A different view of the conflict

By Tahnee Hopman and Myanthi Peiris

There is a strange thing about war; being so much a part of our lives, the impact of 20 years of conflict has left most Sri Lankans strangely immune to the violence now almost synonymous with our culture.
The war has left a far more lasting and negative impact though – particularly on the Sri Lankan youth.
"For people in our age group who have not known a country free from war, it can be very depressing to look around at Sri Lanka now. It restricts our freedom, but that is not the biggest problem," says 20-year-old Safra. "For me, the most significant problem is the anger in the minds of the people which will inhibit them from moving on towards a better future even if the army defeats the LTTE and the war is "won" that way. As long as people refuse to forget the past or put it behind them, nothing will change. I'm sometimes curious to see what the country would have been, had it not been torn apart by war from 20 years. I'm sure we could have been so much more than what we are now."

Most young Sri Lankans like Safra, feel deprived at not knowing the country their parents and grandparents knew. The most difficult thing to face right now is the helplessness that war brings – that feeling of not being able to see a solution. Is the military strategy the only option left now, or would negotiations still be possible? While they agree that the army appears to be successful, living in constant fear and watching innocent civilians fall prey to attacks by the terrorists makes them feel that our country is not really progressing towards achieving peace.

"I believe our country is in a transition period – we are fighting an old war. Though the military has gone beyond achieving what they thought they could have in terms of winning the war, I think that is not the answer," says a student studying at a leading girls school in Colombo. "As a youth having being born into a country that is fighting a war I look forward to a brighter future and the opportunity of being able to look into the eyes of the so called enemy and not see a difference."

These are the hopes of the young people of our country today. "I believe that in order to win this war we need to get foreign assistance and support," says 19-year-old Chathuri "I think what is lacking the most is the leadership and the responsibility in our leaders to direct our country down the correct path. "
Though most of these young people were positive in their outlook about the situation in our country and its progress, there were those that believed that our country is not really making any progress.

All this fighting is for freedom, but one person's freedom is not another person's freedom," said 20-year-old Nihili "so in that sense, there would be no real victory or successful outcome to be expected from this war."

“In contrast, some youth give credit to the government for the military solution to the conflict. "A few years ago, recalls Samuditha (20), "I did not believe that war was the solution to our problems. But now, with so many unsuccessful attempts to conduct peace talks and establish a stable ceasefire agreement, I think differently. Due to the brilliance and the dedication of are armed forces we have won so many battles and defeated the terrorists in many areas. All Sri Lankans should appreciate government's efforts in trying to put an end to the war. I don't condone violence, but right now, I feel that our only option is to fight the terrorists and end the war."

Despite a few conflicting opinions, they all agree that what we're fighting here is a pointless war- no more an ethnic conflict but a political power struggle that citizens have become embroiled in against their will.

Summing up that thought Shaziya (20) says "For me, war is nothing but a vicious circle, where everyone just blames each other. I would say that both parties have a point; or at least they used to. But it has bee quite a while since they lost sight of all reason. And now, we're simply victims of a vicious circle.”

Hearing these thoughts of the youth of our country, we realise that the horrors we so dearly wish to avoid literally surround us and it is a simple reminder to everyone that we ought to work to together and strive to bring back peace in our country and make a difference.

"I think that from what we can see, the military strategy implemented by the government has improved but I don't see it as a real solution to the ethnic conflict because of the cost at which we fight for a unified State and for freedom," says 21-year-old Devon. "The cost is innocent lives, and that, is immeasurable. As much as in a military sense, we seem successful, there has to be another solution. Right now, all I see is petty politics and personal agendas."

Continuous attacks, ordinary innocent civilians killed, and it seems nothing for those who are responsible for these deaths of others, as they continue to reject the ideas of compromise in favour of prolonging this doomed struggle. All Sri Lankans have only one hope now- the hope that the violence and bloodshed and the resultant fear and trauma will end.

Today as fighting rages in the North, it isn't easy for us to reflect on the future of our country. econciliation will need time and great patience. A conflict of nearly two decades isn't going to be forgotten overnight, but no doubt if we work together as one nation to bring about peace in our own little way, we can make a difference.

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