Starting from the Personal

Been on my fieldwork in Sri Lanka has inspired me to write a blog post about why I’m so interested in pursuing the topic of transitional justice and reconciliation for my PhD research project. In academia we seldom get to talk about our personal views, so this defining moment for me always gets stored at the back of my mind where the cobwebs live. But, so many people I met on a professional level have asked me, why? why reconciliation?

When I first moved to London, in 2012, and started my new job, a colleague, a young Sri Lankan Tamil gentleman (H) approached me and we started getting to know each other, moving on to the ‘where are you from originally’, we were both stunned to realise that we have something else in common; Sri Lanka. But there was also something else that could have stopped our friendship from growing; our perception of each others identities*.

As much as meeting a Tamil was not a big deal for me, for H it was the first time meeting someone Sinhalese at all; let alone having a proper conversation. However, what struck me was that, he had already created this image of a ‘Sinhala’ person from what he has heard all his life. This is common for most second generation Tamil’s living abroad (or broadly using the term Tamil diaspora). For him the Sinhalese were his enemy, they committed many atrocities to his family that forced them leave their motherland – and go through a dangerous journey to get to where they are now. Everything he learnt about the Sinhalese and Sri Lanka was still censored by LTTE propaganda. And whilst most of what he heard might be true, he had no idea about the horrific stories from the other side. This is also true for most of us who lived safely in the big city; we seldom heard the horrific stories from the conflict zones committed by this side.

H and I are now great friends, our friendship was coloured by the stories we told each other, and the knowledge we shed on each other, and the excitement in discovering the common things our cultures share. This may not be the case for everyone, there have certainly been people I encountered that was not open as H, and those that denied their Sri Lankan identity to me. However, the realisation I got was that, maybe this is where reconciliation starts. And I acknowledge that it might be easy for me to sit here and say let’s start from the personal when I did not have to see my family butchered in front of my eyes, or when I’m not the one still looking for answers. It may not be the same for a victim to personally reconcile with the perpetrator. I am completely aware of this. But this is where reconciliation has different levels – and these different levels need to come together at some point. But for now, shall we start here? 

 

 *When I use the term identities here, I mean both cultural and political; because in a context like Sri Lanka the political tends to be embedded in the cultural.

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Should We Be Optimistic about Reconciliation in Sri Lanka?

I was at the Public Dialogue on Peace and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka, today at SOAS University. I was interested in attending not only because it is on the topic I study, but because I was curious to hear what the two different parties expected from reconciliation, and what their vision of reconciliation is. The two parties that were represented was the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), who was represented by Mr. Kandia Sarveswaran and the government who was represented by Mr. Shiral Lakthilaka, who is the coordinating secretary to the President of Sri Lanka, and also a member of the United National Party (UNP).

I was hard hit by the fact that six years after the end of the war we are still at a premature stage of reconciliation. Reconciliation… a beautiful word, but one that hold so much of ambiguity in the context of Sri Lanka. So what does reconciliation mean to the two different parties?

Continue reading “Should We Be Optimistic about Reconciliation in Sri Lanka?”

Leadership ‘Behaviour’ in the ‘Freedom Writers’

Leadership is an extremely complex topic with many definitions and many approaches. For the sake of this post we will explore leadership as defined by Joseph. C. Rost (1993):

“Leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that reflect their shared purposes” (Rost 1993 cited in Daft 2011:5).

We will look at the film ‘Freedom Writers’ with this leadership lens. Freedom Writer’s is a film based on a true story about Erin Gruwell, a first time teacher who is assigned to a class of underperforming students who have experienced racial and gang violence all their lives. The story is based in Long Beach, California in 1994. At this time Long Beach California had a high rate of gang violence, and Woodrow Wilson High School implemented a voluntary integration program.

We will focus on the leadership behaviour of the teacher Erin Gruwell. Among the many leadership approaches we can focus on, we will look at transformational leadership because Erin can be seen as a transformational leader, because by the end of the movie, she transformed the performance of her students completely. We analyse this in more depth below. However, prior to that we need to understand what transformational leadership is. According to a definition by Northouse (2013):

Continue reading “Leadership ‘Behaviour’ in the ‘Freedom Writers’”

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Continue reading “Phenomenal Woman”

There is no other way to solve human problems other than with loving-kindness and compassion

I wanted to share this video because I’m relieved that someone is speaking out. Let’s not let another 30 years of destruction and grief be repeated again. Let’s work together to stop this conflict before it escalates. Let’s not let the paradise that is Sri Lanka be turned into hell.

“We should be alarmed if our society is moving towards another conflict again… we can blame our foregone generation for the last war. But, if the same thing repeats, it is a sign of our failure. It is our responsibility to prevent such a thing from happening again” – Ven Dhammananda, Lecturer at the University of Kelaniya.

A reply to a wonderful stranger

This morning, I read an inspiring comment by someone who happened to come across my blog. And I was inspired (the comment can be viewed on ‘who is Natasha?’). I’m sharing my reply with you too…

Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an inspiring comment on my blog. I truly appreciate it. Also, thank you for taking the time to look at my blog. I’m so inspired by you that even though you are bed-ridden you are planning on starting a blog. Please give my your blog address once you start it, I would love to follow. And I’m also inspired by you that you use your time to acquire new knowledge and learn about different cultures and nations. You are absolutely right, children in the west are so occupied by their gadgets. Sadly, it’s not far from the same in my country. A few years back when I was a child, we didn’t have iPods or play stations, we would play outside and embrace the wonder of nature and discover new things everyday. At 5pm everyday the streets are filled with the noise of kids playing. Today, there is not a hum on the streets. All kids are inside watching tv or playing with their gadgets. I think it’s partly the fault of parents. On the other hand, even teenagers and young adults are too busy on their phones to look around and read the papers, maybe, and know what’s happening around them, and in the world. It’s sad to see how ignorant the youth are today. The future is ours, and we need to actively take part in making the world a better place not only for us, but for the generation after us. If we ignore what’s going on in our countries, what will we leave behind for our children and their children? I guess the reason I want to be a journalist is because I can’t close my eyes to things that are happening, especially in my country, and the only way I know how to make a difference is by writing about it or making documentaries about it, in the hope of opening the eyes, ears, mouths and hearts of those who behold my work. So, I start from my blog,until one day I’m hired by a news company to do it on a larger scale. Again, thank you for your response. And I’m looking forward to reading your blog in the future