It has been formally announced today, the 18th of May 2009, that the war against the LTTE has come to its conclusion and that the Sri Lankan army is now in complete control of the North. As anyone who even vaguely reads my blog is aware, I am against war in any form. But hearing that this conflict might be over brings a strange sort of relief to me. I have been aware of this conflict my entire life, seeing riots and bombings ever since I was a kid and becoming aware of discrimination and racism as I grew older. It would be wonderful not to have to deal with that anymore. There is celebration in the air now, ever since we got the news about Prabhakaran being killed yesterday, fire-crackers have been going off, flags are being flown and drums beaten on the sides of the road. Rickshaw drivers are ready to deify the president, patriotic messages are zipping on Facebook and patriots-by-proxy are praising the armed forces.
The Sinhalese have won, but the real losers are not the LTTE, they are the Tamil people in the North. The LTTE has reaped the violence that they have sown, and the Sinhalese people (at least in the South) are jubilant, but the celebration is premature. You have several hundred thousand Tamils packed like rats in camps too small for them. They are starving, abused by their guards, frightened and angry. This war has not been without casualties on the side of the army. The casualty figures have been hidden, buts its now time that they received proper medical attention. In conflicts over the past 15 years, only 7.5% have ended with a military victory, the negotiation route is the one that has prevailed in the rest of the cases (2008 Peace Process Yearbook). There are several hundred thousand Tamil people who have seen and gone through things that no person should have seen and experienced. The death of the LTTE leaders have created matyrs in the eyes of their sympathizers, and you don’t want Tamil children growing up with these people as their heroes. Today the President promised a political solution, and that is what we need. There has to be stability and development in the North and East. But have we removed a wolf only to replace him with a wolf in tattered sheep’s clothing? Can the new “Minister of Reconciliation” actually reconcile anyone? Or is he just waiting to sink his fingers into the land?
The fight is still not over, there are bound to be LTTE agents still in the country, but its time to close the rift between the ethnic groups. The president stated today that there are only two groups in this country, those who love the country and those few that don’t. I hope this same love extends to the people of the country as well.
This military victory is bound to set the president for a few more terms at least. He is a national hero now. But what’s going to happen in a year’s time when the jubilation from the war victory is over and people start wondering about the economy and national debt? How long will it be till China, Pakistan and Iran start calling in favours? The president has an interesting grasp of international relations but the continued aggressive behaviour towards Europe and the U.S. is bound to create difficulties later on.
The mob attack yesterday outside the British High Commission which the police made no effort is another example of Sri Lanka’s ‘diplomacy’. Especially since Britain was supposed to donate over 10 million pounds for development.
What’s important now is to focus on reconciliation and not make mistakes through being victory drunk. What we want is for a conflict like this never to happen again. Aid agencies and the press should be allowed access to affected areas and Sri Lanka should stand as a bright example on how to deal with ethnic conflict instead of the obvious cover up happening now.
Let’s hope for the best: a lasting peace in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious tropical paradise.