Victory celebrations seem to be dragging on inordinately. They were, no doubt, spontaneous and the victims of LTTE terrorism had a reason to dance in the streets upon the outfit`s decapitation. Hoopla naturally surrounds a monster`s demise. People also rejoiced at the news of JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera`s violent death at the hands of the army twenty years ago. They lit firecrackers and ate milk rice in public the way they are doing at present.
But, this is the time for sober reflection and not protracted celebrations.
Doomsday prophets who predicted that in battling terrorism Sri Lanka would have to settle for a pyrrhic victory have had to eat their words. However, victory has come at a huge cost. Many have been killed or maimed in battle, tens of thousands of people displaced, property destroyed and billions of rupees spent on a massive military campaign.
Military expenditure is bound to remain high for years to come as demobilisation is not possible in the near future. Instead, many more will have to be recruited into the armed forces and the police for deployment in the newly liberated areas. Families of fallen war heroes need to be compensated and the disabled servicemen looked after. The displaced civilians need to be resettled as fast as possible. This means colossal rehabilitation and reconstruction expenditure which will have a severe strain on the national economy already bled dry.
Resurgence of nationalism is not intrinsically bad. It is like dynamite and whether it is good or bad depends on the uses it is put to. Mishandled or abused, nationalism may lead to disaster as is our experience. Patriotic ebullience the epic military victory has brought about should be carefully tapped and wisely directed towards nation building. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, one may argue, is capable of achieving that feat, having proved his mettle and won people`s confidence.
Carousing revellers must be told in no uncertain terms that it is now their turn to match the selfless sacrifices that the security forces have made at the battlefront for the sake of the country. The time has come for them to defend the country on the economic front where dark forces of neo imperialism are gathering menacingly. The country must be raised from the depths of poverty and dependency and placed on an even economic keel, if it is to regain its lost freedom and dignity.
That is a gargantuan task that Sri Lankans cannot accomplish by basking in the reflected glory of the victorious armed forces and wrapping themselves in the flag. What is needed at this hour is not an ostentatious display of patriotism but sheer hard work as well as an unswerving preparedness to make sacrifices for the country.
Let the example set by the valiant security forces be emulated.