Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lets leave the Fog of War behind and go to the Clarity of Peace

The Civil war draws to a close, the President will hold the 61st Anniversary of Independence from Britain on 4th February in Kilinochchi, the self styled temporary capital of the vanquished Tamil Tiger Terrorist separatists.

He is entitled to glory in victory as he made this his initial goal. The forces also are entitled to theirs with a possible announcement of the taking of Mullaitivu and the cessation of hostilities aimed for that date too.

I know my local boys in the village, who returned from the front, some in coffins, others minus limbs, others wounded and sufficiently recovered to return for the final battle and still others who come on their leave from the front. They are all privates with limited education and not senior officers. They have been the frontline foot soldiers, who have seen battle at first hand and hats off to them for having braved harsh conditions to achieve their objectives. Some of the truths however coming out of this which will come to light in time to come, when the final analysis is made, are as follows:

The enemy was far fewer in number than earlier estimated. Much of the claimed retaking of Pooneryn and Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass were not as a result of heavy battles, but skirmishes where the enemy retreated and the ground claimed. The total Tiger terrorist death count is in the few hundreds, and the civilians under Tiger control less than a tenth of that estimated. The armaments that remained for the Tigers to fight are few and they are quickly running out of ammunition, and hence they chose to retreat when low on magazines rather than obviously perish in a hail of bullets. It is therefore just a matter of time before the rest are mopped up, and the stragglers who disappear into the forests sans their arms are caught. They are not preparing for the fight of their lives saving the best for last as they have little left.

I assume that Prabarkaran the leader would have left the scene by aircraft, as we despite finding 7 airstrips have yet to find an aircraft. This in no way belittles the success of the forces, but just brings into perspective the reality. It is therefore worth remembering that more young Sinhala boys were killed by the forces in JVP uprisings than Tamil Tigers in the whole war, so that we can take the race card out of this equation once and for all. It is therefore worth remembering that once more they are citizens of this country who have been led astray that have been killed and we must also feel a lot of sympathy for their families, the Tamils who have lost kith and kin.
I pray we don’t have a long drawn out guerilla campaign that keeps the security forces busy all around the country to delay the final return to normalcy. In order to achieve a lasting degree of peace we must be magnanimous in victory and immediately give the Tamils all around the country some sign of comfort of being equal citizens in this country, something that has been lacking due to the distrust created by war and race.

It is the President’s to win or lose, as this is trickier than winning the war. Once all the resources to win were given to the forces as a matter of priority to win the war at all costs, including the suppression of Human Rights, it was a matter of time. We must now educate our citizens that with citizenship comes rights as well as responsibilities, but the rights must include freedom to live travel and communicate any way they want without hindrance or fear.

The Executive President has the power to ensure that all this can be won, and just a phrase or two in public in the Tamil language does not ensure a lasting peace. Once the confidence of all the Tamil people is gained by action and not words we can grow this country into a truly multicultural society it has always been and should continue to be.

As a matter of priority the soldiers could be used to immediately open up and rebuild the A9 highway to Jaffna as a dual carriageway from Vavuniya onwards as there are no impediments like land to be purchased. It is easier to do this in flat land with a limited number of bridges and culverts to restore. That will instill confidence, that the best road in the land is now in the North and even though such a road is really not necessary due to the limited traffic, it will be a big morale booster that the Government means business. It will also automatically draw thousands of people from the South to visit the North and thereby immediately give a boost to the battered economy of the North. I would be the first to travel North on a new road to engage my fellow countrymen in Jaffna to show our sincerity to live in peace and harmony and put the war and all its distrust and bad history behind us.

I look forward to an optimistic future, the impediment being the mindset of some in Government who have been unable to shed the shackles of racism. I believe the UNP has much less of this and will be more capable of gaining the confidence of the whole nation as a more inclusive party though its leadership has temporarily been unable to take up the mantle of the high moral ground due to poor communication of its message to the masses. We can now shed the bloody past and look forward to a different future of peace.

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