Answer criticisms with concrete
Those who wish this
country well would be heartened on reading the joint statement
issued by the governments of India and Sri Lanka at the end of
External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris' recent three day
visit to India. In it, among other things, the government of Sri
Lanka states that it is committed to ensuring 'expeditious and
concrete progress' in the current dialogue between it and Tamil
parties and we hope this pledge would be supported by
substantial results. There is no better way to answer present
allegations leveled against the state in the controversial
Darusman Report than by making concrete progress in national
reconciliation and this is the approach we would strongly
In the days ahead much will depend on the effectiveness of
the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. The 30- year
conflict has yielded many a lesson for all quarters concerned,
and our expectation is that these have been learnt assiduously.
As we have observed previously, one of these is that there is
no alternative to the harmonious co-existence of communities, in
a spirit of brotherhood. If Sri Lanka is to experience national
rejuvenation in full, communal disharmony must be completely and
unreservedly shunned and we hope the LLRC would underscore this
priceless lesson for the ready and steady inculcation by all
relevant sections. Indeed, united we stand and divided we fall.
Be that as it may, there is also no denying that it takes two
to Tango. While the state would need to be constantly guided by
the principle that the good of all the communities of Sri Lanka
or the collective good of Lankans must take precedence over any
sectional interests, the Tamil parties must come to grips with
the fact that they must talk to the state in a spirit of
compromise and with a strong sense of realism.
If these conditions are met by the main parties, there is no
doubt that the process of negotiation could be taken forward.
Fortunately, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has proved a very
pragmatic and practical-minded leader. He has made no bones of
the fact that Sri Lanka belongs to all its communities and that
it is no contested arena between 'majority' and 'minority'
communities. In other words, all of Sri Lanka's citizens are her
daughters and sons and all would be protected by the Lankan
state. All that is needed on the part of Sri Lanka's citizens is
that they pledge their allegiance to the country and remain
loyal to her. No citizens' creed or code of conduct could be
However, a great deal of work remains to be achieved. It
could not be emphasized enough that nation-building, as such, is
yet to be achieved in full in this country. It could be said
that the incomplete nature of the nation-building process
allowed sectional loyalties and even communalism to raise their
This was true of both the South of Sri Lanka and of the
North-East. In other words, a lacuna remained open in our
conceptualizations of the post-independence Sri Lankan state,
and ethnicity and communalism emerged to fill this vacuum.
Policy and decision-makers would need to keep these facts in
mind as we make a courageous attempt, following a long conflict,
to pick-up the pieces and forge ahead. Welding all of Sri
Lanka's ethnic and cultural groups into a single and undivided
collectivity and making the latter identify completely with the
Lankan state is the single most important challenge.
May Sri Lanka make concrete progress in achieving this aim,
is our hope. Indeed, the achievement of this aim could be the
most effective rebuttal of the Darusman Report. We need to make
our achievements speak for themselves. This is not as hard a
task as it may seem. Although the Report speaks of 'credible
allegations' on a number of issues, it could be found that the
majority of these contentions are unsubstantiated claims which
are phantasmagoric in nature. The requirement that claims be
substantiated by facts and figures is conveniently swept under
the carpet. It becomes clear that the panel is overwhelmingly
dependent on mere hearsay.
This makes the task of the state easy. A no-holds-barred
effort must be made to impress on the world that we are, indeed,
making concrete progress in returning the country to normalcy.
For instance, it must be clearly established that swift progress
is being made by the state in acting on the recommendations of
the LLRC. This is an essential precondition for laying to rest
the allegations made in the Report.
Besides acting on the recommendations of the LLRC, the state
must ensure that all its agencies are doing their utmost to take
their services to the people, wherever they may be, on a
completely impartial and fair basis. The line ministries, in
particular, must do their duty, wherever they may operate, in
the most honest and people-oriented fashion. This will make the
task of the state easier.