By A concerned expatriate.

Thanks to the people of Sri Lanka and some courageous politicians, at last, there is a glimmer of hope for long-term peace amid cloud of uncertainty. It is an indication that people are fed up with the war and want things to return to normal.

But unfortunately for some group of people “normal” means war and bloodshed. Lately I have become very concerned and disgusted by a series of articles against the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This is a landmark event and it should be treated as such. For the first time, in many years, we have a ray of hope that peace might prevail in Sri Lanka. One might ask whether opinions or “facts” stated with regard to the MOU reflect the true feelings of Sri Lankans. Or, are these the concoctions of certain individuals with ulterior motives wanting to stir-up ethnic or communal feelings among people and thus to gain support for their own agendas? The latter seems to be the obvious answer.

I think news groups, such as Lanka Web, needs to exercise some level of journalistic responsibility towards promoting opportunities that might bring long-lasting peace and alleviate the suffering of Sri Lankans, both those living in Sri Lanka and those living abroad. Therefore, these news organizations must exercise some discretion in publishing articles written by radicals whose sole intention is to thwart any peace agreement and maintain the ethnic divide.

Freedom of speech is an important and essential right. However, like all freedoms, there must be limits around that right. There should be respect for the fundamental needs and aspirations of our brothers and sisters back home for a peaceful and normal life. Journalists and reporters have responsibilities towards society, and the public depend on them to report on matters affecting their lives with sensitivity and integrity. This, however, may be too much to expect from spineless petty reporters (some are even considered scholars) hiding behind the comfort and security of living abroad, perpetrating the grief and helplessness of people in Sri Lanka faced with the atrocities of war. They seek to distort the truth and spread paranoia, hatred and violence under the guise of public interest.

This war has already engulfed close to sixty five thousand lives and there may be many more that haven’t been brought to the world’s attention. This war has created tens of thousands of destitute and displaced families, and it has caused thousands to lose their loved ones. It has also caused the degradation of the island’s economy and the destruction of a once beautiful paradise. But worst of all, this war has produced numerous orphans and will continue to do so if this cycle of violence is allowed to continue.

The people of Sri Lanka have gone through a great deal of pain and suffering and made too many sacrifices over the last two decades to have this opportunity for peace be derailed by a few pathological and power-hungry individuals, or groups with self-serving interests. They have little regard for human misery and the sanctity of life. Out of respect for all those who have perished and out of concern for the many who may perish, let us give peace a chance. Let us give the people of Sri Lanka a chance in life beyond the horror of war and destruction. They deserve it.

For all those who oppose any peace agreement, and believe that the only solution to the current crisis is resumption of war, I ask them one question: how many more lives have to be lost and how many more families have to be ruined before they shed their radical beliefs and work towards a Sri Lanka where both Tamils and Singhalese can live in harmony, as we once did? They have to think carefully about their actions and how they might impact on their fellow Sri Lankans. By wanting this war to go on, they are every bit as guilty as those who are pulling the triggers. Retribution will not revive what is already lost; it just guarantees future loss.

Thus far, the propaganda of various organizations has portrayed the ongoing war effort as being successful and concealed the truth. The reality on the battleground, however, is different. Each side may have won few battles, but the final victory is very illusive. The government is no closer to defeating the LTTE than the LTTE to achieving a separate state. It is a stalemate. If left unattended, this war will go on forever causing more destruction and mayhem with no clear victory to either side. We must snap out of our delusions. We must overcome our state of denial about the ground situation. We must accept this reality and explore other alternatives to find a mutually acceptable solution through dialogue. This is the only way. Most Sri Lankans as well as the international community know this. However, negotiations cannot take place unless the parties create an environment conducive for peace talks. That is why this MOU is very critical. Given the volatility of the situation and decades of mutual hatred and distrust, this MOU, if strictly observed by both parties, can bring about increased confidence and trust between the Government and the LTTE. And these are key ingredients for long-term peace.

The international community has enthusiastically welcomed this new peace initiative and continues to encourage the government and the LTTE to go to the negotiating table. Yet certain elements within the Tamil and the Singhalese populations as well as within the Sri Lankan political structure are so determined to scuttle all efforts and obstruct progress. This MOU is not about sovereignty, or politics, or religion. Nor is it about surrendering of the will, freedom, pride or dignity, or conceding to other side. It has to do with the need for normalcy, the need for economic prosperity of Sri Lanka as a whole and the well being of all Sri Lankans. It is fallacy to argue that this MOU infringes the political process and threatens the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. If anything, this MOU will bring people together and pave the way for stability. Instead of seeing ourselves as belonging to either the “Singhala Nation” or “Tamil Nation”, we can unite as “Sri Lankans”. What’s wrong with that? Our chauvinism only brought us suffering in the last twenty years and it is certainly not going to make the future any better. Nobody expects the road to peace to be paved with rose peddles. There will be many more hurdles to overcome; some will be favorable and some won’t. But we have to keep trying.

The sovereignty of a nation belongs to its people. And the people of Sri Lanka have spoken; they want to end the war and try peace. If these so called “patriots” who are making noise form a safe distance have any sense of national pride, they should show it by working for a united Sri Lanka, and not against it. Let us not sabotage this hope for peace, because if this truce agreement fails, the real losers will be the innocent people on both sides. Haven’t they all suffered enough?

As Neville Chamberlain once said, “ In war, whichever side that may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers”. There can never be a good war or a bad peace. So let us hope that there will be peace in Sri Lanka very soon.


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