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Sri Lankan Government deserves better

7 December 2013 05:28 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By John Teo

The recently-ended Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka, unfortunately, shifted focus away again from CHOGM’s agenda, to the secondary issue of the host country’s internal affairs.

The very idea of having CHOGM in Sri Lanka should have been to shine the spotlight on the many strides the country has made since the end of its ferocious civil war several years ago and the decades of civil unrest preceding that, with ghastly suicide bombings perpetrated by operatives of the Tamil Tigers occurring with sickening frequency.

War has never been pretty and atrocities often happen, as they surely did in Sri Lanka’s case. This is not to justify such occurrences or to attempt to whitewash violations of human rights in war time.

If anything, this is to dispel the conventional wisdom that a nation cannot move forward unless and until the ugly side of a war is re-counted and justice seen to be done almost as soon as the war is over.

It took the Australians, for example, until several years ago to finally say sorry to their Aboriginal citizens for atrocities perpetrated on the latter in the brutal history of white colonisation of Australia. And Australia had been regarded as a civilised country in the Commonwealth even before the apology to its Aboriginals, with the nation hosting several CHOGMs rather uneventfully, without boycotts by fellow Commonwealth member nations and certainly without a visiting British prime minister making a show of a lightning tour of an Aboriginal bushland to highlight British objections to lack of justice or remorse for what the Aboriginals went through at the hands of white settlers.

So why the selective sensitivity towards Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority and the seeming insistence for what happened during its recent war to be brought to account almost immediately?

A case can most certainly be made that, not unlike in the example of Australia’s treatment of its Aboriginals, the passage of time can only bring about a sharper focus and clarity of whatever atrocities might have been committed and that an unforced admission of shame or guilt or both -- no matter how long that takes -- will be far superior to any rush to keep score or account.

The priority now for the Sri Lankan government -- and rightly so -- is to quickly reap all the peace dividends by way of launching and implementing an ambitious programme of reconstruction and economic development throughout the island-nation and including in the northern Tamil province of Jaffna.

  Sri Lanka’s ethnic divides,  as with similar problems elsewhere, have their roots in a sense of injustice borne out of perceived economic inequities.

  Sri Lanka’s government, whatever its shortcomings, recognises that economic problems are usually the precursor to most other problems.

  Colombo justifiably feels hard done by if all the tangible signs of economic vitality returning to the country as a whole are hardly acknowledged when the international community or sections of it just seems intent on keeping alive and fresh memories of the country’s horrible civil war.

  The frustrations felt by the Sri Lankan government over this have been palpable and perfectly understandable. It is not as if Colombo is still suppressing Jaffna and in so doing suppressing the entire nation’s economic prospects as well.

  Foreigners and especially those who profess goodwill towards Sri Lanka should at least learn to be patient with the nation.

  After all, the history of Asia is replete with pained and painful national reconciliation efforts.

  Sri Lanka’s neighbour Bangladesh just very recently held trials in hopes of seeing justice done for atrocities committed during its war of independence.
That only brought on a fresh orgy of violence on the streets of cities in that country.

  Cambodia is fitfully conducting its own trials for crimes from its dark era under the Khmer Rouge, again largely at foreign instigation, when its government - not unlike Sri Lanka’s - craves political stability to better focus its attention on economic advancement.

  Even Japan today finds it difficult to more honestly assess its war-time history of atrocities against fellow Asian nations despite having attained the status of a rich, advanced nation.

  There is no need to rush to judge Sri Lanka’s government today. It seems to be asking outsiders for little more than the benefit of the doubt now, a not unreasonable request given what that nation had gone through in recent years.

(Source: New Strait Times)
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  Comments - 1

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  • prasanna Monday, 09 December 2013 11:02 AM

    thank you Mr Teo


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