One of the primary pledges of the Sirisena -Wickremasinghe Government before and after assuming power was to attain national reconciliation and peace among different entities. Peace and reconciliation are prerequisites to nation building. It has been recurrently pointed out that although Sri Lanka may have achieved negative peace, positive peace is yet a dream.
In other words, there is general consensus that although the armed conflict may have ended in 2009, the more deeply rooted ‘national conflict’ is far from being resolved. This requires affirmative action by the Governments laying down an institutional foundation which addresses the root causes of the conflict. Moving on after a war that concluded almost a decade ago and stepping into 2018 it is essential that we look back and see where we stand on the road to reconciliation.
The Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) in association with the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation conducted a one-day conference on December 12 highlighting the Role of Youth in Reconciliation. The preliminary comments made by several dignitaries, who addressed the gathering at the event, were informative of how far Sri Lanka, as a country has travelled on the path of reconciliation and how far we need to go.
Young children can be taught and inspired to integrate with children of communities not identified with one’s own and can then influence adults in their respective families by their behaviour and progressive way of thinking
“12, 000 ex-combatants rehabilitated socially”
V. Sivagnanasothy, Secretary to the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation stressed upon the active role the ministry needs to play in the task of reconciliation. “An integration approach needs to be taken in achieving reconciliation. President Sirisena is very concerned about this during this process.
Many steps have been taken already at the school level and also among religious leaders focusing on how such groups can contribute towards reconciliation. Young children, whose minds are fresh and untainted by prejudices, can be taught and inspired to integrate with children of communities not identified with one’s own and can then influence adults in their respective families by their behaviour and progressive way of thinking,” said Sivagnanasothy.
With the view of clearly indicating commitment on the part of the Government, Sivagnanasothy listed some of the other affirmative initiatives taken towards achieving reconciliation and assured that all issues identified will be translated into action plans in 2018.“By now, over 12, 000 ex-combatants have been rehabilitated socially. However, the Government is yet to empower them economically in order to get them integrated into the community and mainstreamed in society. A housing programme to build 50,000 homes for conflict affected people and a sizable road development project are also in play. The Office on Missing Persons Act was passed last year and its work is in progress,”
If everyone practices what their religions teach, then the process of reconciliation and integration will be much easier. There won’t be any war or any differences
Sivagnanasothy also placed emphasis on the role of the media in reconciliation.
“The media can break or make peace. Media personnel must be cautious in reporting incident related to ethnic issues. They must be socially responsible and accountable,” affirmed Sivagnanasothy.
“Correct faults and drive country towards peace”
State Minister Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation AHM Fowzie speaking in all three languages drew special attention to the premise on which his Ministry was formed.
“This ministry was created by the President himself, which goes to show the devotion which both the President and the Prime Minister has towards this endeavor. We have to admit that this state of hatred among different races and religions was created by politicians who only believed in achieving narrow political aims. It is now high time that politicians realize this, correct their faults and drive the country towards the common goal of peace,” he said. The minister states that it’s now too late to initiate change in the minds of adults who have preconceived notions about each community and carry with them grief of the past. However, he proposed that the youth can spearhead the process of societal change and attitudinal change.
“If everyone practices what their religions teach, then the process of reconciliation and integration will be much easier. There won’t be any war or any differences. We have all come to this world for a short period. So let’s not have discrepancies and misunderstandings,” he pointed out.
“Reconciliation is a process which everyone must join”
Thurka Krishnasami, a gender and humanitarian activist, who was a panelist at the conference, explored the concept of reconciliation and how it is perceived by
“Reconciliation is understood by different people in different ways, which makes it all the more difficult to talk about it to everyone. The general belief is that when there is development, there is reconciliation.
Reconciliation is understood by different people in different ways, which makes it all the more difficult to talk about it to everyone. The general belief is that when there is development, there is reconciliation
We need to shed that kind of narrow thinking and have a common or shared vision when it comes to reconciliation, whether it be within the Government, NGOs or among the general public. Reconciliation is a process which everyone must join. It is an integrated approach that we should be following.