|Thursday, 20 February 2003|
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The "missing in action" conundrum
Besides being an essential part of the process of bringing peace and reconciliation to the country, the investigation of complaints relating to those missing in action in the North-East war is bound to shed considerable light on vital aspects of the conflict and on how the war was conducted over the years. However, priority number one in this context, is bringing relief to the close kith and kin of those who are believed to be missing in action. The "missing" also, of course, includes non-combatants and civilians whose whereabouts have not been traced thus far.
We believe that the State owes it to those persons who are suffering in silence over their missing loved ones, to unravel the truth about the latter as far as is practicable. In their intense state of mute torment, the lives of those who are yearning for information on what has become of those who have "gone missing", is reduced to a living-death. Their tragic suffering burns deep down in their bones and when very little or nothing is done to relieve their anxiety, their lives could be considered as having been permanently wrecked.
The problem of the "missing" in conflict and war is, therefore, primarily, a human tragedy which cries out for resolution and which needs to be dealt with urgently if healing and reconciliation are to be realities in the country. We request the State and its agencies and all those concerned with bringing peace, to co-operate with humanitarian organisations, such as the ICRC, in the task of tracing those who are confirmed as "missing in action".
Our front page lead story yesterday referred to a statement made by the LTTE's chief negotiator Anton Balasingham, some time back, that the LTTE was left with no choice but to cremate the remains of those soldiers who were felled in battle on account of a refusal by the former government to accept the bodies of these soldiers.
Among other things, if there is any truth in this statement, it sheds more light on the inhuman cruelty the North-East war bred over the years. It is obligatory on the part of the State to investigate this allegation and if correct to bring to justice those responsible for this cold and cruel indifference to those who paid the supreme price for their country.
The astounding number of those "missing in action" also brings into focus, the utter futility of exercising the military option in the face of a problem which cries out for a negotiated settlement. There are no "holy" or just wars; this is recognised by the just and the righteous of the world. War breeds inhuman cruelty and suffering and Lanka's 20-year war alone, bears this out. The scores of mainly our youngsters who have simply "disappeared" without a trace is proof of the dark tragedy which is war.
Still, there are sections in this country which would attempt to find everything wrong with earnest efforts at ending our suffering. The challenge today, is to bring to our land a just peace. However, peace is a product of justice and fairplay. It is this recognition which triggers negotiated settlements, such as the one which is pursued by the present Government.
Do the detractors of the current peace effort have no hearts or ears for those who are suffering the consequences of war? Don't they recognise the mute suffering of those who have lost close their kith and kin in a war which only produced more and more suffering and evil?
Finding a negotiated solution to our conflict is no easy task. This is because it has grown in complexity.
The least we could do is lend our moral support to those who are engaged in the heroic undertaking of putting this country together again.
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