|Wednesday, 20 August 2003|
Please forward your comments to the Editor, Daily News.
Email : email@example.com
Snail mail : Daily News, 35, D.R. Wijewardana Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Telephone : 94 1 429429 / 421181
Fax : 94 1 429210
Keeping the East free of divisive designs
The abduction and killing of some members of the Muslim community from different parts of the Eastern Province have, understandably, brought tension to the region. The ethnic composition of the province is such that stoking communal tensions through criminal acts, by anyone who stands to gain by triggering communal disharmony, doesn't prove difficult. There's usually more than meets the eye in such situations.
The complex political cross-currents in the region make it incumbent on the seasoned observer to refrain from jumping to facile conclusions on who could be behind the current violence and the real motives for it. However, past episodes of communal violence in the Eastern Province - even after the launching of the Ceasefire Agreement - point to the importance of control over land as an important factor in communal friction. The LTTE's brutal ethnic cleansing exercises of the early Nineties, for instance, drove this point home very painfully.
However, suspending judgement until further investigations disclose the truth is the advisable position to adopt on these issues in view of the increase in "spoiler elements" or those interested in scuttling the peace process. These saboteurs could be found in the least expected places. For instance, the widespread riots which greeted the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 were inspired by mischief-makers of multiple hues. They all rallied round the peace-breaking bid.
Inasmuch as those dark events of the past condemned Sri Lanka to a long night of suffering, the current, disturbing developments have dangerous possibilities. For, any attempt to undermine the peace process by pitting one community against the other, could spell disaster for the whole of Sri Lanka. All of Sri Lanka would then be losers.
So, we call on all concerned parties to allow sanity to prevail. The Sri Lanka of our dreams is one where all communities would enjoy equality of condition and opportunity.
There is no question of one community or its perceived representatives exercising hegemonic control over the other communities of the North-East. As we see it, power-sharing would not only inhere in the centre-region relationship but also at the intra-regional level - at also, that is, the "minorities within the minority" level. Short of this we would be only having a fragmented polity - the polar opposite of our current exertions towards peace.
The parties to the conflict, therefore, have no choice but to desist from resorting to violent tactics which would only help in fracturing Sri Lanka. We are all now familiar with the dynamics of disaffection: when communities perceive that they are wrongly treated or are humiliated, they explore all democratic means of expressing their discontent. When these options fail, the more volatile elements among them take to armed resistance to protect their rights.
We have seen for over 20 years, the disastrous consequences of the above lost option. The parties to the conflict in the North-East, including the LTTE, have no choice but to keep the peace and ensure that an equitable solution is found to the grievances of communities.
It is important that all these parties work towards communal harmony in the East. All religious and community organisations in the East need to join hands with political parties to ensure communal harmony.
Produced by Lake House