The end of any war or conflict does not bring in immediate normalisation to the lives of the conflicting parties. And this holds true in most parts of the world, including Sri Lanka. Plunged in a deep level of crisis for 26 long years, the South Asian island nation’s reconciliation process has still been in turmoil.
The Sri Lankan conflict is mainly ethnic in nature. After independence from Britain, the Sinhala majority had passed laws that were discriminatory to the minority Tamils. Growing grievances had led to the creation of a youth military organisation called Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE). Later recognised as a terrorist organisation, LTTE wanted to form an independent state called Eelam in the northeast region, including the City of Jaffna. But the government would in no way agree to that. Thus, the state and the rebels were in a position where one wanted to overpower the other.
Throughout the crisis, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed and disappeared. Human rights violations were massive in numbers. In 2009, the government led by Mahinda Rajapakshya was capable of winning the war against the LTTE, bringing the country under control. However, from then on, the idea of reconciliation seems to have been ignored in one way or the other.
Up until now, the majority of Tamils feel they never got justice or support from the state. This is true as any reconciliation effort being made by the Sri Lankan government has just been for the sake of making it. So, despite the passing of more than a decade, the country seems to have been unable to turn a new page. What is really ironic is that the incumbent Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapakshya’s announcement at international forums that he would fix the misconception that the international community has in regard with reconciliation and accountability.
Just around election time, he had made his stance clear that he is someone elected by the Buddhist majority and would only represent them. Now, mounting international pressures like the UNHCR’s 40/1 resolution that demand for accountability on the part of the government. So, the government is now under tremendous pressures.
But this is not exactly how reconciliation is done between the conflicting parties. Even if the government provides financial support and justice to the victims’ families, its actions may not be so transparent as they are supposed to be. The vicious cycle of hopelessness and frustration among the conflict-hit will continue to happen, for sure.
There is a reason behind the government’s reluctance to move the reconciliation process forward. And in no way will they take such steps. So, like helium filled balloons that slipped from our hands, the conflict resolution in Sri Lanka seems to be flying high in the air. How will we reach that stage? It is a difficult question to answer. We do not know when the scarred injuries on the hearts and minds of the civilians will be healed. But for now, passing time seems to be the only way to heal the traumas and pains.