
      1

      Bravooooooooooooooo.Agree with every word :)

      could not have been more germane to current alarming situation in the country.

    • 5
      0

      MARA’s drive the car called GOSL – is akin more or less once that drunken Ghanasara (BBS’S LEAD) was reported to have driven a lorry without a licence injuring two innocent pedestrians – though it was 10 years ago. So there is no big difference between Ghanasara’s and President of the country – alas, this is the niveau we have reached to this day

    • 2
      0

      BBS Rep, please change your name. It is bizarre that you who think so differently from the diabolical BBS should use a name which says you represent them. Kudos to your thoughts expressed here.

      Linda the jarapassa poodle thought she was pandering to the ruling junta when in this article she was whining and whimpering, moaning, licking, and rolling over. But you gave her a..ful and she will take a long time to recover from the trauma. Thanks, thanks and thanks.

  • 2
    0

    Air Chief Roshan Gunatilake, Commando Chief Ralph Nugera, the most senior battlefield commander Jagath Dias…. (and Denzil Kobakaduwa) were Christians.

    It was SL Army, not Buddhist Army (BBS).

    No one is disputing the war (even though many great officers were victimised by this regime).

    They are disputing the ‘peace’

    Now you may understand that military and political are different.
    The promise of 13 plus is the factor now betrayed, that makes you a liar and a cheat; an oppressor. The war was fought with this promise and many Sinhalese and Tamils supported that.

    People like this think that giving some education instead of killing them is the peace.

    Peace is respecting their wishes as adults, not imposing our perception like we do with kids.

    So, only the Buddhists are taxed in SL !?!!
    (if that was the case there would have been no war)

    • 1
      0

      A, B and C may be Christians. Then, why are they doing a pirith ceremony for everything? They DO wear pirith threads!

  • 0
    0

    ‘If shifting goalposts is the name of this game then there’s no point playing it. It is far better to say ‘enough, we are done’.’ Is not saying it like it is,…. is it?

    We can’t not play the game. We have to play it and we know it. If we had a ‘not playing’ option then we won’t even bother finding out where Geneva is on the map.

    We don’t have oil and we need the remittances so the BBS can go thus far and no further, they know it, we know it, so they too play the game.

    We need western markets for our exports so the MR regime can only unleash the goon squad thus far and no further, they know it, we know it, so the MR regime too plays the game.

    So we can’t say ‘enough we are done’ can we? So enough already with the same old arguments about who did what in the past. Those arguments don’t work, they never did. So smarten up and stop beating that dead snake.

    • 4
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      They are playing cricket without the wickets, a very long pitch and no boundary line! They think they cannot be bowled out and can score fours and sixes with gay abandon, without any running.

      This is the state of our current democracy and the constitution that governs it.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      • 1
        2

        what nonsensical analogy
        posting for the sake of posting

  • 2
    3

    stop your bullshit writting

  • 4
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    BBS Rep – Brilliantly put!

    Malinda – care to answer BBS Rep’s observations? Or are you between that rock and a hard place???

  • 4
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    Great. That’s exactly what needs to be done to call the TNA’s bluff. For reconciliation to take place, the first step is self-critique on both sides and accepting accountability for their respective omissions and commissions. Though not perfect, the government and the people in the south have definitely taken some tentative steps in this direction. But as far as the TNA, ITAK, NPC, LTTE rump or Tamil society in general is concerned there has been absolutely nothing. Instead the Tamil society seems to be still believing in the politics of victimhood. Unfortunately it has not dawned on them even after all the loss and suffering they suffered that the benefits of victimhood politics are far outweighed by its negative consequences. While bringing international attention, passage to the west and the concomitant economic benefits, it pushes the community into a path of confrontation with the government and the majority of the people in the country leading to the kind of deadly violence that we have just witnessed.

    Shifting the goal post is obviously an attempt to continue this politics of victimhood. One is reminded of the Machiavellian Anton Balasingham’s shameless tactics at one of the Geneva Peace Talk sessions between the LTTE and the government. It became apparent at one stage that the government team was willing to concede some form of quasi federalism and there was mounting pressure on Tiger negotiators to accept it. A concerned LTTE ideologue in Prabakaran’s confidence called and Balasingham assured him, “Don’t worry, we will escalate our demands when the time comes.” This kind of shameless cheating is an open secret among warriors for the Tamil cause and is regarded as a “smart move.”

    Yes, reconciliation is a two-way street. “Sorry” has to come “loud and clear” from the Tamil side as well to the victims of the LTTE both within and without Tamil community.

  • 5
    2

    Malinda is another `top-lapper` speaking through arse!

  • 4
    2

    Again shoddy reporting and faulty logic.

    1. There is nothing called the UN Human Rights COMMISSION. It is the UN Human Rights Council. It is the successor to the UN Commission on Human Rights. First, get your basics straight.

    2. The simple point is 300,000 people were kept imprisoned without any legal basis. If as you say they were being kept to feed them and protect them from landmines, then they should have been given the option to stay there. If they were security risks, how is it that miraculously around 200,000 were released just before the Presidential Elections in 2010?

    3. There is no doubt that the LTTE used civilians as human shields and kept them as hostages. But please don’t give the impression that the war was to free hostages! The war was to decimate the LTTE, and the problem is the Government did not do enough to ensure that it fought within the confines of the laws of war. Only a person who will not see will insist that the allegations of war crimes have no basis and that the war was pure.

    4. If the Government did not endorse what was taking place it would have taken steps against at least a few soldiers who had committed atrocities. It has not. It has scuttled investigations. It chased off the international jurists who came to oversee some inquiries. Can you honestly say that there will be justice with this government?

    5. You answer your own question about why the Government is acting – simply due to international pressure. Of course they can think that far – they are trying to mitigate the consequences of their crimes. Why would they not be able to think that far?! They believe that they can “shape” things up.

    6. Sampanthan has clearly admitted and apologised for the atrocities committed by the LTTE. Your assertion is patently false.

    7. Re- shifting goal posts – people objected to the LLRC due to its constitution and mandate. The LLRC whitewashed some issues but gave decent recommendations on others. It was expected to be completely one sided but it was not half bad. The same people who objected to the LLRC, said, that the Government AT A MINIMUM should implement the recommendations of the LLRC. There is no shifting of goal posts there and your assertions are insidious as ever.

    S

  • 1
    2

    BBS Rep, please change your name. It is bizarre that you who think so differently from the diabolical BBS should use a name which says you represent them.

    Kudos to your thoughts expressed here. Linda the Bit.. thought she was pandering to the ruling junta when in this article she was whining and whimpering, moaning, licking, and rolling over. But you gave her assful and she will take a long time to recover from the trauma. Thanks, thanks and thanks.

  • 4
    1

    Another Paid Servant of the regime singing for his plate of rice. Shame on you. If you have to investigate, then investigate every one, Every leader of LTTE and every leader of the present regime. But do it in a manner that is credible. Bring independent parties and investigate and punish them. NO one is today asking for a separate state. Its in fact the Sinhala Buddhist are the only group who want Sri Lanka to be a separate Buddhist Sinhala state, no other race, or religious entities are asking for a separate state. Further when you have an honest independent inquiry of LTTE and the present regime, what you will find out is that the presently living senior LTTE members and the regime are together today. Don’t think we Sri Lankans are stupid. Shame on you. Don’t sing lies for your next plate of rice, at least dig a paddy field, which is more honourable that writing these stupid articles.

  • 2
    2

    This man’s crazy logic will never change, or be accepted by anybody other than The Sinhalese chauvinists.

    From independence Sinhala dominated regimes have committed atrocities and injustice to Tamils and is still continuing in the North-East with land grabbing colonization of Sinhalese from the South, and other unjust actions.

    Only the international community can right the wrongs done to Tamils, for two reasons: They helped the regime destroy Tamil’s defense, and they only can objectively find a solution in view of the recalcitrant Sinhala ruling elite.

  • 3
    1

    “Sri Lanka’s main opposition United National Party (UNP) says that the resolution adopted by the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) to urge for an international probe on alleged war crimes is illegal.”

    There are so many illegal actions taken by the government, this is the one that bothers the UNP!

    Is there anything said about passing a resolution on war crimes or common crimes, in the statute books?

    When the whole country is engulfed in lawlessness and chaos, these chauvinists want to find fault with Tamils: This is their Mahavamsa mind set I suppose.

  • 1
    0

    Sulaiman,

    The Panel of Expert’s Report states that the LTTE’s “actions did not, in law, amount to the use of human shields”

    Do you have any other evidence that may have skipped the detail of these experts?

    • 0
      0

      interesting. Could you give the exact reference of the report? Are you referring to the UN panel?

  • 0
    2

    If shifting goalposts is the name of this game then there’s no point playing it.
     
    It still hasn’t dawned on you that this not a game that is being played with the consent of SL. SL stopped playing years ago, yet the game goes on. It goes on at the UNHRC; it will go on at the UNSC. SL is not in control of its own destiny. There is no point beating your chest and pretending that there is anything you can do to influence the decision on whether or not peacekeepers will be sent to the NE to replace the SLA. That decision will be made at the sole discretion of the Pentagon.

  • 0
    0

    Journalist DBS Jeyaraj in an article in remembrance of Neelan Thiruchelvam captures in the following lines the sorry plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils :

    ” … the Sri Lankan Tamils flounder in a rudderless,leaking boat on choppy waters deprived of able sailors to steer boat safely ashore.”
    (http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/27689#more-27689)

    How true!

    Quoting from former Governor of Central Bank N U Jayawardena, Jeyaraj
    writes:

    “First he (Jayawardena)said that the Sri Lankan population would achieve zero growth by 2025 and stabilise itself. Second given the current rate of Sri Lankan Tamil outward migration its population percentage at that time would be only 1.9%. As such it would become a ‘Manageable minority’ was NUJ’s conclusion.”

    If that eventuate( sure I believe it will),there will be no question of a Tamil problem in Sri Lanka.

  • 0
    0

    “Perhaps one could argue that intent was there but fear of retribution in the form of censure from certain sections of the international community held the Government back.”

    The SL regime is not that benevolent. If at all it is a thuggery filled ruthless regime which has a clear contempt and disdain for Tamils, particularly those from the North. Then why did it pay the salaries, sent foo, etc. Very simple – if it had not done so, then that would have meant the partition of SL which it detested. So Malinda, your crap story may have takers among the Singhalese majority but we know the real reasons.

  • 1
    1

    Malinda, no one is arguing here about Sinhalese generosity. You are the living proof of the generosity of the government even while you fail to convince any body of anything despite generous payments.

    Is that not a sign of absolute generosity. Why not use that as an example.

  • 0
    1

    Sulaiman,

    Yes, I was referring the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts Report. Please refer to paragraph 237 on page 65.

    Is cultural relativism masking realities? What is your take on Osama Bin Laden? Is he a terrorist or freedom fighter?

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