Sri Lanka’s minority communities, especially the Tamils, must cast aside their reservations and give the newly-elected government of President Maithripala Sirisena a chance to heal old wounds. Sirisena is reaching out by reversing the clock on the people’s suffering in the civil war that ravaged northern parts of the country. This was once the bastion of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who fought a brutal war for a separate homeland for the Tamils. The decision to return private land seized by the military during the armed conflict and release hundreds of detainees is a statement of intent by Sirisena’s government on carving out the path to reconciliation with innocent civilians who became a collateral damage in the government’s final offensive against the LTTE.
There is work to be done in reversing the hard line decisions of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, but Sirisena has taken the right step forward in appeasing the minorities. These positive moves will also stand Sri Lanka in good stead in the eyes of the global community. Sirisena’s decision to call for a fresh internal probe on war crimes by government troops and rebels, with a new batch of external observers, should further his international credibility given that a report is due to be released in March. Sirisena has illustrated his priority of bringing Tamils back into the mainstream and easing the military presence in the north. These actions should infuse all minorities, which includes the Muslim population that has been a victim of violent backlash, with hope and a view that perhaps the future is not as hopeless as it had once seemed.