Rectifying wrongs of the past     Follow

By Prof.  Rajiva Wijesinha

Problem Analysis
Discrimination against the Tamil population which is seen to lie at the root of the three- decade conflict has been attributed to the struggle between a majority community and a minority community, where the latter seeks space to operate within a larger polity. The notion of democracy dictates that a balance must be achieved for this, in a manner that is not at the expense of any community.

The balance to be found must be premised upon the common need for national integration and peaceful coexistence. In negotiating such a balance, trust is a prerequisite. There currently exists a trust deficit which has contributed to the view that, as the minority moves towards advocating geographical separation, any concession by the State will be detrimental to the majority community. Conversely, the Tamil minority lacks confidence and trust as a result of failed aspirations and expectations.

The Challenge
As a result of the long-standing strife and struggle, two key challenges remain to be addressed so as to propel the country towards enduring and sustainable peace and prosperity. First, the root causes of the conflict need solutions that are satisfactory to all the communities and peoples of Sri Lanka. Second, there is a need to dispel suspicions and weld all communities into and within the fabric of one nation. The LLRC report of November 2011 states: ‘despite the lapse of two years since the ending of the conflict, the violence, suspicion and sense of discrimination are still prevalent in social and political life. Delay in the implementation of a clearly focused post conflict peace building agenda may have contributed to this situation.’

The Vision
A shared future for the people of Sri Lanka based upon equality, justice and dignity

Mission and Values
To ensure that all citizens have equal opportunities without alienation and discrimination of any kind.

To wholeheartedly accept individual identity and respect religious and cultural diversity within a united Sri Lanka to acknowledge and address the needs and aspirations of all communities residing in the country and to foster a sense of belonging amongst all peoples and communities irrespective of language, ethnicity, race or religion.

To enhance sovereignty of the people at all levels of governance

To encourage a sense of caring to be shown by the State to all citizens and communities and readiness to acknowledge and address fears and insecurities of all communities

The Opportunity
The LLRC observes that ‘people from all corners of the country who came before the Commission gave an almost palpable impression that this is Sri Lanka’s moment of opportunity for Sri Lankans to chart a vision for a harmonious future for our nation and a wholesome Sri Lankan identity.’

Sri Lanka is faced with a unique opportunity to foster sustainable peace, unity and national reconciliation. The present Government wields the broad support of the majority of the country and possesses the capacity to present a political solution that is acceptable to all people and communities. The present popularity of the President, in particular must be treated as an asset, which can be used to convince the majority community of the urgent need for national reconciliation whereby all communities could live in peace, dignity and equality.

A further opportunity has arisen in respect of the political representation of Tamil interests. With the demise of the LTTE, a moderate Tamil voice has been permitted to emerge and flourish. The present representatives of the Tamil people have expressed strong commitment to a political solution within a united Sri Lanka. This opportunity must be swiftly seized, as extremism within the Island and among the Diaspora can only be dealt with by empowering moderate and reasonable voices.
Finally, the end of the armed conflict has opened up space to address the task of nation building unhindered by preoccupation with a debilitating armed struggle, which was a drain on the nation’s resources. With the Sri Lankan Government’s efforts to ensure large infrastructure development in the past two years, healthy growth rates have been achieved. There remains a need to take further steps so that economic achievements may be translated into meaningful and equitable benefits that will impact on the life of every Sri Lankan. In this context, there remains a need for political reforms that entrench empowerment and a willingness to bring closure to the suffering of individuals and communities as a whole.

(The above is the third part of a series on: the draft “National Reconciliation Policy)

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