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Forget The Panels, Remember The People

Jun 26, 2010 4:00:25 PM - thesundayleader.lk

With all this talk of commissions and omissions and ‘I say’ and ‘how dare you’, I think we may have missed the point. There are a lot of widows and orphans walking around our country. When I visited Menik Farm, I didn’t meet a single person who hadn’t lost a relative. I don’t think it’s right for the UN to mess with our affairs, but I do think it’s right for Sri Lankans to look into our own.

The real issue

Why I Oppose The UN Panel

My friend used to wear a badge that read ‘UN Official Photographer’. He literally meant unofficial photographer, but people seemed to take it seriously. I don’t think the UN Panel will find anything especially worth knowing since it has no official support. They can’t even get a visa, so a tourist could theoretically find out more. Beyond reading TamilNet and Groundviews, I’m not sure exactly how they’ll investigate.

The UN Panel remains where it began, in an international bubble unduly influenced by a Tamil diaspora baying for blood. I called one of those diaspora organizations and they said they’d never give up until some official was punished. And they still want a separate state. That punitive and divisive noise, colours any good this panel might do.

You can’t necessarily blame the UN, the government doesn’t engage, so the vituperative diaspora is the only ones talking. But that doesn’t mean serious people should listen. Any solution and resolution has to come from Sri Lanka of today, not historical bitterness.

Actual Local Concerns

I do advise listening to Tamils living in Sri Lanka now. I’m no TNA supporter, but MP Suresh Premachandran is brave enough to speak his mind. He said the one question that comes up whenever he travels is ‘where is my son?’, or husband, or brother, or friend. Those questions are real and those deaths exist, or non-exist as it were.

When Mahinda says that not one civilian was killed in the war it is quite hurtful to those who have lost family and friends. It lessens the magnitude of good he has done by an unnecessary lie. Civilians were killed in this war. I’ve met the survivors. I know LTTE survivors as well, that’s not the point. Saying that those deaths were tragically necessary is one thing. Saying that they didn’t happen is just cruel.
The Limits Of Our Commission

G.L. Peiris constantly points to the official Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. That should be enough for the UN to back off, fair enough. But it’s not enough for Sri Lanka. That commission is tasked to look into why the cease-fire broke down and who’s responsible. It looks more inclined to skewer peaceniks and NGOs than look into the war. Not that these people don’t need skewering, but none of this actually answers the questions our widows are asking. Which is, I think, the point.

A lot of civilians did die. One could go on about who’s fault it is. I personally think it’s the LTTE’s for taking them hostage and I think the government was right to finish the war rather than drag it out. I know this is easy for me to say as a Colombo Sinhalese, so I try not to push the point that hard. Because I think it’s besides the point. One thing we could agree on, is simply acknowledging that people have died in this war. The ‘why’ I don’t think we’ll ever agree on, but the ‘what’, I think, is self-evident.

Middle Path

Sadly, between the meddling of the UN and the fiddling of the government, the space for that simple acknowledgement becomes less and less. I don’t support the UN Panel but I do think a true accounting would be good. Sadly, one can rarely get beyond ‘but’ in any sentence without being branded either a traitor or bloodthirsty Sinhaloid.

We just go on talking about each other and our respective perceptions while ignoring the immediate reality of the widows and orphans who have actually lost human beings; our motherland which has lost children, which I think is more important. I could honestly care less about eminent persons on a panel and I don’t get what the former Indonesian Attorney General has to do with me. I’m just wondering about the regular people we lost. That I think, is the point.