A lot of this inertia can be attributed to a reactionary impulse of the government to deflect widespread international criticism about how the last stages of the war was handled coming from many Western governments and institutions, perceived to be largely pressurised by a vocal and influential Tamil Diaspora. As a consequence, much needed concerted and focussed engagement with members of the Sri Lankan expatriate community has been at best patchy.
The recently released LLRC report alluded to this, when it recommended that the Government engage with and encourage those expatriate groups interested in redevelopment and reconciliation efforts. It is in this spirit that members of Diaspora organisations and individuals interested in Sri Lanka’s peaceful future met on January 14th in London.
Representing a cross section of the ethnic, business, activist and academic strata, these members spent about 3 hours discussing the LLRC recommendations before arriving at a resolution that was to be tabled to be sent to the Sri Lankan Govt and other stakeholders.
The overall consensus welcomed the release of the LLRC report recommendations given the mandate of the initial investigation and expressed willingness to work with all stakeholders in ensuring that the recommendations were implemented. People felt that there was now an opportunity to work on a comprehensive package of reconciliation that could not only meet political aspirations but also grass roots needs, providing a space for them to express themselves.
Creating this secure environment of equity and social justice is one of the current needs of the hour. However creating that space is not easy. It will have to be done organically and will need to entail developing alliances which reach out to the other. For the last 30 years or more, suspicion and distrust between and among the different communities have been displayed openly, and the perception of the “other”- the Sinhalese of the Tamils, the Tamils of the Sinhalese, the Tamils and Sinhalese of the Muslims; has been fed on hate and insensitivities for varying beliefs. This is even more exacerbated in the UK, where the lenses with which different communities are viewed are coloured by old narratives. It was felt that this could be overcome by taking responsibility to move beyond victimhood by acknowledging each other’s narrative, empathising and hearing the other’s stories and ultimately working with each other in order to provide a safe space where special programmes of social engineering to build bridges, facilitate cross faith interactions and regain inter community trust can be rebuilt and the past can be acknowledged in a way that does not negate it but allows one to move forward.
This is the role that the Sri Lankan Expat community can play in order to bring out about reconciliation that moves away from apportioning blame for deceit and destruction. Rebuilding trust will mean honouring unity and celebrating diversity, working towards equity and justice and ensuring the eradication of social prejudices in building a collective identity.
The members at this meeting pledged to work with all stakeholders genuinely interested in the future of Sri Lanka. They recognised the need to hold not only the government but representatives of minority parties responsible for building confidence amongst the various communities and giving ownership to the minorities in rebuilding the country. They felt that importance needs to be given to healing whilst developing workable solutions for everyone to live with each other.
Sri Lanka is now at the cross roads of moving forward, cleansed of the past and with a chance to develop a common vision shared by all towards collective nation building and prosperity or to plunge back into another unknown era of bitter interethnic rivalries fanned by divisive politics. Given the space, Sri Lanka can reconcile and hold people to account. The Sri Lankan expat community and Diaspora have a unique opportunity to facilitate this new venture.
In apartheid South Africa, if a black person was abused by a white person to the extent that black person died, the death was treated as a non event because any black person was considered a non person with no rights and was militarily oppressed.
The LLRC report exhibits a similar attitude by the Sinhalese against the Tamils of Tamil Eeelam(TE). The same attitude is also shown by any colonial master towards the inhabitants of his colony.
By presenting the report, the GOSL is attempting to retrench the international support and sympathy the people of TE do have, to receive justice for the war crimes and genocide committed by SL.
Sam Thambipillai Friday, 20 January 2012 07:43 AM
Truth and justice are indivisible. Lessons can only be learnt from the established truth and justice. The LLRC was not trying to establish either the truth or justice. Seeking the truth and justice on Tamil matters is a “foreigner” to the Sinhalese. In SL the truth is often subordinated to racist electioneering platforms both by the SLFP and the UNP since 1958.
In many liberation movements, repression, economic factors, injustice and land grabbing were the major push factors that drove people to take upto arms. The push factors were the same for the people of TE, yet, the LLRC has not learnt that aspect during its sittings.
Tamil leaders have more than six decades of sound experience on the political cheating, lying, trikery and evading psyche of their colonial masters.
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