Now that the rapture and jubilation over the successful military campaign has settled, the time has come for sober reflection, since ‘there is a time for war and a time for peace’.
When our President on stepping out of his aircraft kissed the soil of this land, I thought he would follow it up with a visit to Kandy to worship the Sacred Tooth Relic, not to offer thanks for giving us victory on the battlefield -- that would militate against the spirit of the Buddha’s teaching – but to offer thanks for the blessing of freeing us from the sorrow and evils that follow upon the use of arms however unavoidable, in the resolution of human conflicts and giving our people, once again, a chance of laying a solid foundation based on understanding and metta, for the establishment of a lasting peace in an unfragmented Sri Lanka.
In the heightened excitement of the lighting of crackers and the waving of flags, to honour our fighting men and women for accomplishing an outstanding military feat, it is easy to overlook and underplay the stark fact of the enormous price that has been paid in terms of human life and limb, over the years, in removing one of the gravest obstacles to peace, harmony and unity in this land.
Let us remember, with sorrow, the tremendous loss of life and limb not merely of our valiant, self-sacrificing young men and women but also the misery and agony of thousands of hapless, non-combatant men, women and children of all communities caught up in this long drawn-out bloody conflict.
There is little to be gained now by finger-pointing, apportioning of blame and recrimination. The ghastly past has to be forgotten and buried along with the not-to-be-forgotten dead of all communities and those graves should serve as the soil that would nourish a true spirit of understanding, metta and reconciliation. Let us remember those words of the Master, words which were fed to the majority of us from a very early age: ‘Hatred cannot be overcome by hatred’. These words must be given meaning by our actions and not merely mouthed.
It was heartwarming to hear our President when he addressed the nation from that font of governance, Parliament, say in statesmanlike fashion. “From this day, let the word ‘minority’ be abolished from our land.” These words, uttered with genuine, heartfelt sincerity, underscore a fundamental truth. The root of all major internal conflicts the world over stems from just two words; ‘majority’ and ‘minority’.
Let us daily remind ourselves of all those who sacrificed themselves in defending their motherland and making our lives safer and more secure. The flower of our youth died for a cause. However hard it may be, let us spare a thought for those other young men and women, again the flower of the youth of that other group of citizens of this our land. They too, however misguided they may have been, died, fighting for a cause. Theirs was the impossible dream of a separate homeland, a dream they honestly believed in.
The President’s statesmanlike words brought to my mind a letter which appeared in The Sunday Times of December 14 2008. Bear with me, dear reader, as I conclude with some relevant extracts from this letter, captioned, ‘Who owns Sri Lanka’:
“Unfortunately, the Nazi-like concept of exclusive ownership of the land by one group has been loudly proclaimed in very high and powerful places, without contradiction or clarification.
“And this at a time when our President has repeatedly emphasized, both here and at international forums, including that apex body, the United Nations, that his primary mission is to build a united Sri Lanka. To accomplish this mission he is waging a war against a ruthless terrorist group bent on dividing this land, while at the same time doing all in his power to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people.
“…it is imperative that our President, if he is to convince the Tamil people of his genuineness, impregnates the hearts and minds of the Sinhala people with the true meaning of nationhood, nationalism and citizenship and the rights of all citizens, and with the unclouded idea that while a terrorist may be a Tamil, a Tamil is not necessarily a terrorist.”
The President has achieved one part of his aim. His declaration, made in Parliament, of equal rights for all, augurs well for the realization of the second part of his cherished aim.
We have been severely condemned by two powerful nations in the world, for alleged human rights violations, nations who have even accused us of war crimes and demanded that we be indicted for war crimes! These nations act on the principle that the norms that the smaller and weaker nations should follow, do in no way apply to them. This is the coalition that marched into Iraq on a trumped-up charge later proven to be false, massacred thousands of innocent men, women and children in the name of ‘collateral damage’. These are the nations that are still bombing Afghanistan with thousands of civilian deaths. These are the nations that were deaf and blind when Israel -- their innocent babe -- virtually carpet-bombed the Gaza Strip. They preach to us, they accuse us and do just as they please. Never mind. The meek shall never inherit this earth.
So, here is our chance to show the high and mighty, what true democracy is, what respect for human rights truly means. We must not lose this opportunity of being an example to those who employ double standards.
I end with those hallowed words of the Master, words which are our only hope.
“MAY ALL BEINGS BE WELL AND HAPPY”
Dr. Mark Amerasinghe, Kandy