Friday, 14 May 2004  
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A grave wrong finally righted

A long, unaddressed wrong which brought shame and suffering in its wake to many a Lankan has been finally set right by the Government, under the guidance of President Kumaratunga.

This is the Government decision to grant financial compensation to victims of communal violence in this country from 1981 to 1984.

The incidents of communal violence in this country, over the period 1981 to 1984, proved decisive in unleashing the flames of ethnic friction in Sri Lanka.

The divisions and wounds which this wave of violence generated are still with us in the form of the unresolved ethnic conflict or the National Question. This disastrous trend culminated, of course, in the mind-numbing race riots of 1983 which ensured that Lanka was polarised on ethnic lines as never before.

However, it is only now, more than two decades after the tragedy of 1983, that a government has taken the all-important decision to compensate the victims of the unprecedented ethnic hatred.

While this establishes President Kumaratunga's care and concern for all the communities of this land and underscores her readiness to make Lanka, a hospitable home for everyone, the hitherto paralytic inaction over the granting of compensation for the victims of violence, throws into relief the crass insensitivity of UNP-led administrations to the situation of the Tamils and other minority communities.

A great responsibility devolves on the UNP in this regard because it was party to the riots of 1983.

Despite having been the government of the day when the violence in question broke out, the UNP paid scant regard to the victims of ethnic friction.

It was left to President Kumaratunga to initiate the Presidential Truth Commission which probed the violence and recommended the compensation for victims. Among other things, this proves the impartiality and fair-mindedness of the President.

We also warmly welcome moves by the Government to declare a National Day of Reconciliation. Such measures are essential if the country is to be taken along the road of peace, friendship and national harmony.

It needs to be realised that peace is based both on justice and forgiveness. While the former can be established through an equitable political solution to our conflict, the latter is the result of love and empathy.

Indeed, forgiveness is the cement which binds one community to the other and heals long-festering wounds, inflicted by one community on the other. Without forgiveness there cannot be national reconciliation and we are glad that the Government would be setting the tone for this healing process through a National Day of Reconciliation.

There is no getting over the fact that peace is also a hearts and minds battle. Not all the issues at the heart of our conflict could be resolved through the exercise of reason.

This is because some questions carry a high emotional charge which could be only resolved through love and concern among communities. We are glad that the Government realises this.

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