In a bid to create an understanding between all communities in the country, the Government and several other institutions which campaign for peace and equality, have been associated with several islandwide programmes, trying to bring all people together.
Sri Lankan population consists of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and a few others. All the major communities have some common features in terms of language, common words, cultural values, rituals, etc,.
But, the act of reconciliation is easier said than done. The 30 years of hostilities, threats, confusion, and suspicion had created a massive gap that needed, not only an effective and systematic method, but also some commitment and flexibility from the representatives of the communities concerned.
Over the years, talks between successive Government and representatives of the Tamil speaking people, namely the LTTE and subsequently the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), failed owing to various reasons. The main reason was that neither party was willing to be flexible and was firm in their respective demands.
It is true that whatever solution that is reached should not be detrimental for the sovereignty of the country. At the same time, those at the negotiating table should also understand the heavy price paid by all the communities due to the war.
All communities were affected. But the brunt of the war was faced by those in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Therefore, it is important that those who try to find solutions understand the sensitivities of these communities living in both provinces.
However, when attempts are made to create understanding between people and communities, it is also essential to have second look as to whether all segments are indeed part of the process.
Thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils from the North and East have fled the country on numerous occasions over the past 30 years, owing to fear and other factors of the war. The Diaspora community has been a crucial part of Sri Lankan Tamil politics since the latter stages of the war. Even today, the Diaspora is most vocal about their feelings and more active than those who are here.
Times have changed now. The country’s environment has changed. Those who are abroad can come here and see for themselves how the people are. In addition, they could play a more active role in not only rebuilding the lives of the affected people, but also in creating a better understanding between communities.
It is easy for people to be away from the action and criticize what is going on in the field. But now is not the time to criticize. It is time for all of us to get together and look at how we could help the people, while looking at solving the ethnic question.
When all communities are focusing on trying to coexist, one must not forget those abroad.
Involving the Diaspora in discussions and the decision making process is a crucial factor in creating the much needed confidence among them. In fact, those in Sri Lanka understand the Government and its level of commitment towards solving issues.
Being far away and out of the system, it is natural that they see the process from a different perspective and therefore would be more critical. This criticism is needs for the government to look at all aspects and aspirations.
Ever since the latter stages of the war, the Diaspora has been looked at in a suspicious manner by the majority of Sri Lankans. Their actions too did not help change the perception.
What we need here is for all parties to come to a common ground, not to solve the issues, but to come to the negotiating table. The demands and requests, arguments and counter arguments can be put across the table later. The main thing is to include those residing outside.
The current generation who were born and bred in those countries do not understand the issue, and most importantly the reality.
There is no LTTE to make things difficult for negotiations, But there are similar ideologies, particularly among those abroad still doing the rounds. These ideologies would only grow stronger and gain more momentum if they are not included in the reconciliation process.
It is necessary that they understand that the times have changed, and therefore, their approach also needs a change.