Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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The Lingering Reality

Lakbima News editorial, November 28, 2010

The so-called geopolitical issues involving India and China which were alluded to by UNP parliamentarian Jayawickrama Perera may be overstated, but they should remind any reasonable person that one reason we have to rely on an external power such as China and India is that we have often been unable to address the tensions between our own communities sufficiently, at home.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that there was an almost three decade-long protracted war in this country. It is particularly easy to forget this at a time of some obviously great promise in the department of economy and nation-building for instance.

Some may not agree that the economy is showing unprecedented potential, but they too would have to consider what happened —— quite hilariously — when a German government Ministerial delegation met some of the front and centre mandarins of the UNP for instance. Some UNP heavyweights complained aloud afterward this meeting that the Germans wanted the UNP to settle party squabbles, because they (Germans) thought it was best to help in the economic efforts of the incumbent UPFA, rather than cheer for regime-change, hoping that a UNP government would come to power sometime soon.

But to get back to the point at which this comment began, it is easy to forget in this atmosphere of transition that there was much bloodletting in this country for so many years.

But perhaps this week, we have certain indirect reminders. The Indian government is opening two consulates, one in Jaffna and one in the port city of Hambanthota. The week before, we were also reminded via the LLRC sessions held in Jaffna that the effects of the war continue to linger for many people. JVPer Handunetti was attacked in the same northern peninsular city when he reportedly was there on a mission to agitate for the release of the names of all detainees held in government detention camps.

Shavendra Silva, one of the frontline warriors of the government’s war on the Tamil Tigers was maliciously called a war criminal last week, in an opinion piece that appeared in the New York Post.

As irritating and unnecessary as some of these issues are, some of them are not at all irrelevant but on the contrary are vital matters that need to be addressed if we are to feel that the war is sufficiently behind us, and so much behind us, that we would never have to fight such a war again.

The so-called geopolitical issues involving India and China which were alluded to by UNP parliamentarian Jayawickrama Perera may be overstated, but they should remind any reasonable person that one reason we have to rely on an external power such as China and India is that we have often been unable to address the tensions between our own communities sufficiently, at home.

Some of this week’s events referred to above would remind us that the social fabric is fragile and that it could be torn apart if the outstanding issues that concern ethnic relations and post-war concerns are not sufficiently addressed.

It’s the opinion of many that the government has to lend a better ear to the issue of detainees for instance, and to concerns among war-survivor families on the matter of locating missing persons.

While some feel that the government has no empathy for the so many detainees that are languishing in camps, there is also the feeling that there are certain elements that want to force the hand of the government in a direction that it does not want to take.

In this context, it is a vexed question. There is genuine concern among loved ones for the fate of detainees, but there is also the feeling among the authorities that the entire question of such incarcerated persons is being made to be an instrument by which to vilify the government.

In this fogged atmosphere, indubitably there are no easy answers. But what is clear is that old problems do not go away in an instant. The government simply cannot ignore a perceived sense of grievance among the Tamil population of the north and east, particularly the north.