Whist I sit here at my laptop working on my PhD thesis, I couldn’t help but read the news reports of what was in most people's minds a very significant event in the political history of Sri Lanka and the ethnic conflict.
Yesterday the Sri Lankan defence forces captured Kilinochchi from LTTE terrority. I was not so interested in the strategic consequences of this, but more so in the way the news of this victory was delivered to the masses by our head of state, and his interpretations of this event. As I had alluded to in my previous blog entries over a month ago, I felt that the military defeat of the LTTE was very likely, however, the magnitude of consequence this had in leading to a lasting resolution of conflict in this country would be in part attributable to how this military defeat would be handled. Here I present some brief thoughts and my interpretations of this.
Journey to the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka - Jan 2nd 2009
As I was driving down in the deep south of Sri Lanka yesterday, I received a text message from Ada Derana (the news agency that sends text message news updates) stating that “troops captured Kilinochchi” and that President Mahinda Rajapakse will address the nation at 4pm. Unfortunately I was in the car (just passing Weligama at this point) and would not have been able to see the speech live, so I listed to the only radio station that I could tune into from this part of the country which was a Sinhala channel called “net FM”. I heard the entire speech, but still could not understand enough to really get the meaning.
However, at the end of the speech I felt happy, because I felt that the President was taking “Option 2” of the hypothetical options that I had laid down in my previous blog entry (on Nov 9th 2008 - http://peaceandunity-bishan.blogspot.com/2008/11/very-inspiring-speech.html ).
The reason I came to this conclusion (despite not understanding fully the speech because of my lack of fluency in Sinhala) was that I detected a “reaching out to all people of this country” vibration in his speech. I also didn’t detect arrogance to the fact that the Army had take the most significant stronghold of the LTTE occupation, and I was also impressed by the fact that the President spoke some sentences in Tamil at the end of the speech, which is what I feel should be the case for all important speeches.
I have been led to believe that after the 1983 riots when President JR Jayawardene addressed the nation, the tone was very different, and the message to the Tamil people was very different. Today we are in a different time.
Now we are at the beginning of 2009 and many situations and attitudes have changed. I believe that the President’s speech and message to the Nation yesterday is a reflection of this.
Below are excerpts of the speech that I listened to in Sinhala yesterday. I will paraphrase the meaning that I took out of each of the salient messages in the speech:-
Speech By President Mahinda Rajapakse – 2/1/09
"Friends. Although the leader of the LTTE had said only a few days ago that the capture of Kilinochchi was only a dream of Mahinda Rajapaksa, in truth it was not my dream alone. It was the constant dream of all Sri
Lankans, whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, who are opposed to separatism, racism, and terrorism, and have always, sought peace, freedom and democracy.”
Here I am pleased to feel there is the concern for the aspirations of all Sri Lankans and the main ethnicities in Sri Lanka.
“One must not belittle this victory as one that has been won by one community over another. It should not be interpreted as defeat of the North by the South. This is a victory for our entire nation and country.”
I am pleased that the President did not appear to try and turn this victory into a political banner against other parties in this speech. This would have been easy to do especially in the local political climate. The focus is on the victory for the “entire nation”, and not about “communities” over other “communities”
“Let us all be committed to build one Sri Lankan nation that stands with dignity and pride under a single flag. Let us pledge to be a single nation in an undivided country. Our collective commitment will undoubtedly rise above all obstacles and challenges that may lie ahead.
May you be blessed by the Noble Triple Gem
May you receive the blessings of all Deities.”
This last except speaks for itself – the message is a request from the head of state to build a multi religious multi-ethnic nation.
Of course, all this is “my interpretation” and the full English transcript speech transcript can be found on (http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090102_08 )
Peace in the future?
I believe peace is on our way. But there is a lot of work to be done by us all…
In no way should the sentiment of this blog entry “deny” the struggles, and suffering of so many in the past, this has never been my intention.
However, for us to realise the miracle, as it may seem, of “peace in Sri Lanka” we all have to all embrace “Peace in the Present” as the primary goal and put aside “past pain and loss”. This may seem “rich” coming from someone who hasn’t suffered directly in this conflict – but I am heartened find out that those who have also feel this way.
I will end this blog with a quote from a dear friend who is a Tamil Sri Lankan recently whilst enjoying a weekend with friends from different Sri Lankan backgrounds.
Her family had suffered immensely at the hands of this conflict, especially during the 1983 riots, like so many Sri Lankan Tamils, if not all at that time. However, despite this she has written the following (I’m sure she will not mind me sharing this with you – ie the world) :
“The situation in Eelam is so difficult however, today, people unite, in a feeling of solidarity it doesn’t matter whether you are Tamil, Sinhalese, Buddhist or not even Sri Lankan. What matters most is that everyone should have basic rights. Everyone, has the right to basic freedom, basic rights, the right to express yourself. Most Sri Lankans work hard, live hard, party hard, die hard whilst at the same time living in and at the epitome that defines being Sri Lankan. The red earth that bleeds the lives of so many of our country that have not lost and yet are unknown. We, today, in silence, acknowledge and respect the lives, spirits, and the earthly bound. We are but if not spirits of the Earth, bound by many ties that bind. We are, if anything, one, if not a created, most single, important part of the universe. Let us use our force, our strength, our ties that bind. We are after all, one single, universe. Sri lanka is the tie that binds. United we stand, together are one people, one universe, one race, one star that shoots and impact earth, together, we are the stars that bind.”Let her words be an inspiration to us all.
Please send me your comments. Speak the Truth as it is for you – just as I have done. I will not be offended by opposing views – I believe if we all discuss our viewpoints compassionately, and with respect, then we can all learn more. Learning is the path to resolution of conflict.
I would love to hear and see thoughts posted from people of all backgrounds and walks of life. (To date nobody has posted a comment on this blog – why not be the first?)
Best wishes for the New Year
Love and Peace