The Aluth Avurudda, the Puththandu or the National New Year which dawns on Monday has deep astronomical significance with the sun moving from the last constellation of Meena Rashiya (Pisces) to the first constellation Mesha Rashiya (Aries). Millions of people also give astrological significance to this event mainly through auspicious times. But more importantly, it is the biggest cultural festival that Sri Lanka’s two main communities, the Buddhists and the Hindus celebrate together, sharing food such as Kevum and Kokis or Vadai and Murukku with various festivities that go on for days or weeks.
However, more important and significant than all these is the potential that this national festival provides for deep and long-lasting reconciliation and goodwill among the Buddhists, Hindus and even other communities.
Unfortunately, since the end of the war against the LTTE terrorists in May 2009, reconciliation still remains elusive. Some reconciliation has indeed been made. For instance, there were free and fair elections to the Northern Provincial Council last year with the main Tamil political party in control with C. V. Wigneswaran a highly respected retired Supreme Court Judge as Chief Minister.
He seems to be having a moderate spirit accompanied with integrity and honesty to work towards reconciliation although extremist elements are blocking him. At the Central Government level, Socialist leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who is the National Languages and Integration Minister is also doing a commendable job in promoting the use of Sinhala, Tamil and English languages at official and unofficial levels.
The National New Year holiday time is indeed an appropriate period to reflect on the nature of this deep rooted conflict and what we need to do to find a just and lasting solution, whereby Sri Lanka could become a country of unity in diversity. Deep unity and multifaceted beauty are found not so much in uniformity but in unity in diversity. Nature is full of such examples. Take the human body for instance. Every part is different but the toenail is as important as the brain or the eye. One cannot say one is important and another is not needed for a healthy and productive human life. If there is a pain in the toenail, the whole body suffers. This applies to humanity as a whole as well.
Although the roots of the present conflict could be traced back to British colonial rulers whose policy was to divide, and rule, the present conflict arose soon after independence with the issue of a national language coming to the fore.
At that time certain parties in an apparent bid to oust the ruling United National Party, brought up the Sinhala only issue. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) swept to office in 1956, mainly on this Sinhala only promise. One problem led to another with S.J.V. Chelvanayakam’s Illankai Thamil Arasu Katchchi (Tamil National Party) also known as the Federal Party protesting. However, when later on Mr. Bandaranaike worked out a District Council solution with Mr. Chelvanayakam, certain sections reacted. Then in 1965 Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake formed a national government and tried to work out an arrangement with the Federal Party. This did not succeed.
Thereafter the late 1970’s saw the gradual emergence of rebel groups that ultimately led to the militarization of the conflict with the covert and overt assistance of Indian intelligence services. Subsequently the unfortunate incidents in 1983 led to a fully blown conflict with terrorism taking centre stage and the bomb created by India to destablise Sri Lanka blowing in its own face with the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Today we have come a long way since then with many failed bids at resolving the conflict peacefully. This led to a final military showdown.
With the military conflict long over, now is the time to do whatever possible to bring about peace and justice among people of all ethnicities and religions.