One year ago today, Sri Lanka defeated terrorism and ended a protracted bloody war that had dragged on for nearly three decades. The conflagration towards its final stages had the trappings of a world war, so to speak, in that some of the military superpowers that had joined forces to destroy Hitler in the 1940s shamelessly rose in defence of Prabhakaran, a psychopath responsible for heinous crimes against civilians including genocidal massacres, child recruitment and ethnic cleansing.
Grand preparations are being made to mark the first anniversary of V-Day. The government is justified in celebrating that epoch-making event but it should be wary of letting celebrations assume the character of an ostentatious display of triumphalism. There are tens of thousands of people still reeling from the war, which involved a heavy human cost. Over six thousand security forces and police personnel perished in the Eelam War IV and thousands of others have suffered disability. The LTTE lost over twenty thousand cadres including its leaders. The country ran red with it citizens` blood.
One year on, the onus is on the government to make the country`s historic defeat of terrorism a meaningful victory for all Sri Lankans. Victory needs to be stripped of partisan politics, which has had disastrous consequences as manifest in the unfortunate clash between the government and former Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka. They are not only denying each other the credit for the war victory but also shamelessly trading insult and damning accusations much to the delight of Sri Lanka`s enemies. The JVP-led Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is demanding the release of Gen. Fonseka on Wednesday, when V-Day celebrations are scheduled to be held. We stop short of discussing his detention etc which are sub judice. Such matters are best left to the judiciary. Suffice it to say that his plight is a supreme irony. It needs to be added that one has reason to believe that if President Mahinda Rajapaksa had lost in January, the V-Day would have been celebrated with him behind bars.
The eve of the V-Day saw two interesting developments. The International Crisis Group (ICG) called for a probe into what it termed war crimes committed during the final phase of the war. The timing of the ICG`s call is of interest the outfit is trying to spoil the V-Day celebrations. Why don t the ICG worthies and others of their ilk realise that war in itself is a crime? Instead of calling for a postmortem, they could have helped Sri Lanka avoid war by bring pressure to bear on the LTTE to desist from resuming violence. The UN, the US, the UK as well as other member states of the EU and the whole caboodle of human rights groups were capable of pressuring the LTTE and its activists overseas to eschew violence. They did not care to do so presumably in the hope that Sri Lanka would cave in under terrorism and agree to a settlement on LTTE`s terms. They suddenly remembered R2P and human rights only after they realised it was curtains for the Tigers.
Meanwhile, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed the much advertised eight-member `Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation` Commission to report on the lessons to be learnt from the events during the period between Feb. 2002 to May 2009, their attendant concerns and to recommend measures to ensure that there will be no recurrence of such a situation. The President`s Office says, `The Commission has also been charged with reporting whether any person, group or institution directly or indirectly bears responsibility in this regard.`
Why should we expend our time and energy to reinvent the wheel? Lessons that all of us have already learnt and have yet to learn from thirty years of fighting are fairly well known. Some of them are: no community can or must try to suppress another violence does not pay this country does not belong to any particular community all communities belong to it it is too small to be divided among different communities but certainly large enough for all communities to live in peacefully.
The time has come for us to put the conflict behind us, forget and forgive and move forward.