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Victory and Beyond

Sri Lankan Security Forces achieved victory that many thought was impossible, by totally eliminating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Even many respected military experts believed that such international terrorist organizations cannot be defeated or crushed. But events in tiny Sri Lanka have proved them utterly wrong. The LTTE, which was finally crushed by the Security Forces this week, was one of the most formidable terrorist organizations in the world. The fact that the Government and the Security Forces achieved this triumph amid unprecedented local and international pressure to halt the humanitarian mission is even more significant.

The cancer of terrorism spread to every nook and corner of Sri Lanka during the last 30 years. The LTTE's terror was not limited to the North and the East, though these provinces bore the brunt of it. The damage caused to the country by the LTTE, in terms of lives lost and properties destroyed all over the country, is immeasurable. With its annihilation, the LTTE will no longer be able to destroy the fabric of our Nation. That in itself is a major victory of all our peoples.

Many more steps have to be taken to complete this magnificent victory. The most immediate priority is National Reconciliation. In his Victorious Address to the Nation from Parliament on Tuesday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that there would be no more minorities in Sri Lanka, only those who love their country and those who do not. This is a very laudable statement. Politicians from all hues have exploited the word 'minorities' to meet their own ends all this time. President Rajapaksa has put a full stop to this practice. 'Majority-minority' is now seen as an outdated concept all over the world. We should aim to think and act as Sri Lankans, regardless of ethnicity and religious beliefs. The country belongs to all communities. Sri Lanka is the 'traditional homeland' of all these communities.

The President also emphasized that the Government does not believe in a military solution. A political solution is essential to meet the aspirations of all communities and Sri Lankan political parties and civil society should rise to this challenge. It is imperative that this solution is found from within Sri Lanka, not imposed from outside.

In the short term, the Government faces the challenge of rehabilitating and resettling the Internally Displaced People who had been subject to untold hardships by the LTTE, including using them as human shields. Although there are calls for resettling them immediately, this would be virtually impossible given the extent of destruction in the Northern region previously dominated by the LTTE. These areas have also been heavily mined by the fleeing Tigers and it could take years to clear them.

Furthermore, housing facilities and nearly all infrastructure facilities will have to be re-built before all the civilians could be resettled. This is a Herculean task by any standards and the international community should assist Sri Lanka to reconstruct the North, which the Tigers turned into one of the poorest provinces in the country. The Government has already drawn up plans for Northern development through 'Uthuru Wasanthaya' (Northern Spring) along the lines of the highly successful 'Negenahira Navodaya' (Eastern Resurgence).

The restoration of civilian administration and democracy should follow resettlement. This process has taken place successfully in the East. The Tigers stifled civil liberties and silenced all dissenting voices in a bid to build a mono-ethnic, fascist empire. Thus democracy will be a novel experience for most Northerners. The Vanni people should get an opportunity to elect their own representatives to local bodies and ultimately, to the Provincial Council. The youth should be given opportunities to contest these polls, so that they could address the grievances of the Northern youth population. No room should be left for any organisation to exploit such grievances for their own gain, like the LTTE did.

All these should be a part of a peace building and nation building exercise. Schools are already teaching Tamil to Sinhala students and vice versa to mould a truly bilingual generation. Understanding each other's language and culture is the key to ethnic harmony and reconciliation. The Security Forces, as depicted in the 'Together for All' campaign, are already acting as a bridge among the various communities. With the end of combat duties, the Forces would become a force for rebuilding not only the conflict-torn areas but also the lives of those affected by conflict. All Sri Lankans must set aside petty differences and participate in this noble exercise of nation building. That would ensure that the sacrifices made by thousands of Security Forces and Police personnel for defending their Motherland and achieving peace were not in vain.

Congratulations to President:

Dawn of a new beginning

On behalf of the Sri Lankan Sangha Council of America and Canada I would like to congratulate President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the victory over the terrorists who have held parts of Sri Lanka hostage.

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Vanni liberation field commanders

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