Colombo, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

Have we faltered in Sri Lanka?

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’. Edmund Burke

Pictures of Sri Lankans mourning the victims of the bomb blasts in the past few months have occupied local and international press agencies; the former to a greater degree. What were once political assassinations by the LTTE of strategic military targets has now culminated in the overt attack of the Sri Lankan public. More than ever before the public is instilled with insecurity and the once safe Colombo suburbs are rattled with the sound of the LTTE suicide bombers. In studies of international security, terrorist structures are viewed by theorists as entities that evolve to adapt to counter-terrorism efforts. The LTTE has evolved, and its new structures can be seen in the nature and frequency of attacks this year: the target of politicians and now the Sri Lankan public was hoped to have shaken the policy of victory at all costs by the government. However, the regime seems unthawed in its resolve and the war has become a ‘necessary evil’ for the public. Numerous journalists and theorists have covered the inadequacies of governmental action and the evils of the LTTE, however, have we as Sri Lankans faltered?

Political choices during voting should be made on what is beneficial for the country; the island requires pragmatic policies that at least hasten the cogs of development. Clearly, the past few years have not been beneficial for Sri Lanka, as numerous political and economic blunders have been made- hopefully this has changed the minds of citizens who will be more politically educated when casting ballots and not just follow the hype of the moment, or make short term decisions based on political promises that have an equally short life span. Political decision-making that exudes nationalism has contributed to the difficulties towards development. Surviving in an interdependent world requires a political and economic adjustment that facilitates the new world system; so far, Sri Lanka has made little progress towards such forward-looking policies, partly due to the cost of war.

The concern for the mounting trend of impunity in Sri Lanka cannot be understated. The attack of journalists and peace activists has shown that efforts at peace building, in a conflict situation, does not benefit from political and social support. This bodes much sorrow for the future of Sri Lanka, as peace seems to be a distant dream for the civil society that has actively struggled for conflict resolution and mediation. According to rational choice theory applied to war, the benefit from war is greater than the benefit from peace, thus with greed being the inclination of the so-called ‘political elite’, it only seems rational that these mighty politicians should bleed the country, with little concern for those who struggle and barely hang onto some semblance of life. Maybe the war against the LTTE is necessary and the cost of increasing consumer prices and a fall in living standards are a price to pay for victory. However, everyone should agree that the plot has been twisted, and the sidelines congruent with corruption. This war should have been over a long time ago.

For those who have irresponsibly cast their ballot for some futile passion for nationalism; the current position of the country is a testament to their ‘preferences’. Perhaps a more ‘educated’ choice was necessary. Perhaps a concern for the future should have crossed the minds of those who abused the electoral system. The regime has successfully implemented its repressive agenda, and every time a piece of its monolithic machine works, a knife cuts through the nation, a mouth is gagged and an innocent imprisoned. The consolidation of authoritarian government supported by draconian laws will be cause for concern in the future, as the zenith of a repressive social and political milieu will be inevitable. A majority of individuals are apathetic to a clearly visible injustice that has not yet affected them, without realising that it is shaping the future of every individual in the country. The final nail in the coffin will be so disastrous, and unfortunately an anagnorisis of a lost chance for change will sweep the minds of those who writ the destiny of Sri Lanka by their very actions.

Mapping out those at fault cannot be done under one category. Firstly, there are those individuals that, without the ‘faculty of reason’ for consequence, are supporting a regime that seeps repressive nationalism in every action it has taken to date. As mentioned above, the nationalism witnessed in Sri Lanka is one that impedes the development of the island and is the harbinger of injustice. Secondly, those that twirl in their world of apathy, pull off the blindfold, listen and give your voice to what is happening in the country and take informed political action, because believe it or not, your interest, your voice and finally your vote is vital for the advancement of the country. The development of the national economy nurtured by the global economy, the focus on wages, living standards and employment should be part of any political plan. We might be making some progress towards quelling the obvious evil of the LTTE, but we have to consider the costs and realise that another evil is growing, and what is terrifying is that this ‘malaise’ is closer to us, it governs us.

Maybe one day, a vibrant and purposeful leader will be able to say that the ‘winds of change’ are blowing across Sri Lanka.

There is always hope.