The clash between the students of the Jaffna University was the most widely discussed topic during the whole of last week as far as the North is concerned.

The clash gained widespread attention owing to the sensitiveness that is involved in the issue. Students from two different communities clashed. The clash was at the Jaffna University.

Arthur WamananWhat triggered widespread concern was the timing of the whole incident and the reasons behind it. The reason behind the clash was said to be a disagreement pertaining to the inclusion of a dance item in the ceremony that was organized to welcome the freshers to the University.

All these are in the past now. What we really need to do is to ensure that this does not in anyway harm reconciliation.

In a way, this incident has brought to light the importance of reconciliation and the fact that reconciliation a tough process and needs a holistic approach. It should be understood that it is not a walk in the park.

We are talking about decades of fighting which cultivated mistrust and suspicion among communities. Those in places like Colombo would have had the luxury of living with people belonging to other communities. But it is not the case for a person who has grown up in the interior most village in the country.

Therefore, it is important that the reconciliation process should reach that person, even if he or she does not have to deal with people from other communities for the rest of his or her life.

In today’s day and age, it is tough for a person to restrict his life to dealing with one particular community. The authorities need to understand this.

Each community needs to understand the other community and embrace not only the the similarities, but the differences as well. No one is the same. No community has the same lifestyle, rituals or practices. All Sri Lankans know this fact and have accepted it. But the problem arises when we fail to apply this knowledge in practice.

For Sri Lanka, which has been through a conflict for 30 years, it is important that this knowledge is indeed applied in practice. As said earlier, there is a lot more to reconciliation than just understanding and embracing each culture and its differences. But it starts from acceptance.

It is therefore important that the concept of reconciliation is taught in schools. Merely teaching the various aspects and characteristics of each community would not suffice. What is needed is an effective programme where schoolchildren are taken on educational tours to other areas where they would take part in various activities along with the children of that particular area.  It does not mean that these programmes are not being done at school level. But there is always room for improvement.

Address core issues
For the past seven years, the importance of addressing the immediate needs of the war affected people has been stressed upon the authorities time and again.

Even now, the immediate needs of these people have not been fulfilled. Chairman of the Presidential Commission to look into Missing Persons, Justice Maxwell Paranagama  last week stated that livelihood opportunities provided for those who had been resettled in their original places after the war were still inadequate.

Further, those affected also need to come back to the proper frame of mind where they could move on from the trauma they faced during the war.  Paranagama along with the members of the commission have frequently visited these areas and would have a fair knowledge of the mindset of the people.

Those affected need to be given counseling and psychological assistance at the earliest.
The government as well as the politicians who represent the war affected people need to give top priority to address their immediate needs while also work towards a genuine reconciliation process.