[CITIZENS' Mail - (29-01-2018)] | Daily News

[CITIZENS' Mail - (29-01-2018)]

Power of apology

With the Sri Lanka’s 70th Independence Day on the horizon, it is an opportunity to look back at what we have achieved as a country since the British left in 1948. The country was born as one of the strongest democracies in the region. A vibrant economy that should have fuelled rapid development and an educated population with a universal franchise that should have taken the country from strength to strength. Yet we somehow squandered that opportunity, the golden moment, like so many other newly independent nations by chasing power and riches.

So the question now is how will we spend the next 70 years? A country at peace, with equitable rights for all or a country, still disunited and haunted by its past? What lies between our past and a future that all our children deserve is reconciliation. But what is reconciliation? What does a reconciled country look like? Does it happen through a new constitution? An independent judicial system? Maybe strengthened governance?

The truth is reconciliation start in our heart. It is our ability to acknowledge the harm done to us, and done by us. Instead of seeking revenge or trying to forget, to be able to ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness. Learning to separate the harm from the harm-doer, and see the people we have learnt to hate and fear as brothers and sisters again.

It would send such a powerful message, if on the day of Independence, the President reached out to the Tamil community and say ‘we don’t know yet if it was 7,000 people or 40,000 people who died during those last few months of the war, but I am sorry we failed to protect you’. Just a few simple words, which require an enormous moral courage which I believe the President has, might just begin the healing process. For acknowledging the harm done can sooth the deep pain so many in the country still face silently.

We have been at war with ourselves for so long that no one is innocent and everyone has become a victim. So reconciliation does not happen only through institutional restructuring and complicated political manoeuvring; it happens between us, as the people of this island, reaching out to each other again and unite as equal human beings with the same hopes and dreams. And asking and giving forgiveness. For we are only human through the humane way we treat each other and when we dehumanise the other, we dehumanise ourselves.

D. Pillai



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