Our country Sri Lanka is one of the beautiful islands in the world. It is even linked with Adam and the Garden of Eden. It has a rich religious diversity. The name Sri Lanka means holy island. But unfortunately, the goings on there in the recent past years are far from holy. If it carries on unabated, this Serendip may fall from sublime to ridiculous.
The ongoing conflict between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils has changed the beautiful island beyond recognition. Although Sinhalese and Tamils fought shoulder to shoulder to gain independence from the British, Tamils were relegated to the backwoods by the governments, by not protecting their rights in their country of birth. The majority ruled the country since 1948. Therefore, they have to blame themselves if they handled the government improperly. LTTE is only the bi-product of the action of the majority. There was a coup in 1958 and an uprising in the early 70s. LTTE can not be blamed for any of these riots. The extremists within the majority has been allowed to prosper and now it is in full power to control every manoeuvre of the government.
As I write this hundreds of Tamils have been asked to leave their lodgings in Colombo and taken by bus to their native land. Colombo IGP said that Tamils have been requested to leave and told they had better get back to their own villages. SL government spokesman has been reported as saying that Tamils voluntarily came forward to be sent out of Colombo and GoSL was transporting them free of charge. Duplicity again! The opposition leader said in the parliament that the Tamils were being expelled from Colombo on a discriminatory way, violating the article 11 of the SL constitution. Who is telling the truth? Who is in charge?
The closure of the A9 highway by the SLA for some obscure reason has had detrimental effect on those innocent civilians who are under their control. The first ever death by starvation was recorded in October2006. The Bishop of Jaffna, Rev.Dr Thomas Saunderanayagam has been raising his concerns to high heavens. Yet his appeals have fallen on stoney grounds. Protecting the civilians and to safeguarding them from hardships is the responsibility of an elected government. It is even reported that at the place of worship the number of people is limited to ten. Also there are reports of looting within the high security zone.
Some years ago when there was a shortage of food supply in Jaffna, India dropped food supplies from planes. Now the time has changed, whilst people starve in the north, India is training SL pilot to bomb indiscriminately and also allow explosives to go from the land that gave the world ?Ahimsa ?Non violence? and ?Experiment with Truth? to the land that purported to preach love and charity.
Whenever there is a natural disaster human beings tend to help each other. But not in Sri Lanka. Tsunami came two years ago and the east coast and the south cost were badly affected. But the reporters were always in Colombo, Galle or Matara. The other parts of the country was non existence for the visitors. UN Secretary General, the man with the most gracious face on telly, said I will visit the entire island when the conflict is over. He must have been at the end of his tether when he said that. He was so near yet so far, despite thousands of requests made for him to see the forgotten side. The PTOMS was another story. We cannot organise anything efficiently. One wonders if we could organise a tea party in the Galle Face Hotel?
To cut the long story short, things have gone from bad to worse under the successive governments. First of all, a ceasefire will give a break for the soldiers to see their families and the loved ones and to be away from the crazy battle fields. The leaders from the south should sit down and ask these questions: Where are we now? How did we get here? Where do we go from here? What is the way forward? A grown up discussion is all that required The leaders from all parties should rise above petty party politics and should act like real statesmen to deal with human beings and their suffering. ?We shouldn?t quarrel as to who is the greatest amongst us. Because, if we put our country first, we are all too small in front of the country?. To answer these questions, the leaders must be sincere and true to themselves. Dubious and contradictory statements will only backfire. Ill treating any of our citizens will not go down well in the history, nor will be tolerated by the civilized world.
The Sinhalese also shouldn?t suffer due to some extremist leaders who are hell bent on military solutions. Tamils are second to none in anything especially in hospitality. Our brethren don?t deserve these dubious dealings. It doesn?t matter who came first to this wonderful island. We are here and we have to exist and tolerate each other. We should look for Britain for example in tolerance. In London there is a motto: ?Live and let live?. Freedom of speech exhibits its splendour at the Hyde Park?s Speekers? Corner.
I had a discussion with an English friend, whose grand father and uncles fought in the world wars. He still makes annual trip to France to pay homage at their cemeteries, where the cemeteries are kept in pristine condition (unlike some other countries). He asked me questions about the population in Sri Lanka, who runs the country, the opposition make up, the ministry and the make up of the army etc. From my answers he said that he didn?t think there was democracy. About the conflict, he said, ?If you cant get on with each other because of differences, why don?t you draw a line and keep yourselves to one side, instead of killing each other?? My reply was just a smile.
In order to get our priorities right, Sri Lankans need peace right now. The truth, sincerity, compassion and tolerance have vanished. In their place evil is roaming up and down the country. We all need a break. When the country is in dire straights, spending billions of rupees on arms doesn?t make sense. People are ducking and diving between attacks, pot holes and road blocks are omnipresent. Can we recall the sigh of relief that was experienced from Point Pedro to Point Dondra when the Cease-fire Agreement was signed in February 2002? Let us experience that again.