Posted on May 5th, 2013 (The Nation)
The nation waits for closure. Stepping back … and looking at the larger picture, it could be argued that this has been some decades in coming …. It could be argued, also, that Sri Lanka is closer than ever before, at this moment in time, to this long-elusive goal.
History tells us that such ‘moments in time’ for so many nations around the world, have not lasted long. Which is why time is of the essence for Sri Lanka to finally put the ethnic issue behind it. Doing so will decidedly demand an end to false starts and half-measures; appeasements and political expediency; tolerance of extremists anywhere; and shameful winks and nods to foreign interests.
It is easy to imagine that many Sri Lankan hearts — not Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor, Burgher or other hearts–but Sri Lankan hearts, must necessarily sink every time that larger picture is looked at. Because, among so many other elements, what it shows is how some well-meaning prime ministers and presidents tried half-hearted experiments; kept searching for misplaced political will; let themselves be held hostage by chauvinist elements.
In the final analysis, the only reckoner is political will. And fortunately for Sri Lanka, that same political will that others lacked, seems to be in ample supply among the Brothers Rajapaksa — especially the president and the Defence Secretary.
A report in Lankaweb bears ample testimony to this. A part of this report went thus: [A foreign correspondent, who interviewed Gotabhaya very aggressively today, asked him why Sinhalese are settling down in predominantly Tamil areas, to which Gotabhaya reacted very appropriately and told him that any citizen can buy property and settle down anywhere in the country he wants. He then pointed out to him that many years ago, there were no Tamils in the Hambantota area but now there are. So why cannot there be Sinhalese in the North, to which the correspondent had no answer.
MR has said officially that the LTTE, which failed to achieve its goal militarily, is now trying to achieve the same goal through different means. The fact that MR has realized that is in itself an assurance to the majority Sinhalese that constitute 75% of the nation. On the question of national security and respect for sovereignty, both MR and Gota have scored very heavy points. Now couple that with what MR had to say through his secretary about the part that India played in her conspiracy against Sri Lanka at a recent book-launching ceremony. The result has been that we have received no more insults from India and they have stopped ordering us to take the initial step that will lead to the partitioning of the country. The government has scored heavily on these points.]
It is abundantly clear that the path to an enduring solution, to lasting peace and sustained development, lies in inclusion, not in any measure that sets the minority apart as the ‘other’. Such inclusion also demands that in being part of the mainstream — while being able to celebrate their ethnicity, language and traditions — Sri Lankan Tamils are never made to feel like the ‘other’. That a level playing field delivers equal opportunity; security, rights, an open market and everything else a citizen is guaranteed under the Constitution.
That is the ideal social setting in which the majority too, will not feel that its rights have been compromised in addressing any ‘grievances’ of the minority. Let’s get serious here: since we’re talking about the will of the majority in a democracy, surely all those democrats out there, particularly in ‘influential’ parts of the planet, will not deny Sri Lanka’s majority its demand for the preservation of the nation’s territorial integrity and freedom of choice in all aspects of life, again, under a democratic Constitution?
In such a situation of normalcy, it is hard to visualize fertile ground for the sustenance of extremist elements anywhere.Getting there in the near-term calls for a national chorus of Sri Lankan voices — from village-level organizations and faith-based groups, to trade unions and focus groups representative of the intelligentsia — urging this government to do what needs to be done.
As Sri Lankans across the board have made clear, particularly in recent years: this nation will never tolerate orders or intimidation by India or any other nation that fancies itself in a position to do so; certainly not in a setting of new global realities. This nation is eminently capable of solving its internal issues to the satisfaction of all its people. And for the benefit of any simple minds that cannot still get it, all includes the majority Sinhalese … The nation waits for closure.