A global accolade | Daily News

A global accolade

The internal conflict in Sri Lanka ended exactly nine years ago, but it is always very difficult to heal the wounds of war. Sri Lanka is not alone in this respect - more than 70 years after the Second World War, some survivors are still suffering from pain and anguish. That is the nature of war. But after any war comes an even harder part. How do you come to terms with those terrible events and still work towards peace?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government had a golden opportunity to bring the country together and work towards lasting peace in the immediate aftermath of the war, but the primal urge of triumphalism and communalism took over. They squandered every opportunity to achieve peace and reconciliation, but the world took notice. Under intense international pressure, the Government appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) which later suggested a series of measures to achieve reconciliation.

However, it fell upon the National Unity Government elected in 2015 to implement its recommendations. Along with the LLRC recommendations, the Government also launched a series of other measures aimed at reconciling the various communities and religious groups, from releasing civilian lands held by the military to starting work on a new Constitution. One outstanding feature of the Government’s reconciliation campaign was the active participation and contribution of the wider civil society.

These efforts have been noticed internationally. UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Miroslav Lajcák has cited Sri Lanka as a successful example of how civil society could collaborate with the Government on peace building. He has made references to Sri Lanka’s peace building efforts during both the opening and closing remarks of the High Level Meeting on Peace Building and Sustaining Peace which was held at the UN Headquarters in New York from April 24-26. He also cited an example of how Sri Lanka’s civil society made a contribution to the Government’s efforts on drafting a reconciliation and peace building programme for the country.

Speaking at the High Level Meeting, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York Ambassador Rohan Perera also highlighted the initiatives undertaken by the Government on reconciliation and peace building. Ambassador Perera emphasized the importance of prevention of conflicts, as reflected in the Secretary General’s Report on Peace Building and Sustaining Peace, as a factor that would save countless lives and resources that could be used for a country’s development. Sri Lanka’s efforts of engaging the Diaspora in peace building initiatives was also highlighted. Earlier, the Government successfully articulated the progress made in accountability and human rights spheres at the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, which was praised by the International Community.

This international recognition is a vindication of the Government’s efforts at reconciliation and nation building. It is also an indication that the Government is going in the right direction with regard to reconciliation. In President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka has two leaders who are genuinely committed to reconciliation. They envision a Sri Lanka where people belonging to all communities and religions live in harmony.

In fact, this was the norm in Sri Lanka until the war tore various communities apart. Post-conflict, there are extremist groups in various communities who do not want to see racial harmony. Such elements were behind the recent troubles in Ampara, Digana and Ginthota, which dented the country’s image internationally. The Government acted swiftly to quell the disturbances, but even more importantly, is taking steps to prevent any repetition of such ugly incidents. Social media sites such as Facebook, where most of the hate campaigns are conducted, have promised to work with the Government to take down such content and expel the uploaders from the respective platforms. They also plan to recruit people conversant with the country’s two vernacular languages to monitor offensive content.

Having suffered for 30 long years from a disastrous conflict, Sri Lankans should be determined not to slide again to ethnic or religious discord. Reconciliation should thus begin from our neighbourhoods, schools and places of worship. There are plans to teach reconciliation as a formal subject, but the onus should be on parents and teachers to inculcate the value of racial harmony in children from a very young age. As the remarks made at the UN show, the civil society has a major role to play in achieving true reconciliation.

Sri Lankans need to stop thinking along ethnic lines at all times. If we meet someone or the first time here or abroad, the first question we ask is “are you Sinhala? Tamil? or Muslim?”. The key to ethnic harmony is developing a truly Sri Lankan identity, where we think simply as Sri Lankans. Countries such as Singapore have achieved this – if you ask a Chinese-origin resident of Singapore, he or she will say “I am a Singaporean” without ever mentioning the ethnicity. We need to elevate our attitudes to think as Sri Lankans. Peace and prosperity will elude us as long as we stick to petty ethnic divisions. 


 

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Don't feel shame who you are.you are what you are. Nothing can change it. Face it. Dociety should improve. No one is inferior or superior to one another. Achievement behaviour character morals will make you different

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