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From Triumphalism to Commemoration

21 May 2015 03:55 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Demolition of ruthless terrorism is in no uncertain terms a great victory for the nation. Championing of Triumphalism by a section of the community—is a self-inflicted tragic defeat. Apart from the 1200 IPKF men, the rest of the tens of thousands who laid their lives in the 30-year war were our own brethren.  Over 90 percent of them died due to armed action by both sides.  A ‘military show of strength’ invariably conveys a wrong message not only to the Tamils but to a section of the ‘majority’ as well; it appears that remnants of triumphalism exercised by the previous regime yet haunts. Do we need to commemorate the dead with such petty extravaganza? Let’s find answers to this pertinent question before the next May 19.

‘It is better to control yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours; it cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell’.—The Buddha

The misconception or misbelief that a particular community is superior to, and should conquer over the others is identified as ‘triumphalism’. A paradigm shift in the general perspective of people’s thinking in relation to issues on race and religion will have to be achieved.

The ‘National Flag’ giving prominence to a particular community and allocating only a fourth of it to two other communities itself is a gross discrimination. While the Sinhalese are hoodwinked to believe they are a superior lot; the people belonging to minority races are forced to acquire a sense of inferiority as second class citizens. An animal brandishing a sword within a frame decorated with‘Bo leaves’ for protection is a disgrace to the ‘Sinhala Buddhists’ and also a violation of principles of the Dhamma disclosed by the Buddha. The sword denotes nothing but destructive power exercised against fellow beings. The famous folklore maxim, “yuddeta netikaduwa koskotannada?” [what use is of a sword other than for war].

Are Sinhalese people warmongers?

It is high time we appoint a team of experts to design a new National flag sans any ethno-religious based colours, idols, symbols or stripes.  In the case of national bird or national flower, it is just one bird and one flower, selected purely on one basic criterion of its uniqueness or indigenous nature.  If you are to impose the same criteria as in the flag; in the case of the national bird, one would end up by creating a monster or a mythical creature like the three-headed ‘Cerberus’ depicting the three main ethnic groups or a mysterious dragon if all other ‘minority’ communities like Malays, Burghers, Chetties etc, are to be considered as well. Doesn’t it sound ridiculous and stupid? Why divide? We need to be identified as one nation, one people living in harmony under one common banner; a banner which does not discriminate any ethnic group by small and big allocation of space and symbols for specific identification.

The war victory with all the pomp and pageantry that goes with it was celebrated by the previous government for five consecutive years. However, under growing disapproval among civil society, the motto was changed from ‘War victory’ to ‘Peace victory’ in 2014. In spite of the change of the Maxims and mottos, the fact remains that still we indulged in triumphalism.

“My victory is someone else’s defeat”

   A triumphalist develops a sense of confidence, pride, security or virtue trusting in superiority: Celebration of any kind of victory; quite naturally, would hurt the wounded party or the defeated opponents, especially, within a plural society like ours.

What is unacceptable is that we disallow people within the war-affected areas to commemorate their loved ones who died in the battle. The political settlement to the national question that has been dragging on for decades will drag on further with fewer hopes; consequentially it affects the harmonious relationships among different ethnic groups, especially, in a secular State like ours.

The JVP is free to commemorate its annual April ‘Viru Samaru Day’ they call their men, including those who indulged in murder and others who were involved in clashes with security forces and created utter chaos covering the entire island as heroes. Why these double standards? Like the Northern terrorists, they went on a killing spree in 1988/89; murdering academics, politicians, artistes and Buddhist monks and all those who disobeyed their orders.   If so, the minorities should have an equal right and the freedom to grieve, mourn or commemorate the death of their treasured ones as well.  Any attempt to block commemorative events of a section of the people on an arbitrary basis during the anniversary periods would yield negative effects. Subjecting the people of Jaffna to such authoritarian processes, while we in the South parade with military shows will have negative effects on the reconciliation process.  The previous regime used excessive military presence in the region to create a fear psychosis and suppress any commemoration events. The present government have taken positive steps to prevent such brutality, though they went to Courts to get a legal cover banning such activity; suppression it seems, remains to be the name of the game even under the Yahapalanaya.

‘Victory breeds enmity; the vanquished one dwells in sorrow; the composed person lives happily, disregarding both victory and defeat’. -Verse 201: Dhammapada.

Cost of past celebrations

Unnecessary spending of time and money on commemorative programmes of ‘paying tribute’ involving public funds and government officers in mid-May was a regular feature from 2010 up to last year. In addition to the main national event with military parades, celebrations were extended to Ministries, Departments and Provincial level consuming State resources. These funds could be diverted to fund welfare programmes of war heroes and families of deceased soldiers.
The last hero’s day speech by LTTE leader, V. Prabhakaran was an indication of acceptance of defeat. He lamented requesting international support. Before that Tamils in the North suffered as never before in the history. All the opportunities offered by Heads of States starting from J. R. Jayewardene, Premadasa, Chandrika Bandaranaike, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and finally, Mahinda Rajapaksa for a peacefully-negotiated solution were disregarded by the warmonger himself, who was determined to defeat the government forces at a fully-fledged war and capture power.

Terrorism which encased Sri Lanka for 30 years was determinedly defeated in 2009. Tamils and Muslims living in the Northern and Eastern provinces suffered mostly from the effects of the 30-year war. The all-party Tamil convention held in 1976 at Vadukkodai saw the emergence of an umbrella organization-styled Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and more importantly, the passing of Famous Vadukkodai Resolution calling for a separate Tamil State combining the two provinces.   The idea of a separate State or Eelam resulted in the mushrooming of militant groups like EROS, EPRLF, EPDP, TELO, PLOTE and the ruthless LTTE, with the E; denoting Eelam in each case.

The Rajapaksas along with Generals Fonseka, Karannagoda, Goonetillake have vanquished the enemy of our nation, the LTTE terrorists and now everyone must show their compassion to the Tamil bretheren who made bigger sacrifices than the Sinhala people in the long and dreadful nightmare of brutality.

Nelson Mandela factor: where Rajapaksas erred

 “If you want peace with your enemy, you have to work together with your enemy.  Then he will become a partner of your efforts.”– Nelson Mandela [in his autobiography].

The African National Congress was forced to a guerrilla war with white-dominated South African government by young rebellion Mandela, when it failed to achieve any fruitful negotiations with them. He was jailed for life. However, the process of negotiations commenced on his return after 26 years, and by the matured man’s insight and rational, farsighted visionary saw an end to apartheid under a new constitution that guaranteed freedom, justice and equal rights to all communities, irrespective of the colour of the skin - whether Black or White.  It adopted a clause on the National Anthem, emphasizing on a solitary song sung in four languages! If Mahinda Rajapaksa had the flexibility in his thinking in the post-war period to guarantee the Northern people  of their rights and constitutional safeguards: if he had the wisdom to draw inspiration from Mandela’s brilliant foresight and sagacity, instead of engaging in a continuous war-mongering arrogance against minorities by foolishly encouraging the extremist groups and saffron-clad ‘Buddhist’ monks to utter hatred speeches publicly, he could have achieved the status of an exceptional War Hero and Statesman. Unfortunately, he does not seem to have learnt even after the defeat; he continues with arousing communal emotions and feelings supported by a few in a desperate fresh attempt to achieve his ambitions.

For an exclusive ‘National Commemoration Day’ parade  by armed forces; display of air power should come to a halt with the seventh anniversary in May 2016; instead a national day of mourning in memory of all victims of military men, civilians, mis-guided youth in the North, South, East and West, from April 1971 to May 2009; should be held under the patronage of the Head of State with the participation of all party leaders and assembled at a single venue for a multi-religious activity. Banning all other politically motivated  ‘Heroes Days’ held in various parts of the island would add more vigour and vitality to the proposal.   Why not select Jaffna, as the next year’s venue for National Commemoration Day?

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