Come May and Sri Lanka is once again divided on the commemoration of the war memories. While the South celebrates, the North remembers those who lost their lives unable to flee the final phase of the war. There also are the families of the cadres who mourn for their children.
Children were lost from both sides. The emotions are the same for all, regardless of race, religion, and geographical location. These emotions should be respected and given the space that they deserve.
It is high time that we stop looking at the differences, especially when it comes to how each community sees the end of the war. We as a country have lagged behind when countries that were on par with us decades ago have reached unreachable heights. The economic impacts affects all of us whether Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims, or Burghers.
However, the end of the war was bitter for the people in the Vanni as they had to face the brunt of it. For those in the North, especially in Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu, it is not something that they could reflect on with peace of mind as almost all of them faced loss of lives.
When families were mourning their losses, there was celebration on the other side of the country. Yes, the war took its toll and the end of a brutal war deserves some celebration: But in the process, the tragedy faced by thousands who had to fight for their lives every minute.
Yes, they were liberated, but at a cost. They lost many in the process. Those who suffered felt sidelined. As a country, in the midst of the joy of victory, many of us failed to share the grief of another community. Did those who stand by and prayed for victims in other countries, do the same for their own brethren a few hundred kilometers away? It could have been the same scenario if the roles were reversed.
While we commemorate the end of the war, we also should allow families to mourn the loss of their loved ones. Mothers from both sides lost their children.
They should be allowed to mourn for their loved ones. But, these events should not be politicized or patronized by political outfits. It should not be done in a manner that triggers bitterness or anger towards another community.
The commemorations in the North, over the years, have raised doubts and concerns in the minds of the South as it is perceived that it would trigger the minds of the people towards violence again. The concerns are understandable.
The problem here is that such a perception is presented to the South due to the involvement of politicians who have their own agendas. For a mother, it does not matter if her son was in the LTTE or in the Army. He was a son and she should be given that space to mourn. Politicizing such emotional and private moments result in more confusions among the people.
Reconciliation should have started nine years ago when the war ended in the battlefield. It did not, and we still see a divided country. Reconciliation is not that easy, and not difficult either. But, the first step towards reconciliation is to create an understanding between the communities.
Each community should get to know and understand the customs, the values, their practices and their problems to build better understanding. A better understanding of their problems will definitely give a new perspective to each community about each other. We do not need politicians to do this.