Colombo, Media and Communications, Peace and Conflict, Religion and faith, Trincomalee

Interview with a leading Buddhist priest on whether the LTTE is really finished and the war over in Sri Lanka

Vikalpa Video asked Ven. Prof. Bellanvila Vimalarathana Thero for his opinion on whether the LTTE was really finished and the war over in Sri Lanka. Ven. Prof. Bellanvila Vimalarathana Thero is the Chief Priest of the Bellanwila Rajamaha Viharaya.

This interview was recorded one week ago, before the dramatic events over the past few days. An English transcript of the short interview is provided below for those who can’t understand Sinhala to interrogate the Thero’s opinion on the conduct of war and plans for development and humanitarian assistance to the Vanni, which mirrors that of the Buddhist clergy writ large in Sri Lanka.

Transcript in English
The important issue is not whether the LTTE is finished or not. In our country, in our land, up until now there was a terrorist group that held on to a tract of land as theirs. To free this land of the terrorists was the prime goal of the government’s humanitarian operations. The terrorists had even demarcated boundaries of the land that they said was theirs. We cannot allow in this country groups to divide land in this manner. We are one country. The government has only around 3 ½ km more to go to free innocent civilians from the LTTE’s grip. It is imperative that these areas are rid of terrorism. The government has announced that it will do so without any harm to civilians in these areas. This is the difficulty. Yet defence sources say that it somehow can and will be done. It will be a great and historic victory if this were done. Terrorism has deracinated all aspects of life over 30 years in Sri Lanka.

We must then talk about the problems we have with the LTTE. There is no debating this. Till now, civilians in the North have suffered under the violence of the LTTE, and today they are escaping this vice grip and surrendering to the government. This is very important. All of us, without any division must work together to help our peoples. There are Tamils here. There are Muslims here. There may even be small numbers of Sinhala people. All of them have escaped the LTTE – some with only their clothes as their belongings. They have left everything and come. We need to resettle them – this is a large task. This is not something the Government alone can do. There are a number of international organisations talking about the war and a ceasefire today. These organisations and countries must help in this task, but through the government and not by coming here to do it alone. What we see in many other developing countries and post-disaster situations is that after the crisis, a large number of NGOs come in and start spreading their ideas and ideology.

If you look at this from a humane perspective, these problems afflicting the world and the suffering of people have to be addressed through systematic programmes implemented by government. These programmes should be participatory and transparent. The immediate needs of those displaced should be looked into as well as their long-term development. After 30 years of ravaging conflict, there is no infrastructure in these areas. Schools, hospitals and other institutions require a large scale developmental programme in these area. After, this they can do their agriculture and explore other avenues for economic development. To give them health facilities and everything else to these areas, all must get together, eschew partisan political gain and bickering and ensure the needs of these people are met so that they can live in dignity and respect as one country. Without any North – South divisions, all peoples need to live in harmony and have the freedom to move freely.

These are the fundamental aspects of what needs to be done in the future.

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