Colombo, Diaspora, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War, Reconciliation, Vavuniya

Reconciliation for peace

Call for peace and hope

The search for human security away from conflict and indignity is global and ceaseless. The demands of human security include a balanced view of tragedies that are the result of terrible omissions as well as dreadful commissions. In short we need a celebration of life as opposed to a memorial dirge. We must make it that much harder to justify destruction as a means to conquer one another and make dialogue, conciliation and accommodation a means to find solutions to many competing and justifiable claims from the peoples of our country.

Human rights will be realized in large measure with the ebb of conflict and a focus on human security. Such a common quest requires the enterprise of adversaries who are stakeholders of today, it is for the interlocutors and investors to bring about this commonality of vision which together may assist us all to justifiably feel one day that we did what we had to when it was necessary.

Our diaspora

The Diaspora will play a crucial a role in fuelling or calming future conflicts based on the feeling of gross injustices. Our nationals in overseas lands must also feel counted. Wars fought to an end leave behind victors. They also create new conflicts. The people who made it out of the Vanni last year need continuous assurances of a future. The families of LTTE cadre and those released from rehabilitation 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 a proper determination of their futures needs sensitive consideration. 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. Leaders in opposition must join in collective responsibility, since the enterprise will affect many governments to come. 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 hurts.

Reconciling omissions and commissions  among Tamils

The LTTE was the only remaining militant force in combat with the SLA until its end in May last year. There were over thirty groups before . Many disbanded, merged, were destroyed or had opted to transit to more peaceful forms of agitation. Many leaders were  killed or fled the country. If we were to address impunity and bring a measure of justice to those who were touched by violence and loss in the process, the acts of commission and omission within need to be addressed. It is insufficient to ask this be done in only one quarter of the process of reconciliation.

Transiting to the future

There are many areas which measures can be taken to build confidence. These include ensuring all returnee displaced are allocated land and helped to reclaim their own lands and properties. The end of displacement must encompass any Muslim or Sinhalese affected. Former detainees released without charges or trial should be helped to catch up with time lost. Families recovering must have access to easy credit at rates affordable. For at least a time bound period the area and its people should be subjected to affirmative actions and subjected to  positive discrimination until in general opportunities are afforded to be on par with life and access to means with others in the country. The law and order machinery must speak the language of the people.

Access to Justice

The justice system should be such that the common man, the worker, the peasants and the social activist will be able to argue before it. Justices should uphold a socialist secular democratic order and strike down every law that strikes a different note. The language of the law should be made simple, lucid and understandable enough for the common man. Emphasis should be on multidisciplinary approaches to access to justice to avoid little injustices experienced by poor people for which there redress available through formal justice systems is more time consuming. The justice system must develop partnerships with sectors such as health care and social services and  community groups, drawing on the resources of communities and affected groups to better define the nature of justice problems and to develop more durable solutions to them. Access to justice should thus become an important part of the shift towards a more citizen-centered and community-focused justice system.

As we aspire for double digit growth and development we must have double digit growth in our respect for human rights, and the willingness to share and care for the weaker sections of society be they high or humble. Citizens cannot and must not be denied the right to be heard direct if needed. Justicing must take Suo moto notice of the destruction caused and the perils within to human lives to mitigate and prevent as a society which takes pride in the quality of life of our people.

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.’

(Authors note: This piece builds on an address to the Development Committee of the European Parliament in 2008 and an article written for Groundviews in 2009.)