Terrorism, justice and lasting peace
Mr Renton de Alwis
‘We need to take a good look in the mirror to see if we see a good Sri Lankan first, so we could then be the good Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, SLFPers, UNPers, TNAers, MCers, Marxists, JVPers, JHUers and the like’
“Peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of justice”, says a Harrison Ford.
I quote it here, for I think it aptly describes our current socio-political situation. For nearly 30 years we waged a war against terrorism. That movement at its roots began with the cause of Tamil Sri Lankans calling for dignity and honour. Yet, its operations took a turn with a call for a separate state, with the use of terror as the means for achieving that end.
Though some may claim that the end justifies the means, there is no way any reasonable human being can condone terror as a means to achieving any end. Thankfully, the determined leadership effort by our President, his team that shouldered the burden of that effort and our Armed Forces, supported by the majority of our people, were able to put that lengthy phase of terrorism behind us.
There is no doubt in any reasonable person’s mind or there need not be any argument, that we must make that hard-won end to terrorism stay and last. That it must transform into a state of lasting peace. There should also be no issue on the need for us to ensure that justice prevails at all times in our midst, to enable us to get there.
That must transform to mean justice for all innocents; regardless of race, creed, colour, rich, poor, level of influence, affiliation or the might one may command. It must be at all nooks and corners of this land and be real and be perceived, sensually touched and felt by all as being real. That must be the task we all must work on single-mindedly, while taking ownership of the process of its making.
Steer and cheer
Justice, defined as the ‘quality of being just or fair’ must prevail where, every Sri Lankan who has not committed any crime under the law of the land, can live with equal dignity and honour. In the context of a just and fair society, we all must have access to opportunities and the unhindered ability to make a better life for each of us, our families and be able to pave the way for those that are yet to be born.
Justice and peace therefore goes hand in glove. This is where we must steer and cheer the process of getting there, when it is right and denounce and jeer, when it is wrong. It is sad that it is not so with most of us. We seem to be divided on many fault-lines. They appear as political party affiliations, blind loyalty based support, cast and creed-based actions and /or dominant belief-led outcomes.
Lack the tools
It is often we see that the same position taken by two different entities being dealt with in two different ways by those who look at it with their tainted minds or tinted or coloured lenses. It is true that most happenings around us cannot be defined as being black or white, but grey. But it is also true that there cannot be any line of compromise between what is just or fair. Yet, there is a marring of our views, as a result of the prejudices, loyalties, likes, dislikes, affiliations and detachments each of us hold within us.
In most instances, I find that we lack the analytical tools to understand the working of those who are driven by different ethos to that of ours. A good way to describe it, is the more popular parlance used by the elite of our society a few decades ago to describe a person who was not akin to their ways.
The term used then was godaya. Though the term is not in use today as widely as it was then, the sentiment that led to its formation still exists among many. It has to do with our almost blind acceptance of the dominant Western cultural values and the shunning of our own (ape kama) as being backward or archaic.
Here I must share with you two recent examples that can serve to illustrate my point about the prejudices we carry. During the last two weeks, I received eight emails forwarding me the speech made by George Willy, the Houston based immigration lawyer of Sri Lankan origin. He spoke in English in the presence of our President, during his recent visit to the USA and called for him to follow the Buddhist principles of compassion, truth and justice. His repeated concluding appeal to the President was “Your Excellency, return us to Paradise... Return us to Paradise”.
Lawyer Willy, like many other Sri Lankans living abroad or most living in Sri Lanka, may not have known that our President, on several occasions earlier had articulated the need and desire to unify Sri Lanka’s 20 million people as one family, based on the same principles.
One instance is the recent speech he made in Sinhala and Tamil (not in English) to the children of Sri Lanka at a recent ‘Mother Sri Lanka’ program presentation. No one sent me an email attachment of that speech. It is sad that many in our midst do not or choose not to, see, hear or accept that there is genuine effort here, away from the political rhetoric and cat-calls made by opportunistic Opposition.
Good Sri Lankans
Then there is a recent satellite television statement by Prof Karthigesu Sivathamby, made at the award ceremony when he was honoured with a Life Time Achievement Award for Sri Lankan Literature, which I must bring to your attention.
Touching on the need for the emergence of a truly Sri Lankan literature, he said, “There are very good Sinhalese, very good Muslims and very good Tamils I know, but not one good Sri Lankan”.
I guess that sums up the dire need we have today, when we take on the long journey before us, in seeking justice for all and lasting peace. Like the good Professor said, we perhaps need to take a good look in the mirror to see if we see a good Sri Lankan first, so we could then be the good Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, SLFPers, UNPers, TNAers, MCers, Marxists, JVPers, JHUers and the like.