Where is the timbre of reconciliation?
The path of peace is that, or should be that, of reconciliation. It is a word we have heard so often, especially in the past three years. President Maithripala Sirisena, who says he will not retire in 2020, when his term as President ends, has stated that reconciliation remains to be achieved.
But the President’s Office obviously has more important things than reconciliation today, such as the speedy appointment of that Anuruddha Polgampola as the Chairman of the State Timber Corporation. He was sent to Remand Prison – the second Timber Corporation chairman there. He has been bailed out.
There is very much more to go for reconciliation to be dealt with any seriousness – certainly more than the initial pledges of the so called Yahapalana Government.
We now have an MP of the Joint Opposition, from the SLFP – of which the President is the leader – calling for the resignation of the Military Spokesman, for not contradicting what the Cabinet spokesman, Minister Rajitha Senaratne, said about civilian deaths in the northern conflict.
It is all about commemorating the dead. There are big issues raised here about Mullivaikkal remembrances in the North. Minister Senaratne has said the Government permits only to commemorate civilians, those who became war victims. We understand, the LTTE was not an army of any State; It was a terrorist organisation, and its fighters were terrorist cadres. Why commemorate the terrorist dead or killed? But a journalist did raise an interesting question. What about the JVP – its victims – those civilians killed by that ruthless terror in the two uprisings of 1971 and 1989?
The JVP has two “Viru Samaru “or Hero Remembrance Days. The “Bak Maha Viru Samarauva’ on April 5, for the 1971 uprising, and the “Il Maha Viru Samarauva” for the 1989 uprising. The Minister said the JVP fighters were terrorists who sought to overthrow the elected governments. But the interesting fact is that those terrorist killers can be remembered, formally and openly, and not other terrorists – The difference appears to be one of South and North.
The families of the southern Sinhalese victims of the JVP terror must be having their own private remembrances, alms offerings, and prayers and wishes for good rebirths for those killed by JVP terror. Nothing big, nothing loud. But, the JVP that gave leadership to that two-phased terror, can publicly, proudly, and with much song (and even dance) remember and celebrate their dead killers or fighters who killed others!
That is the spirit of non-reconciliation that prevails in this Land of Peace.
It is a reconciliation geographically divided. The North and South are certainly not the same. Commemorations of the dead by the forces of terror, or the armed forces that defeated such terrorist forces, cannot be the same – they must differ in the North and South. Does it not mean that we are different people, although living in the same country, and members of the same nation – Sri Lankan? Yes, it does, and must be so, too.
Why raise such unnecessary questions – when the issue is one of who dominates whom?
Minister Senaratne is not one who deserves or receives much commends for his official and political statements. But he did say some truth on the issue of civilian casualties in war. When asked whether he was saying that the armed forces deliberately targeted civilians in the humanitarian operation (to defeat the LTTE). His reply was good: Not at all. I am saying it is impossible to prevent collateral damage in any armed conflict.
Even such a statement makes the forces against reconciliation very angry. They expect the Army Spokesman to refute the Minister, stop being the spokesman, and even say that no Army personnel should bear the post of Army Spokesman hereafter. Who should?
It is the spread of the North – South Divide. Nearly 10 years of post-war living, with much talk of peace, accountability, and reconciliation have done very little to ensure any of those three. Peace is certainly shaky, with the politics and slogans of confrontation rapidly spreading. Accountability is highly questionable, with the Missing Persons probe only just beginning, and that too with questionable confines. Reconciliation is the most and worst affected.
The timbre of true reconciliation is not heard in the increasing orchestration of dislike, hate and confrontation. These may come with a so-called scientific claim, as bad as in a Cabinet reshuffle, or with intellectual inspiration via Shangri-la. The tone of one of rising animosity and the beat of reprisal. Never the much-needed timbre of reconciliation.