Columns - 5thcolumn

You gave it your all and showed them ‘we can’
By Rypvanwinkle

My dear soldier,

I thought I must write to you because this is a time when the entire nation is eating kiribath and celebrating the death of terrorism as we have known it over the past thirty years.

Yes, we are indebted to all of you-regardless of whether you are from the Army, Navy, Air Force or Police- for all what you have done and the sacrifices you have made. Some of you made the supreme sacrifice and our celebrations today are possible only because of that, so while we celebrate today we must also remember those who laid down their lives, so we could rejoice.

We are also especially indebted to you for the manner in which you behaved in the recent past. Unlike when the Americans-who like to lecture us about human rights-went to Iraq, there were no allegations of torture or any other form of harassment of the civilians who came to you seeking help.

Instead, what we saw mostly was you reaching out to them-men, women and children alike- to lend a helping hand. Indeed, the discipline and courage you have shown over the past few years against tremendous odds is remarkable.

Why, even when Prabhakaran’s body was found, while there were many of you who gathered to have a look at the man who led this nation astray for the past three decades, there was not one insulting gesture directed at his remains. In fact, some of you were seen chasing away the flies that had gathered on the corpse!

Whatever way one looks at it, what you have achieved for this country is significant. That no other country in modern times has been able to eliminate terrorism indicates that what you have accomplished is something special. But to do so against the most ruthless and efficient terrorist organisation in the world exceeds all expectations.

In fact, right unto the final battle, there were those who genuinely believed that the Tigers could never be militarily defeated-which is probably why previous attempts to tame them were half-hearted and always ended up with peace talks from which Prabhakaran would walk away at his discretion and then indulge in yet another killing spree.

Therefore, what you achieved would not have been possible if not for the political blessings that you received for this final battle. We must appreciate that because especially in the past few weeks, every John, David and Bernard was at Mahinda maama’s doorstep asking him to stop the war and threatening him saying he was a war criminal. He had the courage to continue doing what he thought was right and I am sure he will be rewarded by the people for that.

What I sincerely hope, dear soldier is that we now don’t go about as if there are no disadvantages for some ethnic groups in this country. I heard some confused people already asking Mahinda maama to rename all the villages in the North with your names. Mahinda maama, I am sure knows better than that and sanity, I hope, will prevail.

I do hope that Mahinda maama has the courage of his convictions to see the rest of the challenges through. He couldn’t have been more right when he said that there are no minorities in this country anymore-so, there must also be a system where anyone of any community could live in dignity and that is what he must now try to put in place.

And, with the kind of popularity that Mahinda maama now enjoys I am sure the people will accept any reasonable plan that he puts forward to give all communities equal status in this country. I can only hope that some politicians around him won’t prevent him from doing that because if that happens, all those sacrifices that you made might be in vain, dear soldier!

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha

PS-Looking back at the events of the past few days, what strikes me is that we Sri Lankans are a very emotional nation. The same people who questioned people about their ethnicity and then burnt their houses and killed them in July 1983 are now smiling and serving kiribath to passers-by regardless of what community they are. Yes, dear soldier, what you have done for us is not only to liberate our country, but made us feel proud to be Sri Lankan once more. And for that, we are eternally grateful!

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