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The Softening Of The Military State

Jun 15, 2010 10:54:10 AM - thesundayleader.lk

Namal Rajapaksa and Vivek Oberoi with Army officers, at mass wedding

Today I rented an Army paddle boat and puttered around the Beira Lake. Last weekend I saw them officiating a wedding. It’s weird, but honestly heartwarming. I was looking at some photos someone took of a Navy cruise ship. There was a small child in the captain’s chair, Navy crewmen grinning behind. It made me laugh. A year ago that ship was ferrying troops and evading LTTE suicide boats. Now a five year old is sitting in the captain’s chair. Last year troops in Jaffna were on edge, troops in the Wanni were cleaning their guns. This year they were making Vesak displays. I guess we still need a military presence, but it has really softened. They’re organizing weddings now. They say militarization like it’s a bad thing, but I’m honestly happy to see how things have changed.

On Sunday I was watching 53 LTTE cadres get married in a ceremony organized and attended by tons of military. But also politicians, and even a Bollywood star were in attendance. And the whole thing was funded by Tamil business people. It was officiated by Tamil priests and Catholic priests and Buddhist priests were also in attendance. It remains that these former combatants are prisoners, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Guantanamo. I think 3k have got out and 8k remaining, in that center.

I’m not saying that having such a big military presence is bad but A) it’s nice that parents can send their kids to school and B) it’s so much chiller than last year. I heard that in 1986 LTTE cadres hijacked the bus to Anuradhapura, killed people at the bus stand, killed people at Sri Maha Bodhi temple, then killed people on the way out. Which was carnage and you wonder where the security was. So now it is there, and I understand why. That said, the LTTE threat is much diminished, though not surely gone. So the security presence has also reduced.

Every time I drive through some remote, formerly war torn area the military pulls me over. But not for a search. They’re just asking for a ride. Some fellow has got leave and he’s trying to get to the next bus stand, so we always give them a ride. I ask what they’re doing and they say mostly cleaning. It seems boring, but damn nice, you know?

The war is over and our militarized state is softening. They’re operating paddle boats for Pete’s sake. I know for a fact that western media is going to freak out about the military display in the upcoming V-Day parade, but it’s not that threatening to me. I see these guys everyday and they do everything from make pol roti to rescue people from floods. The war is over and things aren’t that scary anymore. The military is slowly transitioning to the mundane, ordinary and serene.