Election Diary: The slow journey towards reconciliation

31 October 2019 05:56 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • Ratnam’s film ‘Demons of Paradise’ delves into the human aspect more than unearthing some of the intricacies of the conflict
  • The Peoples Alliance had to fall out with the Tamil community because its members were instrumental in administering the war against terrorism

Sunday (October 27) marked ‘Deepavali’ and Hindus showed huge interest to celebrate the event, also named as ‘Festival of Lights’. A deeper study into Hindu literature reveal that the true meaning of deepavali (also Deewali) is about searching for the inner light which is possible through self-realisation. But whether the Tamil community is in the frame of mind to make progress spiritually is a big question given that past governments, including the present, doing very little to solve the national question.
The Tamil community has shown much passion to guard its culture and religious practices and Deepavali gave its members the platform to showcase to the rest of the island that this community exists. But while celebrating events of this nature the Tamil community also makes efforts to be counted and does so by staging protests; most of them silent and peaceful.


Recently Agence France-Presse (AFP) posted pictures of members of the Tamil community staging a protest on the path that presidential hopeful Gotabaya Rajapaksa took while touring Jaffna on October 28 (Monday) to canvass for votes. These Tamils were demonstrating as representatives of their loved ones, those who had gone missing during the civil war. Some of the placards they were holding didn’t have ‘good words’ for the former military man.


Peace may have returned to the island after 2009, the year in which the Tiger Tamil separatists accepted defeat after a 26-year-old conflict which brought casualties to both the Government troops and the terrorists. But the mental wounds caused in the Tamil community due to ‘hostilities’ that continued even after the war have been troubling them despite changes in governments.
Events like Deepavali merit space in newspapers and slots on national television, but the Tamils have found themselves being treated like second class citizens when tense situations feature the majority Sinhalese and them. A classic example for this was the tense situation that arose recently in Killinochchi where Buddhist monks defied a court order and went ahead with the funeral procession of a deceased monk.  
The Tamils are quite okay in accepting that the Sinhalese are the majority and they call the shots. But what’s not right is when the Sinhalese majority tries its strong-arm tactics to overwhelm this minority and beat them into submission.

 

"What the present-day lawmakers and the presidential hopefuls like Gotabaya and Sajith must understand is that one can’t put these grieving Tamils in a bandwagon and head for development; especially when there are mental wounds that are still festering"


From the upcoming Presidential elections’ perspective the Tamils do harbour some hopes for prosperity if presidential hopeful Sajith Premadasa wins the contest. But even they are in suspense given that the UNP led New Democratic Front has still not launched its manifesto officially. The Tamil community in the north and the east are not that happy with the reconciliation and accountability process which the Wickremesinghe regime proposed. But the present regime offers them at least a small stick to lean on where these two vital factors are concerned while the Gotabaya camp has closed the door firmly on the subject of accountability with regard to the civil war that ended.


When the accountability process hit a snag it led room for filmmakers like Jude Ratnam to tell the islanders what really happened during the war. Are there graphic details of how the war ended and what happened to some of the Tamils who surrendered? These are burning questions which merit answers, at least by the Tamil families who claim that members of their families are missing.
Ratnam’s film ‘Demons of Paradise’ delves into the human aspect more than unearthing some of the intricacies of the conflict. The film also probes questions associated with the very idea behind the Tamil identity. The filmmaker, a former NGO worker, also uses the film to ask questions about roots of existentialism. The film helps the Tamil cause to some extent because all governments to date have been uncomfortable when the subject of war surfaces here and at international forums. The bottomline about this touchy issue is that it is taboo for Tamils to raise questions about the war.


What the present-day lawmakers and the presidential hopefuls like Gotabaya and Sajith must understand is that one can’t put these grieving Tamils in a bandwagon and head for development; especially when there are mental wounds that are still festering. Any psychologist will affirm that a mentally shaken up individual swill find it close to impossible to move on if no value is given to the fact that the past is essential and connected to future prosperity.
The word reconciliation has been a ‘buzz’ word in elections campaigns in the past. But sadly those who assume power put this part of their promise into the ‘forget file’.

 

"Events like Deepavali merit space in newspapers and slots on national television, but the Tamils have found themselves being treated like second class citizens when tense situations feature the majority Sinhalese and them"


There were some advantages for the UNP when it approached the Tamils for votes after the war because there were no alleged war crimes charges against them, baring one. The Peoples Alliance had to fall out with the Tamil community because its members were instrumental in administering the war against terrorism; in other words cleaning a mess in a place where armed rebels took the law into their hands. Given this scenario it’s difficult for those in the Gotabaya camp to canvass for votes from the north and the east.


Mental wounds heal slowly; but we all know that some wouldn’t. Reconciliation is the word in catchphrases which are used to entice the Tamil votes. The Tamils are demanding their right to practise their culture and believes and enjoy a peaceful stay in their properties, which they call ‘home’. For them realising this dream amounts to first steps taken towards establishing reconciliation. The day we work honestly to usher in reconciliation we might see loud cheers from a crowd supporting the national team if a Test cricket match is played at the Alfred Duraiappa Stadium in Jaffna!

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