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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2611

After LTTE defeat: Challenges ahead

C.P. Kuruppu

Sri Lanka's religious groups, especially the Buddhists need to collect whatever assistance they can give to civilians who are fleeing the small area still held by the LTTE. This is essential in the view of the fact that the Tigers, their local and foreign sympathizers and the self-styled anti-war crusaders have been carrying out relentless world-wide propaganda for the past three decades that is the "Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinists" who have been the primary cause of the present crisis.

The Tigers are currently holding about the 100 000 persons in an area less than 100sq. kilometers north of Mullaitivu. Around 5000 of these people daily cross over to the State-controlled area despite all violent attempts by the LTTE to prevent the exodus.

Resettling them and providing them with their basic necessities along with those who are already in IDP camps would incur the State funds exceeding billions of rupees.

Tens of thousands of Tamils and Muslims whom the LTTE chased out from the North some years back are still in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. These people have to be resettled wherever they prefer to go back to. The government will have to provide them with better houses, land for cultivation, job opportunities, medical needs and good education for their children. These are immense tasks where lot of money and resources are involved.

We have now almost decisively defeated terrorism - the biggest challenge Sri Lanka faced since her Independence in 1948. But these are among the greater challenges that both the government and the people have to face in the coming months and years as identified by President Rajapaksa on his 61st Independence Day address to the nation. .

The challenges he identified are to give the children an education to enable them to be partners in progress, the alleviation of poverty, to bring about a conceptual change into the government service and make it peoples friendly, eradicate waste and corruption in the administration.

The immediate challenge however is to help the people of the North who had long suffered under LTTE tyranny to get back on their feet. In the East the President has already succeeded in this and re-introduced democratic politics.

Although it is the government's duty to care for the displaced people, it is no easy task for the government alone to perform. Here we cannot hope for much help from those foreign donors who were expecting us to share power with the LTTE. We therefore cannot expect these foreigners to come out and help the Rajapaksa Government in the way they covertly helped Prabhakaran. Even if they do help the government they might again try to impose conditions in the name of 'a political solution' that will be perhaps favourable to a new set of separatists in the long run.

The Rajapaksa Government that did not bow down to these foreign meddlers when fighting the Tiger enemy. So it is absurd to expect the President to listen to their dictates at this stage even for the sake of rehabilitation, reconstruction and development assistance.

In any case these donors now have little money to spare in view of the economic crisis sweeping the West.

Nevertheless we cannot allow our Tamil and Muslim brethren to suffer in IDP camps indefinitely. If the government alone cannot help them voluntary organisations need to undertake the responsibility along side the government. During the Tsunami such people helped the needy. The Buddhist monks and Buddhist organizations were at the forefront during the first few days of the disaster.

Let the religious organizations, Buddhist groups (both the clergy and laity) in particular, band themselves together to help the displaced civilians in whatever way they can. Already some such groups are active in this area.

This is an also a great opportunity for us to build the racial harmony and develop better understanding among all ethnic groups – especially among the Sinhalas and Tamils. Our armed forces in the North have already achieved this to a great extent by winning the confidence of Tamil civilians who have escaped the LTTE's clutches. This confidence needs to be expanded further.

The 'Train of Brotherhood' organized by the Manel Mal Movement achieved great success in this matter last year. The train set off from Matara and reached Vavuniya where the organizers distributed relief items collected at the starting point and also on the way among Tamil civilians and Sri Lankan Security Forces personnel on duty in the North. Most of the persons involved in organizing the campaign are Sinhaloa Buddhists.

- Asian Tribune -

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