|Thursday, 8 August 2002|
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The need for awareness-raising on peace
As part of its efforts at defusing the alleged coup attempt against the Government, the UNP Working Committee, it is said, has resolved to educate the people on this reported governmental destabilisation plan and connected issues. We hope these awareness-raising measures would include inputs on how continued, cantankerous and confrontational politics between the Government and the opposition would make every Sri Lankan a loser. For, when the national interest is bartered for political power and short-term gain the country is taken along a losing path which would spell political, economic and social chaos.
While nobody could question the UNP decision-makers' right to launch measures in the Government's interest, an equal zeal, we hope, would be shown by them and the State authorities in raising public awareness on the current peace effort in particular and the issues raised by it. The peace process could be one among several major casualties if the current confrontation between the Government and the opposition continues but, on account of its weighty nature, the peace process needs to be separated from the rest of the issues and subjected to a special awareness-raising program.
By saying this, we are not intimating to the State that it should engage in wasteful, resource-gobbling, propagandizing efforts on the lines of the often clownish "Tawalama's", which at one time paraded on some roads of the country. No, conscientizing efforts on the peace process needn't take on these moronic forms, which we are told, only helped to swell some purses and pockets.
All that needs to be done is for Government leaders and allied MPs and other connected personnel to address the people more and more on the importance of the peace process and on the need to protect it. Simple arrangements, such as pocket meetings in public places would suffice. Through such contacts with the people, the authorities would be also in a position to ascertain the views of the people on the peace process and connected issues. Fora, such as seminars, panel discussions and the like could also be considered for this purpose.
However, awareness-raising of this nature shouldn't be considered a responsibility for only the Government. We wonder why pro-peace civil society organisations and NGOs, for instance, are somewhat inarticulate on these questions upto now. In fact the present moment is highly opportune for these groups to get their act together in mobilizing public opinion in favour of the peace process. This is a golden opportunity for these groups to come into their own, which these organizations are running the risk of losing.
Evil prospers, it is said, when good women and men remain silent. Would this scenario be to the liking of those who would like to see a just peace dawn on our land? Let not the opportunity for remoulding Lanka on the lines of a multi-ethnic democracy be squandered.
Produced by Lake House