Colombo, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

The needs of the hour

Groundviews has raised a critical issue: “what is the most important issue facing the peoples of Sri Lanka in a ‘post-LTTE’ context and how can the State address it?” – an issue that I have, in a spirit of unwarranted optimism, converted from RED to BLUE.

It may be possible to quarrel with Ahilan’s phrase, “Post-LTTE context.” The LTTE in the diaspora will still remain a player. The LTTE as guerrilla force will be weak in the immediate future and may lack even the capacities they possessed in 1983-86. But to press such points is to be pedantic. The LTTE as an armed group with de-facto state powers, and thereby the Sri Lankan Tamil goal of an independent state, is in tatters. It may be resurrected of course – if the government and Sinhala chauvinists impose Sinhalese settlers within the northern reaches and if they pursue other draconian Israeli-style programmes.

So, with those caveats let me respond to the thrust and spirit of Ahilan’s terminology and the Groundviews question. We face complex terrain. But, here, as one starting point, I advocate some simple principles. I do so through the words of two knowledgeable and well-placed individuals, Dushy Ranetunge and Rohan Gunaratna.

Let me quote Ranetunge of London and Colombo first:

“Sinhala nationalism needs to be bludgeoned with the same ferocity used against Tamil nationalism, the minorities need to be made to feel secure with an equal stake in the republic and an honourable peace needs to be sued” (Island, 8 March 2009).

Then take Gunaratna’s response to a reporter’s question “What are the chances of a resurgence, if the LTTE is completely wiped out from Sri Lanka?”

[The] possibility of a resurgence of the LTTE depends only on one factor: The Government must make Tamils feel that they have the same rights and privileges of Sinhalese and the Muslims.

The Government must commence a process of reconciliation with those Tamils and offer an amnesty and reintegrate LTTE surrendees. Similarly Government must develop the North and the East and build a super-highway between Jaffna and Colombo.

Government must develop North and East to an extent where the Tamils who have been indoctrinated by the LTTE for more than two decades will feel Sri Lanka as their home. In parallel with the military process, President Rajapaksa must commence a political process.

In this conflict Muslims have suffered as much as Sinhalese and Tamils. However, if we are to remain a united Sri Lanka we must identify ourselves as Sri Lankans. We must think and act as Sri Lankans. To forge such an identity, there must be a visionary leadership.

These contentions have to be taken up and pursued. I speak here from outside Lanka as a dual citizen and Sri Lankan patriot, a cricket tragic who has defended the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Sri Lankan cricketers from the verbal assaults of f…g Australians for some 20 years. In earnest hope I request someone, Dayan perhaps, to place Gunaratna’s advice on a silver platter and to present this platter, respectfully in ehemai manner, before the brothers Rajapakse.


What Next?
This submission is in response to a question posed by Groundviews posed here that asked readers to opine on a war ‘over in 3 weeks’ and a ‘post-LTTE’ Sri Lanka. Please visit this original post to read a rich spectrum of opinion and commentary on the nature of post-war Sri Lanka.