Between '83 and now
It saw the worst of humanity; it saw the best of humanity. The hundreds of Barbarians having a field day at the expense of thousands of innocent men, women and children. The thousands of good Samaritans on the other hand, who threw their doors open to their neighbours, friends and colleagues, fed them and protected them from the mob and saw them back home safely.

The publicity however was disproportionate. The ghoulish acts of the crazy mob hogged the headlines. The good deeds of the good Samaritans faded into the oblivion of the background. Notwithstanding how it was recorded, the 1983 riots were a turning point in the country's contemporary history. Many Nations and their people must collectively hang their heads in shame for the crimes of a few of their fellow men - and the majority Sinhalese must accept their share of the blame, whether they like it or not.

Some of the victims of the 1983 pogrom have asked for a public apology at the end of this 20 year interregnum. If they really insist on one, it must come perhaps with a reciprocal Thank You also for the concern of some of the good Samaritans referred to above. Much water - nay, much blood - has flowed under the bridge since that juncture in history.

If we take a leap in time from July 1983 to today - what do we see in-between these years, and what do we see today? Apart from the thousands who sought and found economic asylum in the Western world -- probably enjoying a better quality of life, economically speaking -- it has been for others a case of death, destruction, refugee camps, bombs, child-conscription, abductions - a living hell that would, on the long run, pale the 1983 riots into insignificance.

Today, we have a Government bending over backwards to appease a guerrilla outfit (that has killed more minority community members in the name of fighting for minority rights than anyone else) just so that ordinary peace-loving folk could get back to a way of life they want. Which, of course, may not necessarily be the lifestyle the few guerrilla leaders want for themselves.

It has been two decades of missed opportunities for the people who stayed back in Sri Lanka - be they Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims or Burghers. The international community is throwing good money after a bad set of people in the hope there will be genuine peace and prosperity. The brutally frank question one might have to ask is whether these guerrillas, having perpetrated so much evil in their lifetime, can ever come out and lead a normal or even semi-normal life down civic street? Is it this which is holding them back from emerging from the jungle into the full glare of the searchlight of public scrutiny?

That does not mean that efforts towards this objective must be aborted. This newspaper will also consider the merits and de-merits of the Government's latest proposals another day. Many have aired their thoughts on this issue already in this week's issue.

But surely, is this Nation and her people who have bravely endured the past twenty years, not sick and tired of the emphasis on the problem that has been called, by misnomer, an 'ethnic' conflict? Isn't it time we moved on as a Nation, and as a people, towards national re-building -- a real, not rhetorical, regaining of the Sri Lankan nation?


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