Sri Lanka remains a post-war as opposed to a post-conflict country. Consequent to the change of the Government in 2015 January, a foundation has been laid for peace and reconciliation in our country. Yet even after two years of the incumbent Government, much remains to be done towards fostering peace and reconciliation.
The accountability component of the transitional justice process appears to be impeding a speedier return to peace, harmony and reconciliation. The issue of accountability should be deferred until the more crucial issue of reconciliation has been addressed.
Sri Lanka had a long period of ethnic civil war that lasted for over two decades. During the period from 1983 to 2009, the island experienced violence, terror, and bloodshed. The long history of the civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Government of Sri Lanka played a critical role in shaping the politics of Sri Lanka.
The victory was an opportunity for everybody to think afresh about the future. However, the effectiveness and success of such proposals in the Sri Lankan situation are unclear as it is difficult to predict what path it may take once implemented.
In recent years, the war has drawn attention to the progress made and to the prospects for meaningful reconciliation. There has been international focus on the last stage of the war, in particular into the allegations of war crimes against both sides, the demand for accountability, the modalities and the mechanism in respect of such.
Worryingly, over two years into the present Government, the full realization of governance related reforms is severely challenged, and reconciliation remains increasingly elusive.
Over the years Sri Lanka has missed several opportunities for conflict transformation and peace building.
But in a post-war context where ambitious promises have been made, the apparent absence of leadership which has led to the squandering of a unique opportunity for reform is indeed both disappointing and disturbing.
Inaction and apathy will now dash the hope of meaningful reconciliation and pave the way towards greater authoritarianism.
As we recall the sorrowful memories of a three decade long, brutal war, it is the responsibility of all to act in a way to prevent the recurrence of such a disastrous situation in the country.
Whatever the criticisms levelled against the Government, the present Government is committed to building a peaceful country where all the communities can live in harmony and reconciliation.
At this juncture, it is important to assess the current situation in this regard in the context of the post-war experiences of those displaced by the war. Here, A. Parameswary, a woman from the Mannar District who was displaced narrates her life’s story thus far.
“My mother passed away when I was small. My father looked after me and my siblings after my mother’s death. One of our brothers was killed at the age of 25. He was married with three children. In 1987, at the age of 18, I got married. My husband was engaged in fishing in Puttalam. We have four children, two girls and two boys. At the end of 1988, we all moved to my husband’s village in Kalpitya. Following initial displacement in 1990, we found ourselves in Erukalapity, Mannar in 1990 and then we had to go to Kuththikkandal, Adamban in the same year. From 1992 to 1994, we were in the Thadchanamadu camp.
When we were displaced, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representation office in Sri Lanka helped us. Then the Government helped us. In 1996, we came to Iththikkandal. During the final stages of the war, we moved again to Madu in 2006. We stayed in the Uyilankulam refugee camp which was under the control of the Government forces and then went to Vavuniya, until we were able to get resettled in our own village after the war ended.
When we came back, we found our house completely destroyed. We managed to put up a temporary hut. We cleaned our place and started living. In 2005, we received a housing project allocation. Now we have cows. My husband is doing farming and fishing. My children too are working. Now, we have a permanent home and are living happily. My youngest daughter is working for the ‘Vizhuthu’ Foundation. We are leading a safe life. We do not want any more war. We would like to live happily with freedom. We cannot experience hardship anymore.” (Source: www.memorymap.lk)
The President always mentions that ‘It is the responsibility of all to join with the journey of the Government which aims to establish sustainable peace in the country’. He is committed to building a peaceful country where all the communities can live in harmony and reconciliation. It is however the responsibility of the era to unite in brotherhood for the future of the country, eliminating the extremism and the thirst for power. War destroys the truth and annihilates mankind. War seeks blood and not only destroys the physical resources of a country, but damages all the moral values including the sense of social justice and discipline within a society. Writers, artistes and literates can play a pivotal role in building the mutual understanding among all the communities against a backdrop where the Government is making sincere efforts to build national reconciliation in the country after ending a 30 year long war. The deep sorrow of the people expressed to the society through the creations of the writers and the artistes uplift human feelings like motherhood, fatherhood and the love for children in our society. Therefore, to eliminate extremism in the country and build reconciliation, let us as the citizens of Sri Lanka do our part to prevent violence and the recurrence of war.