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Reconciliation process to unite a divided people necessary

Oct 13, 2010 10:31:39 PM- transcurrents.com

by Harim Peiris

The Mahinda Chinthanaya is not just an election manifesto in the old tradition of such documents, the “Chinthanaya” seeks to be much more, it holds the promise of being to Sri Lanka what the “little red book” was to Mao’s China, the guidebook to public policy if not to quite to life.

Clearly it is in the interest of President Mahinda Rajapaksa that the Chinthanya which bears his name, was his election platform and public mandate be implemented during his term of governance. As President Rajapaksa approaches the commencement of his second term next month, the value of his own commitment to the Chinthanaya would be no doubt be apparent.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has publicly told the whole world that he believes that post war reconciliation is a crucial issue for Sri Lanka. Unfortunately that message doesn’t seem to have quite sunk in to the Sri Lankan domestic audience. However here is what he told the whole world at the United Nations 65th General Assembly sessions on 23rd September 2010.

“The entire focus of our nation is now on building a lasting peace; healing wounds, ensuring economic prosperity and guaranteeing the rights of the whole nation to live in harmony. We are mindful that in order to fulfil these aspirations, economic development and political reconciliation must go hand in hand. Towards this end, constitutional changes which appropriately reflect aspirations of our people will be evolved with the full participation of all stakeholders ….. Sri Lanka recognizes the challenges we face, among the greatest of which is healing the wounds of the recent past. To this end, earlier this year, a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission have been established, giving full expression to the principles of accountability”. (President Rajapaksa at the UN / General Assembly 65th Sessions)

Sri Lankas recent history of the past three decades has been violent and conflict ridden. Three decades of violent conflict has resulted in a deeply divided and polarized society. We may have united the nation geographically but remain polarized ethno socially.

In response to a simplistic and blanket denial of the alienation of the Tamil people from the Sri Lankan State, the response should be to look at the public security assessment and measures.

It is not possible to simultaneously argue the need to maintain emergency law, wartime levels of defence expenditure, troop deployment at war time levels and a network of security installations in the North, not found anywhere else in the country and still maintain that the Tamil people are not alienated from the Sri Lankan State.

While a military campaign has successfully united a divided land, what is now required is a heart and minds campaign, a reconciliation process that seeks to unite a divided people.

In many quarters, especially internationally and including in the diplomatic community and the Tamil Diaspora, there is a tendency to dismiss the Rajapaksa regime and the UPFA government as being either unwilling or uninterested in post conflict reconciliation. The Chinthanaya is significantly more modest in its embrace of solutions, as per the recommendations of Tissa Vitharana’s APRC proposals. On the immediate humanitarian and rehabilitation needs as well, what is envisaged while not stingy is certainly no Marshall Plan.

The current status of the war affected population of the North is a particularly pitiful state, which can be of no credit to anyone. At least implementing the Mahinda Chinthanaya’s modest promises in this regard would make some movement towards improving their lot.