At a time when we in Sri Lanka speak loudly about peace, democracy, the need to express our views freely and law and order, it is an insightful learning experience to focus on the acceptance speech made by Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi in Norway, more than two decades after she won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Greeted by heartfelt applause from those gathered in Oslo City Hall, she explained how the prize at first did not seem quite real but that her understanding of it changed through her long house arrest.
“What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me. This did not happen instantly, of course, but as the days and months went by and news of reactions to the award came over the airwaves, I began to understand the significance of the Nobel Prize,” Ms. Suu Kyi said. “And what was more important, it had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma. We were not going to be forgotten.”
She said the prize meant extending her concern for democracy and human rights beyond national borders but even years later, much of the world was still seeking peace while negative forces nibbled at its foundations.
“Fires of suffering and strife are raging around the world. In my own country, hostilities have not ceased in the far north; to the west, communal violence resulting in arson and murder were taking place just several days before I started out on the journey that has brought me here today,” Ms. Suu Kyi said. “My attitude to peace is rather based on the Burmese definition of peace -- it really means removing all the negative factors that destroy peace in this world. So peace does not mean just putting an end to violence or to war, but to all other factors that threaten peace, such as discrimination, inequality and poverty.”
We in Sri Lanka too are recovering from a thirty-year war, which bloodied, bruised and battered this nation. Today we have what many describe as peace. But are we stakeholders and shareholders of real and tangible peace where we could like what Ms. Suu Kyi describes as a peace where there is no discrimination, inequality or poverty.
To achieve this kind of peace we have a long way to go with all concerned working sincerely and sacrificially towards reconciliation with understanding not with a mindset of one-upmanship or the victor takes all attitude, but with humility and sincerity keeping in mind the need for all Sri Lankans irrespective of caste, creed or community to be the winners.