Advocacy, Galle, Peace and Conflict, Post-War, Reconciliation

The HOPE in Sri Lanka after war

Shop Man
Shop Man

“Where is the hope?” is a question that the writer encountered quite a few times when she asked people to pose with the HOPE board. The culture of impunity prevalent in post-war Sri Lanka paints a rather depressing picture of a country that has lost the ability to hope. Human rights continue to be violated, there is an upsurge in criminal activity, media freedom is severely restricted and nationalist rhetoric continues to be the theme of those in the highest echelons of power. Hope has been replaced with a sense of hopelessness and apathy that has gripped society. In order for positive change to take place the nation needs to regain their ability to believe in the power of hope.

The Hope board was influenced by the statement of St. Paul in Romans, when he says “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he already sees. But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it”. In essence hope is not about seeing life as it is but as it should be, and then taking up the challenge to work towards making the image a reality.

pedlar street inn
Pedlar Street Inn, Galle

As the HOPE board traveled and continues to travel from hand to hand and from place to place, it has come across people from diverse backgrounds with different ideas about what the future holds for them. Each of them is symbolic of Sri Lanka’s elusive search for hope.Sri Lanka is at a point where society at large needs that assurance that better times are ahead, be you Sinhalese or Tamil, Muslim or Burgher. It is time for the country as a whole to renounce the widespread culture of violence and start focusing on being change agents. The Chinese writer, Lin Yutang draws an intuitive image of hope when he says “Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.

netball team copy
Netball Team
Man on the end of rampart
Man on the end of rampart
At the Magistrate's Court
At the Magistrate's Court
  • The Under Dog

    With the LTTE no more a deciding force in Sri Lanka’s future, there is HOPE for a real negotiated settlement to the ethnic conflict. Either this government, or more probably a future government, has space to put forward new proposals. The LTTE was either the stumbling block or the excuse to abandon negotiations for war. But now it’s an open road, if someone is willing to walk down it with open hands, rather than charge down fists clenched.

  • hope

    yes there is a hope!

    ie. discipline first, then development n l8r so called democracy!

  • niranjan


    It is easy to carry around a hope board and hope that all is well or will be in the years to come. But from what I see around me there is very little cause for hope. There are many reasons for this some of which you have stated such as human rights violations, criminal activity, lack of media freedom, and “nationalistic rhetoric from those in high echelons of power.”
    My own observations are that “nationalistic rhetoric” is emanating not only from those in high positions of power but from the general public as well. We are not post nationalistic or post racial. It is very difficult or indeed impossible to hope for change or act as change agents in such a context.

  • punitham

    1. ”LTTE no more a deciding force”
    The highly convoluted 60 years make it difficult to come to this conclusion.

    2. Let’s not lose HOPE.

    Mhhh… ……..
    Can someone stop camps being hastily put up in Amparai and Karainagar for groups of detainees to bte transferred from Vavuniya Megacamp?

  • punitham

    ” when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence”

    A lot of potential hidden in it.

  • jansee

    Is there anything new that we can hear that we have not heard during the past fifty years. Before the LTTE was eliinated, the President promised that immediately after defeating the LTTE, he would immediately put into motion the issue of devolving to the Tamils. Alas, is he any different from any previous leaders? The talk goes around that so long as any dissension is contained, even if it has to be eliminated, then the Tamils will be too scared to talk of rights and lending credence to this s the punitive action that is going on now.

    From the UN to all those in the picture are demanding an independent investigation on the conduct of the war, particularly the final phase. The SL govt has vehemently denied this, lamely claiming that not even one life was lost in its conduct of this war. Laughable it may seem but even more hilarious was the President’s recent lecture to an unassuming and ignorant home crowd that he will never give in for any inquiry thus “President Mahinda Rajapakse today insisted that he would not permit Sri Lankan war heroes to be produced before an international war crimes tribunal”. He may talk like this to his home crowd but those or anyone involved in war crimes cannot produce a certificate from their President to proclaim their innocence, insofar as the international criminal court is concerned. There is nothing the President can do if any of those involved in such crimes are indicted. The fact that the SL govt has vehemently denied any independent investigation on the war atrocities, constantly parroting that no atrocities took place would suggest even that it has something to hide. It seems more comfortable with the kind of home-generated investigation on the Channel 4 video controversy which the UN dismissed as one conducted by the alleged perpetrators.

    Now it has gone thumping to the whole world that it has a success formula to defeat terrorism, but surely none of the democratic conscious world would even dare to look at such a formula, aptly labeled as a war without witnesses. Maybe Iran and Burma and even Libya would love to buy such a formula, who incidentally have become bosom friends of late.

    There was hope that with the defeat of terrorism, to make sure people do not turn to the LTTE or any of its offshoots anymore, there would be a credible and legitimate consideration of the Tamils’ rights, as this may pave the way for the people to move away from such recalcitrant movements but alas Mahinda Rajapakse and his regime cling on the belief that anything and everything they deal with has a military dimension and should approach with a military mindset.

    Whereof ye Sri Lanka?


    The people of Sri Lanka, mostly the majority, live in hope the fate of which they have left to be determined by the politicians who do not have even the minimum quality, leave alone a vision, to give their minds to the issues of the people. So the hope continues for ever.

  • doomed to repeat it

    There have been tyrants and murderers – and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it – always . . . When you are in doubt that that is God’s way, the way the world is meant to be . . . think of that. – Gandhi

    There is always hope.

  • Off the Cuff



    Do you have a link to the following statement?

    nvestigation on the Channel 4 video controversy which the UN dismissed as one conducted by the alleged perpetrators.

  • President Bean

    “Only the winners decide what were war crimes.”
    -Gary Wills –

    What is a war criminal? Was not war itself a crime against God and humanity, and, therefore, were not all those who sanctioned, engineered, and conducted wars, war criminals? War criminals are not confined to the Axis Powers alone. Roosevelt and Churchill are no less war criminals than Hitler and Mussolini. England, America and Russia have all of them got their hands dyed more or less red — not merely Germany and Japan.
    -Mohandas K. Gandhi-

    …according to Gandhi’s quote, Prabahakaran, Karuna, Pillayan, Mahinda, Gotabaya and Sarath Fonseka are all war criminals! Though i’m not a Buddhist, I believe in ‘Ditta dahma waydaneeya karma’…Prabahakaran got what he deserved…I’m waiting to see what will happen to the rest.

  • President Bean

    The Blind Patriots of ‘The DemoCrazy TheoCrazy Utopian Paradise of Sri Lanka should check out this link.

  • jansee

    Off the Cuff:

    Please check Lynn Pascoe’s (UN) with ABC radio.

  • jansee

    It now appears obvious that MR and his regime wanted a pat on the back for defeating terrorism. In fact, such goodwill was abound initially as was evident from the outpouring of support and congrats from many parties. In the same breath, they had wanted the country to move on so that the peace dividends would be enjoyed by everyone. Turning a blind eye and the deafness with which alleged atrocities were overlooked by the international community should have been grabbed by the regime to work out an amicable solution and steps taken towards reconciliation. However, such a goodwill has been screwed-up big-time by this regime and now the momentum to dig the ground and dig the past is staring at them. I doubt very much that anything will be forgotten. What a folly?

  • realist

    What hope can there be with the present regime. we are doomed unless we convince the hoi polloi that there are more noble things than accepting favors from the government. Our people have been corrupted by politicinas doling out favors as if they are giving their own money. Traditionally the Sinhalese are known to be foolish or naive. Self governance is not for fools but for people of maturity. Our people think democracy is majority decision-makinng. So if they decide that the Tamils don’t deserve to live here they think itt is democracy. The Buddha’s teachings have never been followed by our people in the spirit but only in rituals.So we are a people without any moral or ethical values. Such nations have disappeared over the ages.

  • President Bean

    realist…to rephrase what Rajapaksa said recently, “There are only 2 kinds of people in Sri Lanka…they are the majority who believe that this country belongs only to them…and the minorities who don’t agree with what the majority says!”

  • Off the Cuff


    Could you be more specific please?

    I have searched the ABC Radio site and the United Nations web sites but cannot find anything where Lynn Pascoe refers to the infamous Channel 4 video anywhere.

    Kindly provide the URL that confirms your statement quoted below

    nvestigation on the Channel 4 video controversy which the UN dismissed as one conducted by the alleged perpetrators.

  • punitham

    Your heart is very very nice but your head about the government is naive:

    Sri Lankan Prime Minister at UN General Assembly, September 2009: “UN should not interfere in the internal affairs of States” . This has been said by previous heads of Sri Lanka too.

    How can we disentangle this extremely complex conflict without the help of a third party? Impossible.

    The more we delay the more difficult it’s going to be even for a third party.

  • Off the Cuff


    Third parties were involved several times for negotiations but expected results were always out of reach.

    UN is kept out of internal affairs to avoid bigger problems such as rule by proxy by big powers.

    The internal problems can be solved by Sri Lankans, in spite of its complexities, if parties come together with an open mind and give up inequitable demands

    Remember that Prabahkaran was offered the total administration of the Northern and Eastern provinces for Ten years without subjecting it to an election.

    Imagine what the two provinces could have achieved if the $300 million annual income was used to develop those two provinces instead of spending that on arms and destruction?

    If he had the foresight to accept, he would still be amongst the living and truly loved by ALL Tamils out of genuine respect and not through fear. He would have saved invaluable lives of tens of thousands in the process too.

    If he ruled with righteousness he would moreover be loved and respected even by the Sinhalese and Muslims in the same way that the Tamil King Elara was loved and respected by his Sinhalese subjects

    In hind sight I believe he squandered the best chance he had by rejecting that offer