Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Sri Lanka – The Final Path to Peace

There may be euphoria in some quarters, relief in some others and disbelief elsewhere but the news of the actual and physical elimination of the leader of the LTTE Velupillai Prabhakaran and of his elite core in the final thrust by the Sri Lankan Army is the foreseen outcome of the determined and relentless military campaign launched by the Sri Lankan government since 2006. The LTTE international relations head K. Pathmanathan on May 18, 2009 made an admission of their defeat in his interview by stating “We have decided to silence our guns. Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer.” The admission to silence guns and lay down arms to save civilian lives was ironical in the face of the fact that they had contributed to the deaths of thousands of innocent Tamils who had earlier resided and later were fleeing from the territory held by them. The truth is that the LTTE as a force has been vanquished for the present; it is now incumbent upon the Sri Lankan government to delve into the issue of the future of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and devise the progress to permanent peace.
The first step would be Restoration of Trust : for a long period the Sri Lankan Tamils have suffered under the short sighted policies of the successive Sri Lankan regimes that had by their ill considered and imprudent policies alienated the Tamil community. The subsequent events did not alleviate their fears of annihilation and allowed them to believe in the organisations who promised them reprieve. The LTTE emerged as a single powerful force and with its armed fighters , suicide squads, naval and air wings and its capacity to strike at the Sri Lankan forces with impunity; it succeeded in wooing the Tamils and convincing them of its infallibility. It postured itself as their true protector of Tamils against the atrocities of the Sri Lankan establishment. With the fall of this powerful force to protect them and with the fear instilled in them through constant indoctrination that without the LTTE to protect them the Sri Lankan government would revert to indiscriminate killing and carnage , it is not difficult to understand the fear that must be gripping them now. This would be the most opportune moment for the Sri Lankan President Rajapakse to display his sincerity and to honour his commitment to the Tamils in Sri Lanka and step in as their protector and safeguard their interests. The international community and the Indian government while respecting the actions of Sri Lanka as a sovereign nation to fight the scourge of terrorism , has often reiterated that political solution is imperative.Therfore, it is necessary for President Rajapakse, by his actions , to instil in the minds of the Tamils an assurance that their interests will be honoured and declarations and pledges made by him were not mere rhetoric.
The second step would be Restitution: The hostilities that have spanned more than two decades have sapped the society of all its strength. The sustained and relentless military campaign against the LTTE has plunged the civilian population into the throes of agony and wretchedness. They have lost their families, belongings, livelihood and have suffered physical and mental trauma. The survivors may be without fear of being shelled or shot but they are also without sufficient food, medical aid and dwelling. The army of any country is a force that is trained for a specific purpose and has a contrary role to play; it is an established fact that armed forces are not very adept in the humanitarian role, as their very presence gives rise to fears and resentment in civilians caused by memories of their campaigns. It is therefore, time for the organisations that deal with such emergencies to mobilise relief ; and with proper supervision to ensure the distribution of amenities to the civilian population who have been the victims of the war .International organisations capable of dealing with such emergencies should be allowed into the areas. For a long time the Sri Lankan government has resisted the entry of humanitarian agencies citing security reasons. However, to allay the misery of those who have fled with the hope for better conditions it is necessary to restore their basic human rights .The Sri Lankan government must show its willingness to allow India and the international community to assist in this operation.
The third step is Relocation: The war torn areas cannot sustain life. All the basic structures have been demolished in the incessant shelling. With no hope of immediate return to their homes, the persons who have fled must be moved from the camps where they now eke out an existence and should be allowed to join the mainstream of life as expeditiously as possible. After the initial aid offered to them in form of food and medicines as being their immediate requirements, it is necessary to transfer them to places where they can carry out routine and normal activities for some time. Education and vocation would divert them from the horrors of war by setting a routine. Living in camps for interminable periods has been seen to be counterproductive to peace. Relocation is important and should of the policy to restore them to their homes eventually.
The fourth step is Reconstruction: India as a major regional power has to play a dominant role in the reconstruction of the war ravaged region. It is now common knowledge that the entire northern area has been destroyed and is devoid of the basic infrastructure required to support life. All means of livelihood. have disintegrated and rapid reconstruction is required to restore the region. Schools and hospitals have to be built ; housing, electricity, water systems and communications have to restored , roads and other transport systems have to be laid again. Sri Lanka has expressed its preference for regional assistance balking at the offer of certain other agencies. Therefore, it is essential that India, with whom Sri Lanka has geographical proximity and shares good diplomatic and trade relationship, should accept the greater responsibility.
The final step is Devolution and Development: both concurrent. To reverse the trend and assuage the Tamils in Sri Lanka, President Rajapakse has to carry forward into action the messages that he has articulated. There should be directives from him that ensure that the devolution of power takes place in fact. Although development of the region will lead to economic growth and create a system of life that will ensure the dignity of life of the individual without the power to choose those who will lead and govern , there will be discontentment. History may be rewritten in Sri Lanka but it is more important to rewrite the conditions under which society will function.
The LTTE as an organisation may have met its end but the reasons that created the conditions in which it was born have to be permanently removed. If the core issues are not addressed with sincerity the actors may die but the cause celebre will remain. Sincerity in translating words into actions is the sine qua non of the goal of peace in Sir Lanka.

1 comment:

Ravi Iyengar said...

Dear Ms.Geeta Madhavan:

Your article “ Sri Lanka- The final path to peace” has set the right directions to be followed by the Sri Lankan Government. While President Rajapakse successfully ended the LTTE activities, he now needs to start the most challenging activity of engaging Tamils into the mainstream of Sri Lanka.

It looks like the President has made the right moves by assuring Tamils of their safety and protection. But to me, what is most important is the attitude of the Tamils themselves to believe in the Sri Lankan Government and indulge in the country’s growth plans. It is the right time for them to form forums, groups and associations to prove their loyalty and allegiance to the Sri Lankan Government. It is the turn of the Tamils to showcase their integrity and trust in the Sri Lankan government, so that the Tamil’s future generations are devoid of the hatred from the Sinhalese.

It is in the collective minds of the Tamils to ensure that the “Cause Celebre” of the LTTE stands vanished, as mentioned by you.

-Ravi Iyengar