Jaffna, Peace and Conflict

Settling conflicts after the war and doing what is right

Amidst night cricket, world records, 20-20 cricket, and Deyata Kirula in another part of the country a grim battle rages. Caregivers have lost faith in justice and seek to die with those trapped than watch the horror. Some feel we are profiting on their misery. Many are tortured, scarred and traumatized by their experiences. Thousands are unable to make it out on their own freewill and will need to be led to safety in the next few days or many will die. This is in addition to the thousands recorded and unrecorded who have already paid with their lives.  Our primary duty is to prevent any more preventable deaths, disability and suffering. It requires a willingness on the part of the community representative of CHA to seek to lead people in peril to safety and security. The failure to do so will be an inheritance of curses, accusations of illegitimacy to speak of humanitarian imperatives and complicity in destruction of principles which bring humanitarianism together.

As with after the tsunami,12-14 hour working days, is the lot for quite a few working at present in preparing for the  tsunami of  what we expecting  in the Vanni. Huge silent strides have been taken in reconciling competing claims and needs. Much needs to be done. There are those who critique the effort as being insufficient if the fundamental need of protecting further loss to life is not achieved.

The images we have on the web with other dispatches have placed enormous pressure on the government, LTTE, UN, INGO’s and countries of concern alike. Reports of perceived indiscretions have been given credence and are floating to concerned capitals. Prevention, mitigation or dispelling such notions requires shared responsibility by many organs of the state. Sri Lankans who are domiciled overseas or are refugees remain transfixed with anxiety or anger. Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam  better known by her stage nameM.I.A.,  a British songwriter, record producer, vocalist and artist nominated for Grammy and Oscar epitomizes this group of persons. The Diaspora will play a crucial a role in fuelling or calming future conflicts based on the feeling of gross injustices. While fighting in the past two years was centered primarily in the North, it did not include the Diaspora amongst victors or losers. Their hearts and minds continue to absorb our emotions and imagery.

Wars fought to an end leave behind victors. It also creates new conflicts. The people who one day makes it out of their current perilous existence will need assurances of a future. The families of the current group of LTTE cadre will, if not the cadre too, need security of life and limb. We must respect the cost of losses and those who lost. Recovering the environment, land, habitats, infrastructure, livelihood, education and community cultures and determination of their futures need sensitive consideration. Our nationals in overseas lands must also feel counted. Most of all, the outcome of the battles ahead will shape the future thinking of many about us. If handled badly, seeds of future wars and seething dissent will continue to haunt us.

It is not only the President who needs to join the process of decision making in the days ahead. Leaders in opposition must join in collective responsibility of bringing an honorable and orderly end given the enterprise will include the life of many governments to come. Recovery will need to avoid the pitfalls of the past, particularly the tsunami. National leadership and participation by influential sections of society is a must in giving direction. Skepticism on making much of this a reality is widely shared. It is precisely such times which call for exceptional leadership, courage and foresight.

We must continue to question the indiscretions and acts of commission and omission which led to us all paying such a high price. The truth must be recorded and told. A spirit of renewal must drive us to tend, heal and nurture those hurt.

In closing a few inspirational passages from Rev. Lowery known as the dean of US Civil Rights Movement at the inauguration benediction for President Obama,

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.’

Jeevan Thiagarajah, Executive Director, CHA.