The transition from terrorism to peace

Nothing, it seems, hurts the United States (US) than being ignored. No longer the economic super power it deemed itself to be, the US needs to remain relevant. More importantly, Washington needs to divert attention away from its own economy which is in shambles. Or, the grave it is digging itself in Libya– especially when it is yet to move out of Afghanistan. Barak Obama’s dwindling popularity is another serious concern. Human rights, democracy and accountability of other countries’ are all attributes that can help.

Of serious concern to the US is the disillusionment of an entire generation that grew up looking up to the centre in upholding these values. As the fate of such values becomes more exposed when the US interests are threatened and lines grow hazy, so is the duplicity. As its own policies become increasingly questioned and a definitive cynicism allowed to grow, the threat to the system is unavoidable. It is this vacuum that criticisms of human rights and practises of governance elsewhere help fill. 

The reality is that this is still a country in transition; in transition from terrorism to peace. The process is not easy and the job of the facilitator unenviable. The misconceptions that served the creation of a separate state are as stubborn as the mistrust between communities. Much needs to be done to bridge the gaps and allow for peaceful co-existence. Infrastructure development in the war ravaged areas is a good first step — the longer the day to day hardships exist the more difficult it is for such co-existence.

A genuine commitment towards such from both the government in power as well as community leaders is imperative. So is a genuine desire to engage the communities to allow for it. Moving a generation that grew up believing the lies from both sides will prove a Herculean task for the government– but a necessary one. The dignity that it seems to be allowing those from the minority communities is another step in the right direction.

Certainly, much remains undone. The situation of the displaced is awaiting completion. 35,000 people still remain to be settled, and schooling and livelihoods creation underway. Granted, the situation is not ideal. But, that the government ensured that not one person died of hunger, or prevented tragedies of malnutrition or disease from engulfing the camps is to be commended. As is the strength of the centre that prevented an economic breakdown given that it is still coming out of the embers of war.

In the rush to enjoy normalcy and freedom it is easy to forget the manic proportions that such terrorism existed in. The ethnic cleansing that that the LTTE engaged in or the innocent Tamil people held as human shields at the last stages of the war are all indicative of the despicable levels such terrorism ran to. The endorsement of the many atrocities that the LTTE carried out against all communities of this country meant that it was elevated on par with every democratically elected government.

The ‘international community’ went on to happily negotiate with the megalomaniac that Prabhakaran was. Their fascination knew no bounds as he strapped women of his own community with suicide vests and hung cyanide capsules on the tender necks of children armed to die. Where were the reports that questioned these children’s rights denied by a man who held a country to ransom for three long decades? The deafening silence of the impressive women’s rights lobbies on the rights of the women suicide cadres is a case in point.

It is ironic that there is no appreciation of the freedoms the end of war granted the people of this country, be they Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim. The same US led Western forces that wage war against terrorism in the Muslim world, seem in such oblivion to these freedoms.  Freedoms that the Western belief system upholds are certainly necessary for societies to appreciate. They help societies evolve and grow. They provide for human dignity and equality. There in lies, the duty of the civil society to ensure them. But, such moral dictates cannot be at the expense of countries denied the right to its’ own pace to achieve thus. They can’t also be allowed to provide a distraction from the West’s own failures, or to feed it a success story. The basis for a democratically successful Sri Lanka need necessarily be written, endorsed and elected in Sri Lanka. Washington must find its entertainment elsewhere.

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