When wished a happy “International Day of Peace”, did it make you giggle insanely, snort, or reach for a cricket bat?
Its hard to summon any enthusiasm for a day of peace with aerial bombings and priests getting shot, with INGOs leaving the North and then having their offices looted, and with a 150,000 IDPs stuck between the LTTE and the Government forces. But summon some I did, and drove to the program conducted by NPC at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute hoping that they might have discovered some magical way out of this predicament.
The proceedings were to be blessed by priests from the major religions, but the Buddhist Monks had not arrived yet, so they started off with the Christian Father, then had a Hindu Priest grace the occasion, followed by a sermonette from a Muslim Priest. It was at that time that the Monks showed up and the majority of the people stood up effectively interrupting the Muslim chap. So much for religious equality.
The key note address by Dr. Saravanamuttu was enlightening. Media censorship is so strong that we almost never know what really is happening in the Vanni (except for the daily “Air Force bombs key LTTE position”) unless someone personally visits the area and gets the news out. I am not going to turn this post into a report of the event, but perhaps the key ideas of the gathering was that we as a people must take things into our own hands, petition the President to open a corridor where humanitarian aid can be sent to the IDPs in the Vanni, and a no war zone be created where people can be safe from the antagonists in this conflict.
We, as a people, taking matters into out own hands. That has a nice ring to it doesn’t it. We, as a People. Look around you right now. How would you gauge the attitude of the ‘people’ right now. How many are truly fed up with the situation in the country. I am not talking about rising fuel prices or inflation, but rather about the war being fought right at this present moment. How many people will say “stop” and stand up to this tyrannical regime? Can we emulate the Burmese Monks? Can we follow the Nepali people’s revolution and bring the city to a standstill till the Government listens to us?
To mobilize there has to be, simplistically, a ‘need’ and a ‘want’. The ‘need’ is there, with the war in the North and people dying every day, and discrimination a regular occurrence. But the ‘want’ seems to be lacking. The people who actively want an end to this conflict is in the minority, while the majority goes about their daily lives. There are several general excuses people have for their lack of action:
1. The Government is fighting terrorists
2. The war will end soon
3. Its only the Tamils that are discriminated against
4. Sri Lanka should only be for the Buddhists
These reasons are terribly simple and I am sure a much more exhaustive, analytical list can be written but when dealing with a communal mind, its the simple ideas that drive.
For change to take place it is necessary that people understand that these reasons don’t justify a war. For one, not only is the Government fighting terrorists, they are also fighting the Tamil people. Their acts of discrimination and violence simply create a breeding ground for hate. No one is going to watch their family members imprisoned, killed and abused and not hate the Government that did that to them. If one terrorist group were to be put down in this manner, another will rise. There can be no reconciliation when force is being used.
This war will not end quickly. There is so much censorship going on that the true facts are hardly ever known. It is simply a political gambit to keep the populace from putting too much pressure on the Government. As long as there is something they can look forward to, the public holds on. But there is a limit to how long they will wait as well. In another 6 months people will start wondering just how soon this war can end. And even then the repercussions of the military spending will be felt years down the road.
What is difficult to understand is that how a society that is supposed to be based on principles of moderation and tolerant can be so blood thirsty. For every person simply lukewarm about the war, you have a hard line nationalist who wants to kill anything that he doesn’t like. Suppose the Tamils are chased away, I wonder who they will turn to next. The Christians, possibly? And then maybe the Muslims?
I believe people’s eyes have to be forced open before they realize that its their fellow country men that are killing and being killed. They have to realize that there will be scars from this war that might never heal. We may not be actively involved in the conflict, but as surely as we stand on the side lines and watch, we are as responsible for our inaction. The more people that die, the more of our own humanity we lose.
It is time to say ‘enough’. It is time to do something.