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?
A few days ago I was greeted with the good news that the new government of Sri Lanka lifted the ban on the national anthem being sung in Tamil. My joy was disturbed by certain statuses I saw on Facebook that undermined this positive move. So here I am, inspired to write a blog, because I was shocked and mostly heartbroken that almost 5 years after the war, there are still people with racist views. So why should the national anthem also be in Tamil?
Firstly, it’s about time, because the Sri Lankan government embarked on their journey towards reconciliation with the LLRC report been published, and this move is taking us ever closer to achieving this goal. It is a move that shows the Tamil people that Sri Lanka belongs to them as much as it does to the Sinhalese. It is also a symbol of moving forward in unity, as one people, despite race or religion – we are all Sri Lankan.
Sri Lanka concluded a brutal civil war between the state and the separatist group in May 2009. Since then the president of Sri Lanka appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to investigate human rights violations and present recommendations to achieve reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
This dissertation seeks to understand the concept of reconciliation and how it has been applied in Sri Lanka and the impact it has had on the society in Sri Lanka. The research involves interviews with NGOs in Sri Lanka and outside Sri Lanka who works towards reconciliation and sustainable peace in Sri Lanka.
Through this research what we have come to understand is that whilst many great recommendations have been made by the LLRC, the implementation of these recommendations has been a failure. What we have further come to understand is that whilst the government is developing infrastructure and the economy, nothing much has been done to heal the emotional wounds of the war affected people. Therefore, NGOs have been instrumental in giving their knowledge and experience in finding an effective way to go about achieving reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Whilst many further recommendations were made by the NGO representatives interviewed, what stood out most was that the Sri Lankan government should be open to involving third parties , such as local NGOs and international bodies, in the reconciliation process in order to make it more efficient, effective and successful, to see a Sri Lanka that has been healed of its wounds and taking a path towards sustainable peace.
I will not speculate the authenticity of this story, there is always two sides to a story, but considering that it is true, there are a few things that I would like to draw attention to that will help the reconciliation process of Sri Lanka.
First of all, I was saddened by just reading what the parents would have gone through, not only that they were unable to understand completely what was going on due to the language barrier, but just being sent from place to place with no proper direction, and not being able to see their son for five days, whilst being told that he was in a seriously critical condition. I was sitting on my desk, safe and sound, but my body felt like it was somewhere else, frozen, my eye threatening to tear.
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.
Today someone said to me: “the world is watching you…”, referring to Sri Lanka… And I was stumped for words. What I realised is that whatever a small minority of the population does reflects on all Sri Lankans, whether it’s good or bad. In this instance I’m talking about a small group of Buddhist extremists who are claiming to be the true Sri Lankan’s and are fighting to abolish the halal system in the country.
We may not agree with them, but as long as we stay silent and not do our part in standing against it, and standing for the unity and beliefs of every ethnic and religious group that makes Sri Lanka as special as it is, to the rest of the world it seems like we agree with it. So here I am, doing my part in the smallest way I can to share the message that this is not what Sri Lanka is.
This is the second radio documentary I produced as a part of my final project. Just like the tsunami documentary I produced, I wanted to do something different to bring out the music and culture of Sri Lanka. The structure of this documentary is very unconventional, instead of me explaining what the music is, I made it in a way that the musicians tell the story of the Sri Lankan music industry in their voice and have their music illustrate the piece. Hope you enjoy the beats of Sri Lanka.
Baila Gamuda Remix Karala – Bathiya & Santhush (Sara Sihina 2010)
Oya Mage Nam – Bathiya & Santhush (2009)
Sirisangabodhi Maligawedi – Bathiya & Santhush (Life 2000)
Ai Aiyaiyo – Gypsies (Gypsies Gold)
Saima Katwela – Gypsies (Gypsies Gold)
Attamai Kiyanne Kelle – Doctor (2009)
Mage Girlfriend – Doctor (2009)
Rambari – Lahiru Perera (2009)
Api Denna (Lunu Dehi) – Gypsies (Gypsies Gold)