Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Suffering in Silence

by Victor Cherubim, November 30, 2007

it is the general opinion of natives living abroad that peace will not be imposed from outside but will be home-grown. In this respect there can be no solution without a Southern consensus among the parties...

A Southern consensus among political parties can kick-start the process. It will come not from the international community, but from compromise and leadership of a selfless kind from Sri Lanka itself.

SUFFERING IN SILENCE          

Today’s  editorial, "The Need for a Southern Consensus” in the Financial Times section of Sri Lanka Daily Mirror, echoes a sentiment among many who have left the shores of Sri Lanka, yet who remain most concerned about the humanitarian issues of civilians caught between two opposing forces.

The depths of feeling of the humanitarian issue of a 'no win, no peace' struggle for survival in many parts of Sri Lanka today is an invidious situation.

We cannot turn our eyes away from the humanitarian crisis although we are many miles away. Equally, we have to be clear about the real basis on which this humanitarian situation can be addressed.

We can get a game plan to a solution only if we engage the hearts and minds of the people who support the struggle of both the ordinary men and women - Sinhala and Tamil - in Sri Lanka.

The combatants argue that the contribution of the international community either is not forthcoming or too intrusive for comfort as a sovereign nation. Whilst the single most important contribution that the international community and perhaps the regional SAARC countries could make over the next few months or years would be to show support on the peace initiatives and the peace process and put pressure on both parties to the conflict in order to deliver progress.

But it is the general opinion of natives living abroad that peace will not be imposed from outside but will be home-grown. In this respect there can be no solution without a Southern consensus among the parties.

One of the grave dangers for future generations is for the youth to survive.

The war is a killing machine. As the population of Sri Lanka comprises most of youth, the alternative to peace is a very dangerous scenario. The way forward is to address the ground realities. In this respect, nothing can be achieved without a Southern consensus.

There needs to be dual process of combination of change in the mindset of politicians and a broad canvass or horizon in which ordinary civilians can believe in what their leaders can and will deliver. Promising the “moon and the stars” and being unable to deliver has been our legacy.

In the end, the way to win back the trust of the people is through example. A Southern consensus among political parties can kick-start the process. It will come not from the international community, but from compromise and leadership of a selfless kind from Sri Lanka itself.

It has to be peppered with cautious realism. Wants and needs have to be met for the common man, whether he is Sinhala or Tamil. At the moment much of the so-called “aid” flows from expatriates living and working abroad, not to mention by the handouts of international aid agencies in Sri Lanka.

To give dignity to the aspirations of the common man for self help, a climate of acceptance and understanding must be shown by politicians inside Sri Lanka. A Southern consensus among the political parties is a necessary concomitant to this process. The international community also must not make things worse but aspire to do better in the future to accept and understand that a home-grown solution is a viable process.

Whilst appreciating that this process of consensus will be greeted at first with indifference, with few believing it would lead to either meaningful change in their daily lives or substantial progress towards an end in sight of a different war to end all wars, of healing deep divisions, it is hoped that no one be given an excuse to perpetuate this division.

According to the UN Charter:

 “Wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”