|Sri Lanka: Overcoming created tensions to work together for peace|
|Monday, 26 May 2008|
The Peace Secretariat is deeply worried about yesterday’s incidents at Kattankudy, in which several of our citizens lost their lives. We extend our condolences to the families of the bereaved and hope that feelings of anguish will not fall prey to sectarian and divisive forces striving to upset the progress towards democratic pluralism made in the Eastern Province.
The recently concluded Provincial Council Election in the East was a watershed in the contemporary political history of this country. Democracy was restored in this Province after a lapse of about 20 years, in a context in which the inhabitants over a period of time had virtually resigned themselves to a fate of living in terror, political instability and economic deprivation. When the area was cleared of terrorism, though there were hardly any civilian casualties, there was much displacement. However, a process of resettlement was swiftly pursued, and confidence began to return. This was confirmed with the conduct of local elections in March, in which several former militant groups from the Tamil community participated. Some of these had turned to democracy twenty years ago, but had been persecuted during what was supposed to be a period of Ceasefire.
Fortunately they entered the political process when there was at last an opportunity for citizens in the East to exercise the franchise, along with the former Karuna group, reconstituted as a recognized political party, the TMVP. Though a few national parties boycotted that election, thankfully the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, with its stronghold having traditionally been the East, also chose to welcome the return of democracy there. Participating in the election, they did better than anticipated in the Batticaloa District. Largely because of their strength, the opposition UNP also chose to contest the Provincial Council election, whilst their principal leader hailing from the East, Mr Hisbullah, joined the government along with the TMVP. This ensured a pluralistic grouping, with Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamils all being elected from the governing UPFA. Though initially the UNP led combine seemed to be concentrating principally on the Muslim vote to gain power, the subtle support they received from the LTTE, in its determination to defeat the government, ensured that they too were pluralistic in essence.
Sadly there were attempts immediately after the election to introduce communal rivalry into the selection of a Chief Minister. Fortunately passions were not roused and, following the appointment of Mr Pillaiyan, the leader of the TMVP, Mr Hisbullah gracefully accepted his disappointment and took up a ministerial appointment.
It was on the very day however that hope for an administration that supported all citizens was fulfilled that communalism raised its ugly head. The killing of two TMVP stalwarts was clearly designed to stir tensions, and the killing then of Muslims would have exacerbated a fraught situation had the authorities not acted promptly. There can be no doubt that this was not the work of any responsible political or social or religious group, and we urge all citizens to work together to ensure that culprits are detected and brought to book. In this context, the Peace Secretariat is glad that a cohesive provincial administration, acting in concert with the central government, has moved swiftly to quell tensions. We are glad too that recognized political parties outside the government of province or country have also behaved responsibly in not adding to the tensions. However the temptation for others to stir flames will be great, so we urge members of all communities to work together to restore peace and confidence for all.
The elections in the East have shown that life need not be a zero sum game, where a benefit for one means loss for another. The Province is on the threshold of rapid development, a win-win situation in which individuals of all communities can share. Given the multi-ethnic, multi-religious character of the area, it can prove a microcosm of the potential Sri Lanka possesses. We call therefore upon all citizens, and religious, social and political leaders in particular, to ensure that the recent incidents remain just isolated examples of a past problem that enlightened leadership can rapidly overcome.
(Courtesy : SCOPP)
|Last Updated ( Sunday, 04 January 2009 )|
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